被災した子ども 泣いたっていいんだ


(Mainichi Japan) March 30, 2011
Japan must not overlook mental health of children in disaster zone
社説:被災した子ども 泣いたっていいんだ

There are many elementary school children making the rounds of disaster evacuation shelters to look for their missing parents.

Others are searching the rubble of collapsed buildings for mementos such as photos as well as their belongings. がれきの中から思い出の写真やカバンを探す子どもたちもいる。

Some children were seen to smile during their school graduation ceremonies.

People across the country are trying to cheer up these children in quake- and tsunami-hit areas.

More than 10,000 people have been confirmed dead and some 16,000 others remain missing following the March 11 Great East Japan Earthquake.

Facing this unbelievable reality, anybody would want to encourage child survivors to help them conquer hardships already experienced and those sure to come.


However, children are already doing their best.

Even though they do not understand what has happened to them as much as adults and cannot express their feelings, they can also suffer from disaster trauma and become overwhelmed with grief after losing their family members, their homes or both.

Rather than simply urging children to overcome the disaster, what is needed is to look for subtle changes in their emotions and provide appropriate psychological support.

Children who have experienced such a massive disaster tend to complain of insomnia and loss of appetite, act infantile, be frightened by loud sounds, easily lose their temper, have nightmares and refuse activities they enjoyed before the traumatic event.

If children begin to show these symptoms, adequate care should be provided to them, such as telling them, "You're all right," and avoiding letting them sleep alone, in order to reassure them.

Some children repeatedly talk about what they saw and experienced in the disaster, but adults around them should understand this as a sign that they are trying hard to accept the shocking reality and patiently listen to what they have to say.

Pep talks like, "Never say die" and "There are some other people who are in more difficult situations.
Overcome this hardship," must be avoided.

Adults may say these things to children to encourage them, but they can be counterproductive, driving a child into a psychological corner.

Some children are afflicted with survivor's guilt when the rest of their families lost their lives in the disaster.

They should rather be convinced that they do not have to hide their tears or their feelings.

The Japanese Association of Clinical Psychology and the National Center of Neurology and Psychiatry (NCNP) have guidelines on their respective websites on dealing with children who have experienced a massive disaster.

Mental health experts are working in quake-hit areas, but they cannot look after all the children who need their care.

Academic societies specializing in children's mental health are providing telephone and e-mail counseling, and such services should be fully utilized.

Children can initially endure the harsh living conditions at shelters because they maintain a sense of tension after the disaster. If their evacuation is prolonged, however, they may suffer from sudden depression or feel physically ill.

Minor symptoms that children show immediately after a disaster can be dealt with if adequate care is provided. 被災後の小さな症状は適切な配慮をすれば一過性のものとして回復することが多い。

However, post-traumatic stress disorder should be suspected if children continue to show such symptoms for more than a month.
In that case, expert treatment is required.

Even children who did not experience the quake could show symptoms such as insomnia if they repeatedly see shocking images of the disaster on TV.

There are reportedly some cases where children who were not hit by the disaster complain they feel anxious and suddenly begin to cry in class.

Close attention should be paid to subtle changes in children's words and deeds so as not to overlook any sign that they are developing psychological problems.

Efforts to provide mental care for children in quake- and tsunami-devastated areas have come to a crucial stage.  これからが正念場だ。

The nation as a whole is urged to protect both the mental and physical health of children.

毎日新聞 2011年3月30日 東京朝刊


福島原発事故 全世界が注視する日本の対処

福島第一原発の建設位置はAvoid Mapに登録して閉鎖するほうがよい。
100年に一度の災害だから我慢してそこに住み続けるのか、Avoid Mapに登録して非居住区とするか。

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Mar. 30, 2011)
Japan's crisis will affect N-power worldwide
福島原発事故 全世界が注視する日本の対処(3月29日付・読売社説)

The unfolding crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant is, of course, not just a problem for Japan alone.

The future of the peaceful use of nuclear energy around the world rests with how effectively this country can cope with the situation.

Because of a nearly unimaginable natural disaster--a devastating earthquake and ensuing colossal tsunami--the Fukushima plant's reactors, which were credited as among the world's best in terms of safety, are now in a wretched condition.


Bright image tarnished

Up until the current crisis, nuclear power was undergoing a positive reevaluation globally as a clean energy source emitting no greenhouse gases, and construction work on new nuclear plants was under way in many parts of the world.

The trouble at the Fukushima nuclear power plant has thrown cold water on what was being called a "nuclear energy renaissance."

In the aftermath of the disaster, the European Union decided to put all nuclear plants within its jurisdiction under review to check their earthquake resistance and other safety arrangements.

In Germany, where 17 nuclear plants are in operation, seven that were built in 1980 or earlier have suspended operations for three months.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel's government previously had decided to extend the lifetime of the existing nuclear reactors, in a reversal of the previous administration's policy. But now the possibility has arisen that Germany may once again reverse its nuclear energy policy.

In a regional election in the western German state of Saarland on Sunday, the Greens, an ecologically oriented party, made major headway against a backdrop of a surge in antinuclear public opinion.

At the time of the 1979 Three Mile Island nuclear crisis and also after the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, misgivings about the safety of nuclear power plants became widespread in the United States and European countries, forcing them to put construction plans for new nuclear power plants on hold.

From the standpoint of protecting energy security and fighting global warming, however, nuclear power plants, as long as they are managed safely, are certain to remain an important source of electric power.

About 30 countries now have nuclear power plants in operation, and about a dozen more have them under construction or on the drawing board.

In the United States, which has more nuclear power plants than any other nation, some members of Congress have called for a freeze on the construction of new nuclear power plants.

U.S. President Barack Obama, however, has remained committed to his policy of encouraging nuclear power generation, saying Washington needs to "take lessons learned from what's happening in Japan."

France, which has the second largest number of nuclear power facilities, has vowed to go ahead with its construction plans for new facilities. Its sale of reactors to other countries also is continuing as scheduled. South Korea also has kept its posture of encouraging nuclear power generation unchanged.


N-power still necessary

Many countries, including such emerging economies as China and India, would find it extremely difficult to meet fast-growing demand for energy without making use of nuclear power plants.

Under the circumstances, it is imperative for the international community to firmly ensure the safety of nuclear power generation.

Should the release of radioactive material from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant continue, the problem could develop into a profoundly grave international issue.

Japan must bring the nuclear crisis under control as quickly as possible by sharing relevant information with other members of the international community and asking for cooperation from nuclear experts from around the world.

Making utmost efforts in this regard is the sole way for Japan to maintain international confidence in the viability of nuclear power.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, March 29, 2011)
(2011年3月29日01時27分 読売新聞)


「復興庁」 (reconstruction agency)

「復興庁」 (reconstruction agency) 長官には岩手選挙区の小沢一郎さんが適任だと思います。

(Mainichi Japan) March 28, 2011
Reconstruction efforts require centralized headquarters, strong local representation
社説:復興への政府体制 機動的な司令塔整備を

Debate is taking place over the government's approach to the reconstruction of areas in eastern Japan that have suffered grave damage from the recent earthquake and tsunami.

One of the ideas that have emerged within the government and ruling party is the establishment of a reconstruction agency.

To rebuild the vast number of communities that were wiped out by the massive tsunami on March 11, such an organization must be able to propel various ministries and agencies to come together, as well as conceptualize progress from a mid- to long-term perspective.

It would not be in our best interests to expend more energy than is necessary in creating the organization.

What we are aiming for is a flexible control group that is quick on its feet.

Currently, government support for disaster victims is being supervised by a special disaster victim support headquarters that spun off from an emergency disaster relief headquarters comprising all Cabinet ministers.

More than two weeks have passed since the disaster hit, and the restoration of infrastructure -- such as residential construction, roads, and ports -- and deliberations to draw up a major supplementary budget are expected to shift into high gear.

As the scale of reconstruction plans for the latest disaster is expected to far exceed that following the 1995 Great Hanshin Earthquake, their success is contingent upon the government's strong leadership.

The Teito (Imperial Capital) Reconstruction Agency was launched after the 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake to help rebuild the nation's capital.

Based on this experience, some government and ruling-party insiders are suggesting the formation of a similar Recovery Agency to oversee wide-ranging administration in the aftermath of this month's devastation.

To centralize the reconstruction-related administration, the idea of establishing a central-command type system is a good one.

However, there are several points that must be considered in doing so.

First, we should avoid launching any organizations that could be redundant, as we've seen repeatedly in the past whenever the government has established new organizations or agencies.

The agency needs to be a simple organization specializing in giving out commands.

Most importantly, however, it must have the ability to map out guidelines for reconstruction.

Many of the areas affected by the recent disaster have rapidly aging populations and suffer from depopulation. Measures to prevent secondary disasters from tsunami must be implemented, but the affected area is extremely vast.

A wide-range of information and insight must be gathered in order to simultaneously revitalize communities and prevent future disasters while acknowledging the differences between the latest disaster and the Great Hanshin Earthquake.

When the Great Hanshin Earthquake took place in 1995, the government launched the Hanshin-Awaji Restoration Committee, an advisory panel to the prime minister.

This time, however, we should set up a more powerful consultative body -- comprising senior officials from the ruling party, various experts, as well as members of the business world -- that, along with the secretariat, would have a strong mandate.

Calling on opposition parties to participate, and having implementing agencies and organizations employ liaison committees made up of administrative vice ministers is one way to go about the restoration process.

Even more important is to avoid departing from the general rule that the major players of the reconstruction process are local communities.

Accordingly, to address concerns and implement revitalization plans that defy prefectural boundaries, the involvement of multiple governors and various community members go without saying.

The national government must avoid any anachronistic moves such as forcing its plans onto local communities.

毎日新聞 2011年3月28日 東京朝刊


Take a break from bad news ひととき心を緩めて



(Mainichi Japan) March 27, 2011
Kaleidoscope of the Heart: Take a break from bad news
香山リカのココロの万華鏡:ひととき心を緩めて /東京

At the Tokyo hospital I work at, many patients have come in with complaints after the earthquake. "I can't sleep because of the frightening aftershocks," they say, or "I can't ride in elevators," they say, because they are afraid the power will cut while they are inside.

However, I also hear complaints that are not directly related to the disaster, like, "For some reason I can't stop crying," "I get irritated without good reason," or "I keep standing up and sitting down and can't relax."

Even though they are not in the disaster areas, these people have been exposed to a long shower of images and words about the disaster, which has probably tired their minds and bodies.

I say to these people, "Let's try staying away from television and the Internet for a while and spending some time listening to the music you like, reading the comics you like, making cakes, or doing whatever you did in your free time before all of this."

One person argued against my recommendation: "But doctor, even if I temporarily spent some time relaxing like that, it doesn't change the fact that the earthquake happened. My mother's hometown was badly damaged. No matter how much I escape into fun things, when I am pulled back into reality nothing will have changed. Wouldn't I become even more depressed?"

Indeed, that is one view.

However, I still think that escaping into recreation is good.

With a disaster this large, obviously people within the disaster area have been hit hardest by far, but even those outside those areas have been emotionally hurt.

It may take a long time to make a true recovery, and it is necessary to take small rests.

Be it 30 minutes or an hour, get away from the reality in front of you and immerse yourself in the world of a video game or a TV series.

Take your time drinking a cup of tea and say out loud, "Ahh, this is good."

Even if it's only for that time, you can put a stop to feelings of uneasiness and hopelessness.

Resting oneself this way, even if it's an escape into a fantasy or virtual world, will give one strength to recover.

If people spend 24 hours a day looking at nothing but sadness and struggle, it will wear down their emotional energy, and it could delay their recovery to their normal selves.

I believe that having a brief time of fun, even if some might consider it self-deceit, will prepare one to face the future in a positive way.

The reality we are confronted with will not go away any time soon.

Neither, perhaps, will the bad feelings that accompany it.

Even so -- no, I should say "because" of that -- we should take a brief escape from reality.

That is my recommendation. (By Rika Kayama, psychiatrist)

毎日新聞 2011年3月22日 地方版


--The Asahi Shimbun, March 26
EDITORIAL: Safety of workers fighting the nuclear crisis must be ensured

Safety must be ensured for the workers on the front line of the battle to contain the nuclear crisis triggered by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

Three workers trying to cool a reactor at the quake-stricken Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant were exposed to high levels of radioactivity and rushed to a hospital.

They worked while they were ankle deep in highly radioactive water. Two of them are feared to have suffered radiation burns below their knees.

The Nos. 1 -- 4 reactors at the Fukushima plant are still in dangerous and volatile conditions. It is imperative to restore the cooling systems for these reactors and their spent fuel pools to stabilize the situation.

To achieve that goal, a mountain of tasks must be carried out in areas contaminated with high levels of radioactivity.

Completing the mission will take at least a month, according to one estimate. This is going to be a long, drawn-out battle.

People from various companies and organizations are working at the crippled plant, tackling a broad array of tasks according to their skills and expertise.

To get the reactors under control, a system needs to be established to limit the risks for these workers.

The three workers were trying to connect cables in the basement of the building housing a turbine for power generation adjacent to the building containing the No. 3 reactor. According to the plant operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co., two of them entered the facility wearing ordinary work shoes because there had been nothing more than puddles of water with low levels of radioactivity on the floor on the previous day.

Their feet were exposed to 2 to 6 sieverts of radioactivity, far above the safety limit of 1 sievert for skin exposure to radiation during such emergency work.

The workers' dosemeters attached to the upper body part of their outfits showed radiation amounts totaling about 180 millisieverts, close to the upper limit of 250.

The water in the basement was found to contain 10,000 times the level of radioactivity normally detected in cooling water circulating within a reactor. The figure clearly indicates the seriousness of the situation. In addition, the conditions change constantly.

The harshness and dangerousness of the working conditions at the sites is shocking, which makes it all the more depressing to know that efforts to restore safety to the plant depend on people working under these conditions.

What is disturbing is the fact that there was no person to monitor the levels of radioactivity at the site when the three workers were doing their jobs.

Workers engaged in tasks in an area with high radiation levels must take turns at short intervals for the sake of their health.

Monitoring of the radiation levels at such worksites must never be neglected.

Tokyo Electric Power Co. should make every possible effort to ensure the safety of workers.

It is crucial to secure enough manpower to staff the teams required to carry out the tasks involved over an extended period of time until the nuclear power plant is stabilized.

The Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry has an important role to play in this respect.

The government needs to obtain maximum assistance and cooperation from various organizations, including reinforcements from other electric power companies and manufacturers.

Some 700 employees of TEPCO and affiliated companies are currently working at the Fukushima power station. Many of them come from local communities in the quake-hit areas. Some of them have had their houses swept away by the tsunami, while others are worried about missing family members. They are reportedly close to their limits of exhaustion.

Some of them can only get one or two hours of sleep in a chair a day.

A system should be created swiftly to ensure that the people engaged in the heroic efforts to defuse this national crisis will receive all the possible support from both the government and the private sector, including from the nuclear power industry, nuclear safety experts and medical institutions.


災害の国際協力 アジア太平洋諸国と連携密に

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Mar. 27, 2011)
Strengthen cooperation with Asia-Pacific nations
災害の国際協力 アジア太平洋諸国と連携密に(3月26日付・読売社説)

Japan, China and South Korea have decided to enhance their cooperation regarding disaster response and nuclear safety, drawing on the lessons of the March 11 Tohoku Pacific Offshore Earthquake and the subsequent accidents at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant operated by Tokyo Electric Power Co.

The three countries agreed on greater cooperation at a meeting of their foreign ministers held March 19 in Kyoto. Details are expected to be decided at working-level talks, and we want discussions to be held as soon as possible.

The day after the massive earthquake and tsunami, South Korea dispatched a rescue dog team to disaster-hit areas, and a short time later sent more than 100 rescue workers.

A 15-member Chinese rescue team arrived two days after the quake.

Such immediate rescue activities, which take advantage of the three nations' proximity as neighboring countries, will be central to the cooperation among Japan, China and South Korea.


Large donations of fuel

South Korea also provided Japan with 500,000 tons of liquefied natural gas that could be used as fuel to run a thermal power station, while China supplied 20,000 tons of gasoline and other fuels.

We hope this assistance from Beijing and Seoul will develop into a mutual assistance framework under which Japan would in turn move quickly with rescue and assistance operations if a large-scale disaster hit China or South Korea.

South Korea also offered boric acid, which can suppress nuclear fission, to help deal with the Fukushima nuclear power station. Seoul has stockpiles of boric acid for use during inspections and repairs at its nuclear power stations, illustrating the usefulness of a three-country system to help each other procure emergency goods at the time of a nuclear accident.

In the case of an accident at a nuclear power station in one country, it is most important to disclose and share information quickly at home and abroad.

A groundless rumor spread in China and South Korea immediately after the start of the crisis that radiation from the Fukushima plant would contaminate the air and seawater.

A country where a nuclear accident has occurred has a responsibility to provide accurate information. The Foreign Ministry has carried information on the quake and tsunami disaster in English, Chinese and Korean on its Web site, but it may need to provide information in many more languages.


Dealing with tsunami critical

Tsunami following the March 11 earthquake caused damage on the U.S. west coast, Indonesia and other locations. How to deal with large tsunami is a common issue for countries facing the Pacific Ocean.

Disaster relief training exercises were held last week in Indonesia with the participation of more than 25 countries, including Australia, India, Southeast Asian countries and the United States.

Organized jointly by the Japanese and Indonesian governments, the field exercise was conducted on the premise that tsunami had caused huge damage, and included drills on evacuation, helicopter transportation and searching for victims trapped under wreckage.

Technical know-how regarding such relief activities will unquestionably be useful in emergencies. These exercises should be made a regular occurrence.

Offers of help have reached Japan from 130 countries around the world, including nations in Europe, Central and South America, the Middle East and Africa, as well as the United States and other Asian countries. We are very grateful, and Japan will always offer a helping hand to those countries when they are in difficulty.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, March 26, 2011)
(2011年3月26日01時10分 読売新聞)


電力不足 節電に努め長期化に備えよ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Mar. 25, 2011)
Prepare for lengthy power shortage
電力不足 節電に努め長期化に備えよ(3月24日付・読売社説)

A prolonged energy shortage is unavoidable in areas serviced by Tokyo Electric Power Co., due to the damage caused by the massive earthquake that hit the Tohoku and Kanto regions.

The government must draw up a power supply plan through in-depth discussions with TEPCO and inform the public about it so as not to cause confusion.

Industrial circles and ordinary households will be asked to cooperate in efforts to deal with the power outage and save electricity.

Planned blackouts in areas supplied with power from TEPCO began March 14. There was great confusion at first, partly due to inadequate explanations by TEPCO. Ten days have passed since then and problems remain, but the situation is stabilizing.

TEPCO plans to conclude its planned power outages by the end of April, when supply is expected to meet demand. But a worrisome situation is expected in summer.

The quake severely damaged TEPCO's power plants, including the Fukushima Nos. 1 and 2 nuclear facilities. It can now supply only 37.5 million kilowatts per day, not enough to meet demand.


TEPCO trying to boost supply

Because of this, TEPCO is working hard to boost its supply capability by resuming operations at its thermal power plant in the Tokyo Bay area, which had been idle. By the end of April, TEPCO is expected to be able to supply about 43 million kilowatts, which should meet demand at least for the time being.

In summer, however, air conditioners will be turned on en masse, increasing the daily demand for power to 60 million kilowatts in an average year.

TEPCO hopes to restore its power plants by then, including another thermal facility that was damaged in the quake. But it is expected to secure only about 50 million kilowatts through restoration work, so the problem remains of how to make up for the shortfall.

The government is studying the possibility of limiting the total amount of power that can be used by businesses, a measure previously implemented during the 1970s oil crises. Reviving the system, designed to regulate how much each company can consume, is inevitable.

This method was effective at the time of the crises because the industrial sector accounted for a high percentage of the total power consumed at that time. Now that the amount of power in general use has increased, however, the benefits of this approach will be limited.


Interchange insufficient

Surplus electricity could be obtained from western Japan. Because this requires converting the frequency, however, this method of power supply is limited to 1 million kilowatts a day.

Needless to say, TEPCO needs to boost its conversion ability, but as it would take quite some time to do this, TEPCO would not be able to finish in time for the increased demand in summer.

Given these circumstances, another cycle of planned power outages is inevitable. TEPCO must root out problems and make these outages run smoothly.

Apart from the power plants in Fukushima Prefecture, the company needs to examine, in the medium term, restarting nuclear plants whose operations have been suspended.

If enough time is spent on repairs and safety inspections, it would be possible to restart operations at TEPCO's Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant, where three reactors have been idle due to the impact of the 2007 Niigata Prefecture Chuetsu Offshore Earthquake, and at Tohoku Electric Power Co.'s Onagawa nuclear power plant, which stopped operating after the March 11 quake.

It will be difficult, but efforts to win the understanding of local residents will be essential.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, March 24, 2011)
(2011年3月24日01時17分 読売新聞)



--The Asahi Shimbun, March 23
EDITORIAL: Every effort must be made to contain radiation fallout

Radioactive fallout from the quake-stricken Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant operated by Tokyo Electric Power Co. is registering levels that are disconcerting not only to residents of Fukushima Prefecture, but also to people in surrounding prefectures.

According to the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, the latest environmental radioactivity readings show high levels of cesium 137 and iodine 131 in Hitachinaka, Ibaraki Prefecture, and Shinjuku Ward in Tokyo. The two areas are about 120 kilometers and more than 200 km from the nuclear plant, respectively.

Some of the readings exceed government-set levels for "radiation controlled areas." That designation is aimed at prevent exposure to dangerous levels of radiation.

Prime Minister Naoto Kan suspended shipments of spinach and other vegetables after unacceptable levels of radiation were detected in the farm produce.

Clearly, radioactive substances that were released into the atmosphere from the crippled power plant have mixed with the soil.

We must not panic at every radiation reading. On the other hand, it would be folly to underestimate the risk. The government has a duty to gather detailed data without delay and take effective steps.

One thing to bear firmly in mind is the need to understand the long-term effects of radioactive fallout from the nuclear power plant.

Once radiation is released into the atmosphere, there is little that can be done. Some substances remain in the atmosphere for a long time, tainting the soil and still releasing radiation.

For instance, the half-life of cesium 137 is about 30 years. Health damage can result from exposure to or ingestion of radioactive substances. Even if the levels detected in the environment are within permissible standards, people can still be affected.

Symptoms of health damage are not immediately noticed in cases of protracted exposure to radiation in small doses.

Experts warn that damage to DNA and the risk for cancer ought to be considered in terms of several years to more than a decade.

When radioactive fallout that cannot be considered negligible spreads far and wide, the risk of people contracting cancer will rise slightly over many years. But there is no need for every citizen to be alarmed, since the increased risk per person remains very low.

But looking at society as a whole, we realize that some people will fall victim to cancer through no fault of their own.

Even though the increased risk is only slight, every effort must be made to keep it to a minimum.

It will be also necessary to provide proper psychological care to people in areas where radioactive fallout has been detected.

This is the reality we are now faced with.

The government must take long-term health risks into consideration when deciding evacuation plans and other moves.

The most urgent task at present is to avert massive radiation leaks from the damaged nuclear reactors.

Beyond that lies our country's long battle to minimize the damage to people's health and the environment.


つなぎ法案 協調維持へバラマキ撤回急げ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Mar. 24, 2011)
Handout policies should be sacrificed
つなぎ法案 協調維持へバラマキ撤回急げ(3月23日付・読売社説)

The nation faces a time of emergency in the aftermath of a massive earthquake, tsunami and nuclear plant accidents.

So it is natural for the ruling and opposition parties to close ranks to pass bills that are necessary to overcome the current crisis.

A stopgap bill has been submitted to the House of Representatives to extend by three months about 100 tax reduction and exemption measures that are set to expire at the end of this month. Two opposition parties, the Liberal Democratic Party and New Komeito, submitted the bill in line with a three-way agreement they reached with the ruling Democratic Party of Japan. It will likely pass the Diet before the end of this month.

A government-proposed bill on tax system reform calls for a cut in income tax deductions and other measures that the LDP and Komeito oppose. But if the bill fails to pass, it will lead to nullification of several measures that the LDP and Komeito do not oppose, including a tax break for home buyers, when the current fiscal year ends on March 31.


A tripartite agreement

To avoid this, the three parties agreed to draw up the stopgap bill containing only measures that can be approved by the LDP and Komeito.

The three parties have also agreed to pass a bill to revise the Customs Tariff Law to reduce tariffs on imported products and goods.

It is a basic duty of political parties, which are responsible for state politics, to try to avoid situations that would harm people's livelihoods.

But the ruling and opposition parties have yet to iron out their differences concerning the bill for expansion of child-rearing allowances and the bill to enable issuance of deficit-covering government bonds, which are among the budget-related bills.

In regard to the child-rearing allowances, the DPJ has given up its plan to provide an additional 13,000 yen per child from April and now is considering simply continuing the current system under which 13,000 yen a month is given to parents of children up to the third year of middle school.

The LDP is calling for the abolishment of the expanded child-rearing allowance system and restoring the former system, which covered children only up to the sixth grade of primary school and set an income ceiling for eligibility for the allowances.

The major opposition party proposed abolition of the expanded child-rearing allowances and nullification of a plan to make highway tolls free as conditions for approval of the bill for issuance of deficit-financing government bonds.


More concessions needed

Restoration and reconstruction in the aftermath of the enormous earthquake and tsunami are estimated to cost more than 10 trillion yen. The government cannot afford to set aside more than 2 trillion yen for payment of child-rearing allowances.

To ensure passage of the bill for issuance of deficit-covering government bonds, which is indispensable as a means of securing revenue, the government and the DPJ should decide to withdraw their handout policies, including the expanded distribution of child-rearing allowances.

If the DPJ announces its withdrawal of such policies, it will be able to align views and reach agreement with the LDP and Komeito on reinstatement of tax deductions for parents of children up to the third year of middle school--deductions that were abolished to secure financial resources for the expanded child-rearing allowances.

Concerning the plan to make all highways toll-free, Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Minister Akihiro Ohata told a news conference Tuesday that fiscal resources for implementation of the plan should instead "be used mainly for reconstruction from the disaster." He is quite right.

In addition to the budget and budget-related bills, the Diet will have to deliberate on special bills to carry out disaster-response measures. Therefore, both the ruling and opposition parties are urged to make concessions where necessary.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, March 23, 2011)
(2011年3月23日01時34分 読売新聞)


自衛隊派遣 行政と連携し効果的支援を

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Mar. 23, 2011)
SDF should enhance disaster relief role
自衛隊派遣 行政と連携し効果的支援を(3月22日付・読売社説)

The Self-Defense Forces have mobilized an unprecedented 100,000 personnel to conduct rescue and relief activities in areas hit by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, as well as to keep the mishaps at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant from developing into a major disaster.

The SDF can perform painstaking missions, including the dangerous work of spraying water over malfunctioning nuclear reactors, because they are a well-trained, well-equipped organization capable of providing their own food, clothing and shelter. We want the SDF to be involved continually in relief activities that are certain to take a long time.

At the time of the 1995 Great Hanshin Earthquake, some local governments had a lingering allergy to the SDF. But even so, the SDF made great achievements in saving lives and assisting with reconstruction. Since then, cooperation between the SDF and local governments has become stronger as they worked out disaster-response measures and conducted exercises together.

The immense damage caused by the March 11 earthquake extends over a vast area along the Pacific coast of the Tohoku and Kanto regions. The administrative functions of some local governments have ceased to exist, while the SDF itself has faced difficulty in carrying out relief operations.


SDF ties with local govts

The SDF has mobilized an unprecedented number of personnel, accounting for about 40 percent of its total number. But in our view, this is insufficient. The SDF needs to strengthen cooperation with the relevant local governments to carry out more effective aid activities.

Regarding the transportation of food and other goods, the SDF should consider leaving what can be done by the private sector in the hands of private organizations while undertaking transportation to evacuation centers that are hard to access due to bad road conditions.

The SDF has established a joint regional command of its ground, maritime and air forces for the first time. Smoother and more rapid operation can be expected by unifying the chain of command under the commandant of the Ground Self-Defense Force's North Eastern Army based in Sendai.

In the current crisis, SDF reserves have been called up for the first time. Reservists hold regular civilian jobs but train with the SDF for five or 30 days a year. Reservists cannot be expected to function at the same level as full-time SDF members, but it is natural to resort to every possible measure in case of an emergency.

Joint relief activities by the SDF and U.S. military forces have been put into high gear.


U.S. help appreciated

In conducting activities named "Operation Tomodachi," the U.S. military has deployed the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan off the Sanriku coast in Tohoku to serve as an offshore base for search and rescue operations and the transportation of supplies by SDF and U.S. military helicopters. Also, U.S. marines based in Okinawa Prefecture have engaged in work to remove rubble from Sendai Airport.

Among the assistance offered by many countries, U.S. aid stands out in terms of both quality and quantity. We want to express our gratitude for the swift and substantial assistance from our ally.

Since Japan's change of government in September 2009, some people have been skeptical about the importance of continuing to have U.S. forces stationed in this country. Nevertheless, the U.S. military has been earnestly involved in relief activities in the devastated areas. This is quite clearly the result of a relationship of trust built by the two countries over many years.

The SDF and the U.S. military have developed ties through joint exercises and have closed ranks on various occasions such as antiterrorism and antidisaster activities overseas. We hope that the bilateral cooperation we see now will serve as an important step forward toward deepening the Japan-U.S. alliance.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, March 22, 2011)
(2011年3月22日00時51分 読売新聞)


放射能漏出 監視を強化し「食」の不安防げ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Mar. 22, 2011)
Govt must toughen control of radiation in food
放射能漏出 監視を強化し「食」の不安防げ(3月21日付・読売社説)

All-out efforts are being made to gain control of malfunctioning reactors at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in Fukushima Prefecture.

TEPCO's plant workers, Self-Defense Forces personnel and firefighters are working painstakingly to restore power supply at the plant and spray water into damaged spent nuclear fuel storage pools while taking great care about the amount of radiation they are exposed to.

If electrical power is recovered and the storage pools are filled with enough water, the situation will hopefully turn for the better. We pray anew that their desperate efforts will be successful.

But spraying water alone will not solve the problem. And even if the power supply is restored, it remains to be seen whether principal equipment in the plant can resume operation.

The government must prepare the next steps while analyzing images of the reactors taken from SDF helicopters to determine the degree of damage.


Little risk to health

The fact that radioactive materials have been found in drinking water and agricultural products in the aftermath of accidents at the nuclear plant is increasing public anxiety.

Radioactive substances have been detected in tap water in Tokyo and elsewhere. But their amounts are extremely small, so they pose little health risk. An amount of radioactive iodine slightly exceeding the current limit, which was set temporarily in line with the Food Sanitation Law, was detected Thursday in tap water in Kawamatamachi, Fukushima Prefecture. But the amount subsequently dropped to half the limit.

In the case of tap water, radioactive materials can be mostly eliminated by normal purification done at water purification plants.

Random checks of food products conducted by the government showed the amount of radioactive substances in milk and spinach in Fukushima and Ibaraki prefectures exceeded the provisional limits.

The detected amounts are far short of levels that could immediately harm health if ingested. According to the government, drinking an average yearly amount of milk that contained the detected level of radiation would be equivalent to the radiation exposure of one computed tomography (CT) scan.


Calm response urged

Therefore, a calm reaction is called for.

Moreover, the two products in question have not appeared on the market because both prefectures called on producers to voluntarily refrain from shipping their products.

The government should cooperate with prefectural governments to ensure thorough checks and quick public disclosure will be conducted. New regulatory measures such as the halting of shipments and recall of goods already shipped must be studied so measures can be implemented promptly when radiation exceeding limits is found in food.

To help prevent damage caused by rumors, the government and prefectural governments must carefully and repeatedly explain that thorough checks can ensure our food remains safe to eat.

Because the government did not assume a serious nuclear accident, it has not established standards to regulate radiation levels in food.

After the accidents at the Fukushima plant, the government temporarily adopted guidelines proposed by an international organization. But it is necessary to study whether the international food safety standards can fit Japanese dietary habits, thereby avoiding excessive regulations.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, March 21, 2011)
(2011年3月21日00時54分 読売新聞)


官邸の危機管理 「複合事態」克服へ司令塔作れ

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Mar. 21, 2011)
Multiple crises call for clear command structure
官邸の危機管理 「複合事態」克服へ司令塔作れ(3月20日付・読売社説)

The government's measures to deal with the disasters caused by the March 11 earthquake have lagged from the beginning. The Prime Minister's Office must rebuild its crisis management system as soon as possible.

Extensive physical damage is not the only characteristic of the Tohoku Pacific Offshore Earthquake. The multiple disaster situation includes a wide variety of problems, such as the nuclear plant accident, the urgent need to rescue disaster victims and support their livelihoods, paralysis of the commodity distribution system, a shortage of electricity, the yen's appreciation, and falling stock prices.

The government has to tackle these problems concurrently. Prime Minister Naoto Kan and Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano are taking all the work upon themselves, but they are too busy dealing with the nuclear accident to handle other issues and have become trapped in a vicious cycle.

The prime minister shows strong interest in measures to deal with the nuclear accident since he studied science at university and feels that he has considerable knowledge about nuclear issues. But he has not made any major achievements. Meanwhile, Edano has his hands full with press conferences, which are held very frequently, and has been failing to play his original role as a senior coordinator for measures to deal with earthquake disasters.


Govt must meet basic needs

Of course, it is very important to prevent a large-scale diffusion of nuclear material from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant. But at the same time, the government should not neglect delivering food and medicine to disaster victims and must work to minimize the adverse effects of electricity shortages on economic and civic activities.

The government's crisis management should be rebuilt as a system headed by the prime minister, with a commanding officer appointed for each problem and a clear chain of command established.

Former Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshito Sengoku, now acting president of the Democratic Party of Japan, was appointed deputy chief cabinet secretary and put in charge of supporting the livelihood of disaster victims. This unusual appointment suggests that the government acknowledged flaws in its current crisis management system, though it came a bit too late.

The Kan administration proposed a plan to appoint three additional ministers and invited Sadakazu Tanigaki, president of the opposition Liberal Democratic Party, to join its Cabinet. This aimed to create a national salvation Cabinet by forming a grand coalition with the major opposition party. We well understand this attempt because the present time of emergency is rightly considered a national crisis.

The LDP has taken the increase of ministers under consideration, but refused the request for Tanigaki to join the Cabinet. The party said the government made the request "too suddenly." However, we expect the LDP not to act on partisan interests but to cooperate with the government as much as possible.


Involve the experts

Meanwhile, the Kan Cabinet should stop clinging to its principle of leadership by politicians, which already has come to exist in name only. Politicians and bureaucrats must unite to overcome the current crises.

It is important for the prime minister and other ministers to listen calmly to the opinions of bureaucrats and experts first and then concentrate on bringing out the best in the gigantic bureaucratic organization. They must avoid by all means a situation in which the pretext of leadership by politicians discourages bureaucrats from taking the initiative in their work.

Kan made a high-profile visit to the head office of Tokyo Electric Power Co., operator of the troubled nuclear plant, and State Minister in Charge of Government Revitalization Renho was told to serve concurrently as state minister in charge of a campaign to save energy. But such mere performances are no longer wanted.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, March 20, 2011)
(2011年3月20日01時30分 読売新聞)




--The Asahi Shimbun, March 18
EDITORIAL: The battle being waged at the Fukushima nuclear power plant

Helicopters operated by members of the Self-Defense Forces dumped tons of water on the quake-stricken Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in Fukushima Prefecture on Thursday. Riot police of the Metropolitan Police Department in Tokyo and SDF personnel also deployed water cannon from the ground in an attempt to cool the No. 3 reactor.

The immediate area is seriously contaminated with leaked radioactive substances. The workers all wore protective gear and measured radiation exposure levels as they went about their tasks.

Footage of the operation, aired on television, was watched by many people with bated breath.

One week has passed since the mega-quake struck northeastern Japan.

Workers of Tokyo Electric Power Co., which operates the plant, and its business partners and firefighters have been working day and night to fight a disaster that has no precedent.

Countless people perished in quake-triggered tsunami and some were injured in explosions at the plant. Many workers are also engaged in efforts to recover the ability to generate electricity at the plant.

We pray their efforts bear fruit quickly and that those brave souls who are literally staking their lives to fix the radiation leak are exposed to the minimum risk to their health.

In a catastrophic event such as this, who has to work in such a dangerous environment? Our society, which has avoided in-depth discussion on this issue, is now facing this grave question.

Japan is neither a dictatorship nor the militaristic state that it once was. Each and every life is precious and irreplaceable. No one can has the right to rank one person's life as more valuable than another's.

At the same time, the mission at hand is not work that anyone can do. It can only be handled by highly trained professionals--people whose job is to make and provide electric power and those who have specialized knowledge and technology; SDF personnel who have the required equipment and entered service taking the oath that they are prepared to take risks when necessary; and police officers, whose mission is also to maintain public safety.

Of course, for SDF personnel and police, it is work they never thought they would be required to do. However, since the crisis has escalated to this point, we have no choice but to believe in their sense of mission and ability and hope for the best.

This risky work will likely continue for many days to come. Difficult decisions will probably have to be made along the way.

Those who are in the position to make decisions and issue commands must do so on the basis of appropriate information. The same can be said of politicians who must take final responsibility.

They must gather much wisdom, take into account all sorts of factors, devise multiple backup measures and procure supplies before reaching their decisions.

If they make a misstep, get rattled or try to shift the blame on others, not only those doing the actual work but their families and also the public will not have any faith in their ability to resolve the crisis.

While showing gratitude from the bottom of our hearts to those who are at the frontline of this disaster, we must keep supporting their activities both spiritually and materially.

As ones who use electricity and have been enjoying life's comforts as a result, we wish to join hands in a spirit of solidarity.


福島第一原発 あらゆる冷却手段を活用せよ

Do whatever it takes to cool N-reactors
The Yomiuri Shimbun (Mar. 19, 2011)
福島第一原発 あらゆる冷却手段を活用せよ(3月18日付・読売社説)

Herculean efforts are being made at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant to prevent leaks of radioactive material from spreading.

Self-Defense Forces helicopters on Thursday dumped seawater on one reactor at the plant, while water cannon trucks also blasted water at the reactor's spent fuel rod pool to cool it down. Efforts to restore power at the plant are continuing.

We hope the SDF officials, police officers and power plant workers involved in the highly dangerous task of cooling the damaged nuclear reactors and spent fuel rods will safely accomplish their mission.

The plant has six nuclear reactors. The nuclear cores at the Nos. 1, 2 and 3 reactors are not being cooled sufficiently.

Meanwhile, cooling functions at the storage pools for spent fuel rods at reactors Nos. 3 and 4 have failed, raising fears that this fuel might overheat.

In the worst-case scenario, the nuclear reactors and nuclear fuel would break down, possibly causing leakage of radioactive materials. The situation remains critical.


Daunting task

Using helicopters to dump seawater on the reactor was a desperate attempt to cool the storage pool.

The helicopters can only carry a limited amount of water; they would have to make more than 100 flyovers to fill the 12-meter-deep storage pool.

The helicopter crews also risk being exposed to high levels of radiation when they fly over the reactors.

The water cannon trucks of the Metropolitan Police Department and the SDF will only have a limited effect. But by using various means at their disposal, the authorities are trying to prevent the situation from deteriorating.

Despite the incredible efforts being made, they do not appear to be turning the situation around.

The government has sought advice from nuclear power experts in dealing with the worsening problem. However, we think it might have to tap the expertise of specialists in other fields and the industrial sector to help bring the situation under control.

For instance, mobile water-spraying equipment used to fight fires at industrial complexes could be utilized to shoot water at the storage pool. These devices can spray large volumes of seawater higher and farther than the methods deployed so far.


Evacuees need more help

As the serious situation drags on, criticism of the government's response is rising.

Residents living within a 20-kilometer radius of the plant were ordered to evacuate, while people living between 20 kilometers and 30 kilometers away were urged to stay indoors.

Many Fukushima residents have fled the prefecture in the past few days, and finding places that can accommodate these evacuees has become a pressing task.

Food and heating fuel are piling up but not reaching people directly affected by the quake.

Some patients who were evacuated from hospitals near the nuclear plant have died due to a lack of medicine, and other causes, at facilities where they were taking shelter.

The prefecture is running out of daily necessities because some truck drivers are hesitant to transport goods to the stricken region.

Fukushima Gov. Yuhei Sato has called on the government, which issued the evacuation orders, to come up with measures to care for people who have left and those who are afraid to venture out their homes.

Everything must be done to prevent these people from falling victim to secondary disasters.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, March 18, 2011)
(2011年3月18日01時26分 読売新聞)



--The Asahi Shimbun, March 16
EDITORIAL: We must stand strong to overcome this catastrophe

We are facing an unprecedented national crisis. In order to overcome it, we have no choice but to create firm bonds of trust between the government and the people, as well as between companies and the people.

The disaster at Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant operated by Tokyo Electric Power Co. is becoming increasingly serious.

Following hydrogen explosions at the No. 1 and No. 3 reactors, the No. 2 reactor exploded and a fire occurred at the No. 4 reactor.

The suppression pool linked to the containment vessel that covers the No. 2 reactor has likely broken. There is a danger that highly radioactive substances could leak into the outside air.

Support their dangerous mission

The No. 4 reactor was undergoing a regular inspection when the earthquake hit on March 11. There are also suspicions that the spent fuel rods in the suppression pool part of the reactor have broken because they were not sufficiently cooled.

Four nuclear reactors in a single plant are still unstable and appear to be leaking radioactive substances. This is an extremely serious situation.

The most important thing is to prevent large quantities of radioactive substances from spreading outside.

Under demanding and challenging conditions, desperate efforts to cool the reactors continue. We want to do everything we can to support those efforts so that this difficult and extremely dangerous work can progress as smoothly as possible.

At one point, workers had to be evacuated because a high level of radioactivity was detected inside the plant. While work needs to move forward, safety must also be ensured.

Yet lacking a power source with the limited capacity of pumps or other equipment, it is difficult to find an effective way to bring the situation under control. We need to gather knowledge and strength.

In response to the accident of the No. 2 reactor, Prime Minister Naoto Kan once again called on residents who live within a radius of 20 kilometers of the plant to evacuate and those who live between 20 and 30 kilometers of the plant to stay indoors. People are becoming increasingly anxious about how long the situation will continue.

As many as 200,000 people have been asked to evacuate from the vicinity of the plant. They will be forced to put up with the inconvenience of staying at evacuation sites. To support them, the cooperation of local governments and residents will be indispensable.

Trust the public and disclose information

Kan is the only person who can guide the nation to overcome this crisis. We urge him to give first priority to protecting citizens' lives and act in unison with TEPCO to deal with the difficult situation.

The prime minister visited TEPCO's head office Tuesday and told officials: "You are the only ones (who can do this job). You have to brace yourselves." From the perspective of citizens, his words also apply to the government and the prime minister himself.

Many citizens and government officials have begun to distrust TEPCO because of the way it has dealt with the situation and the delay in releasing information. What is important at this juncture is for all those concerned to come together to overcome the crisis.

First, the government and TEPCO need to closely share information and unify their chain of command. Why not seek the opinions of foreign specialists such as the International Atomic Energy Agency and the United States, both of which have pledged their cooperation?

The important thing at this juncture is to promptly and adequately disclose information.

Until now, at every turn, the government and TEPCO have stressed that everything is under control. We can well understand the need to prevent the public panicking.

However, if the government causes the public to suspect that it is hiding something, it could breed public anxiety. Crisis management depends on the public's trust in the government.

The government needs to have faith in the public and properly release information.

What is actually happening? What developments are expected? What about preparations and what action should be taken?

While doing its best to bring the situation under control, the government should simultaneously prepare for a worsening of the situation. If additional measures such as further evacuation become necessary, it must give prompt and appropriate instructions.

Resilience of Japanese society

The Japanese economy is also about to enter unknown terrain, having been dealt a double blow of an unprecedented nuclear accident, a mega-earthquake and calamitous tsunami.

At the Tokyo Stock Exchange, major stocks of electric power and electronic companies were sold one after another. The Nikkei average recorded the third-highest drop rate in history.

In the face of these unpredictable and turbulent developments that occurred one after the other, both businesses and the people are shrinking back in fear. We must not allow ourselves to fall into a vicious cycle.

In order to stop the financial market contracting, the Bank of Japan has provided a total of 41.8 trillion yen ($518 billion) in funds, the largest amount ever. Every possible measure should be taken so that the economy does not fall into further confusion.

Our patience, resilience and ability to solve problems are being tested. Let us act calmly. The world is watching us.

We were prepared both mentally and materially against earthquakes to an extent. If we regard blackouts as an energy crisis, then we can say that we have already weathered one of those too, with the oil shocks. But this is the first time for Japan to face the ordeal of preventing radioactive leakage from a damaged nuclear power plant.

Japanese industries were based on an interdependent supply system of advanced information, distribution, personnel and financial networks. When struck from the outside, they complemented each other and prepared to help each other to rebuild themselves.

Now is the time for citizens to put up with inconvenience to give first priority to the provision of supplies to the stricken areas. The lives of people who survived a massive tsunami are still hanging in the balance.

With the government at the helm, desperate attempts to stop further damage continue. We must do everything we can to avoid the worst case scenario from occurring.


The nation must join hands to overcome the crisis


--The Asahi Shimbun, March 15
EDITORIAL: The nation must join hands to overcome the crisis

Rescue workers are continuing their search for survivors of the gigantic earthquake and tsunami that destroyed wide areas in northeastern Japan on Friday.

Hundreds of bodies are found daily in the affected areas, making increasingly clear the grim reality of the catastrophic damage inflicted by the mega-quake.

For many survivors, a new, tough life in evacuation centers has begun.

It is essential now for the entire nation to share a commitment to the long-term efforts for mutual aid and support needed to overcome the crisis.

Vast swaths of the nation have been hit by the disaster.

As the new week began Monday, great confusion broke out in the Kanto region early in the morning.

After Tokyo Electric Power Co. announced a plan to introduce rolling power cuts throughout its area of service in response to a severe power shortage caused by the quake, Japan Railway and other train service operators hastily decided to cut down their operations.

Many people living in Tokyo and its vicinity awoke Monday to find their commuter trains had been canceled. Stations on the limited number of lines where trains were in service were crowded with commuters.

Still, at many stations people patiently waited in lines for trains.
Then, they endured the ordeal of riding jam-packed trains without complaining.

The orderly behavior of Tokyo commuters reflected their awareness of how survivors in the quake-hit areas are desperately searching for relatives amid piles of rubble, many of them without enough clothes or fuel to keep warm.
Commuters in the capital exercised self-control as they perceived their problems were nothing compared with the tremendous hardships the quake survivors are enduring.

It became abundantly clear immediately after the earthquake struck that there would be serious power shortages.

Probably, the vast majority of residents in the Tokyo metropolitan area do not have any problem with accepting the effects on their daily lives of the rolling blackouts and power conservation if it helps efforts to deal with the situation.

But plans for power cuts must be crafted and executed carefully to minimize their impact.

It is necessary to announce exactly when and where the power supply will be stopped so that households and businesses in the targeted areas can adequately prepare themselves.

Doing so would help prevent confusion and lead to a larger saving on electricity.

What is especially worrisome about a power outage is its effects on people who need respirators or other electric-powered medical devices.

A prolonged power outage could be life threatening for home-bound as well as hospitalized patients.

Explaining the confusion in the implementation of the power cuts, TEPCO said it made every effort to avoid outages up until the last moment.

But not many people would get upset when a planned suspension of the power supply in their area has been canceled.

The company should put priority on ensuring that its plans for power cuts are made known in advance to people in the areas to be affected.

It is certain that TEPCO's service region will face a chronic power shortage for the foreseeable future.

It goes without saying that companies, governments and households should all do everything they can to save electricity.

But on Monday night most commercial facilities in the high-end Ginza shopping district in central Tokyo were brightly lit with neon.

There is still much room for power conservation. The government should urge companies and schools to take bolder measures to save electricity, such as halting operations, to see how much conservation can be achieved.

A variety of measures should be combined to lower use of electricity during peak demand hours.

In the aftermath of an unprecedented natural disaster, Japanese are ready to face inconveniences and tests of endurance.

The government should respond to the people's sacrifice by demonstrating a strong commitment to protecting their lives and property and reducing the confusion threatening their well-being.

We hope the government will swiftly develop a clear policy for dealing with the situation so that it can capitalize on the people's great ability to help each other.









Ensure disaster victims have daily necessities

The Yomiuri Shimbun (Mar. 15, 2011)
Ensure disaster victims have daily necessities
救助と支援 被災者へ十分な生活物資を(3月14日付・読売社説)

Thousands of people are still waiting for rescue in the cold. Two days have passed since a large earthquake and tsunami hit the Tohoku and Kanto regions along the Pacific coast Friday afternoon. Rescue operations must proceed as quickly as possible.

Police and firefighters from across the country have been mobilized, and the government will increase the number of Self-Defense Forces personnel dispatched for rescue operations to 100,000.

Rescue teams from the United States, South Korea and Singapore, among others, went to disaster-stricken areas after arriving in Japan one after the other.

Successful rescues have been reported from various parts of the devastated areas, including evacuations by helicopter of people stranded on a building's roof and a 60-year-old man rescued by a Maritime Self-Defense Force vessel after two days adrift at sea.

The death toll from the disaster is likely to top 10,000 in Miyagi Prefecture alone. Any and all means should be used to rescue as many people as possible.

We hope the authorities concerned will provide sufficient food, medicine and other necessities to people who remain stranded at their homes or who have evacuated to public facilities.

Hundreds of thousands of people are huddled together in evacuation centers throughout the area.


Food needs acute

Food equivalent to 1 million meals a day is estimated to be needed at evacuation centers alone, and there is said to be a shortage of bread and rice at such places. Not a small number of evacuation centers are finding it difficult to secure enough water, as water trucks have not yet arrived.

Emergency meal preparation service is being provided by community associations, but their powers are limited. A system for transporting daily commodities to the affected areas promptly and preferentially is urgently needed.

In addition, lifelines to areas that normally cover more than 1.5 million households in the Tohoku region and elsewhere have been cut off, as power outages continued Sunday night. Water and gas supply has also been suspended in various areas. We hope such services will be restored as quickly as possible.

Due to accidents at its nuclear power plants in Fukushima Prefecture, Tokyo Electric Power Co. said Sunday it would implement planned power outages from Monday in which it would suspend electricity supply to areas under its network in turns.

In implementing the plan, care should be taken so patients who are recuperating at medical institutions or at home using medical equipment are not adversely affected.


Volunteers key to recovery

From this point forward, volunteer efforts will grow in importance in the damaged areas. After the 1995 Great Hanshin Earthquake and the 2004 Niigata Prefecture Chuetsu Earthquake, various relief offered by volunteers through visits to evacuation centers and households proved incredibly helpful.

The government has appointed Kiyomi Tsujimoto--a House of Representatives member who has experience with a nonprofit organization--as adviser to the prime minister in charge of coordination of disaster volunteer activities. We want the government to unify the channels for volunteer work so aid can be dispatched efficiently to the stricken areas in line with their needs.

A great number of people certainly want to rush to the damaged areas, and campaigns to collect relief donations have already started.

After this great disaster, reconstructing a state of normalcy will most certainly be a long battle. All of us must pull together to support the recovery of the affected areas.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, March 14, 2011)
(2011年3月14日01時05分 読売新聞)


Make no mistakes handling N-accident










The Yomiuri Shimbun (Mar. 14, 2011)
Make no mistakes handling N-accident
東日本巨大地震 原発事故の対応を誤るな(3月13日付・読売社説)


The horrible damage caused by the massive earthquake that struck a wide area of eastern Japan on Friday has gradually become clear.

Coastal cities and towns in three prefectures in the Tohoku region--Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima--have been devastated.

Large tsunamis struck only minutes to several dozen minutes after the Tohoku Pacific Offshore Earthquake occurred, washing away houses and automobiles. The tsunamis even swept ships and boats inland.

Many fires also were reported. In Kesennuma, Miyagi Prefecture, the center of the city was almost completely destroyed.

In Minami-Sanrikucho, about 10,000 of the town's total 17,300 residents were missing.


Safety must come first

In a shocking development, the cooling system for the No. 1 reactor at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant malfunctioned, causing an explosion that destroyed the outer wall of the reactor building. Many people must have felt shivers of terror as they watched the scene on TV news programs Saturday.

For safety reasons, reactors at nuclear power plants are part of a three-layer structure. The innermost part, the reactor, is inside a container, which is itself housed in a reactor building.

It was this outermost part, the reactor building, that was damaged in the explosion.

The explosion was believed to have been caused by gas that leaked from the container, but the container was unharmed and continues to serve its purpose, according to TEPCO.

However, the cooling system at the No. 1 reactor had not been functioning immediately after the great earthquake. The level of the cooling water decreased dramatically, exposing nuclear fuel rods and probably causing part of the fuel assembly to melt. It was the first serious nuclear incident in this country.

To deal with the situation, TEPCO decided to inject seawater into the reactor to completely cool it down. TEPCO had been reluctant to do so, because the salt and other substances in the water would made it difficult to operate the reactor in the future.

We believe this decision could have been made much earlier, given the importance of safety first.


Crisis management

Although the amount was small, radioactive substances were leaked outside the power station, heightening the general public's fears of nuclear contamination. Residents around the power station were forced to evacuate their homes and put to great inconvenience.

We also question how the government has provided important information to citizens.

The explosion took place shortly after 3:30 p.m. Saturday, but Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano did not officially admit there had been an explosion until about two hours later at a press conference. His announcement that there had been no large leak of radioactive substances and that the explosion did not take place in the reactor container came more than five hours after the explosion.

Were these announcements too late? Edano did not mention any important information in his first news conference Saturday, such as the amount of radioactive substances released from the reactor or information about who should evacuate.

TEPCO and the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency of the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry should closely cooperate to resolve the problems at the Fukushima No. 1 power plant's No. 1 reactor.

Even if the scale of this earthquake was beyond the assumed maximum level in terms of quake resistance, lax crisis management should be severely questioned.

Nuclear power generation has become the fundamental source of energy in this country. However, the shock wave of the explosion may shake that position to its foundation.


Improve accident prevention

The Three Mile Island nuclear accident in Pennsylvania in 1979 caused no significant radioactive contamination outside the facility. However, the partial core meltdown fueled public opinion against nuclear power generation in the United States. No power plants have been built in that nation since the accident.

The 1986 accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in the former Soviet Union released large amounts of radioactive substances in that nation and others. More than 30 people were killed, many of them exposed to a considerable amount of radiation when extinguishing fires at the plant, for instance.
Many people developed thyroid cancer after the accident, which also fueled the anti-nuclear power movement, particularly in Europe.

The government must reinforce its system for preventing accidents at nuclear power plants. If the government makes mistakes in handling such accidents, the utilization of nuclear power stations at home and abroad will be jeopardized.


Save stranded survivors

The number of people killed and missing has been increasing steadily. Many people are still stranded at school facilities, on the roofs of buildings or under debris waiting to be rescued.

Self-Defense Forces personnel, firefighters and police officers have already begun full-scale rescue and relief operations. Prime Minister Naoto Kan said he would mobilize many personnel from SDF garrisons all over the country. His administration announced the dispatch of 50,000 SDF members to quake- and tsunami-hit areas.

What evacuees want most is information about the safety of their families and friends. We would like police, as well as central and local authorities, to do their best to reunite people as soon as possible.

This is one of the most serious emergencies since World War II, and all the nation's resources must be mobilized for disaster relief.

During talks with Kan, all opposition party leaders pledged again to fully cooperate with the government. They even proposed suspending the current Diet session and delaying some of the unified local elections scheduled for April.

What is most urgently needed is compilation of a large-scale supplementary budget to help quake-hit areas recover.

The reserve fund for the fiscal 2010 budget only has about 200 billion yen left, not enough for sufficient recovery measures.

Both the ruling and opposition parties should compile a concrete proposal for the supplementary budget, including how to secure revenue.

They should pass the budget at the Diet as soon as possible and then turn to implementing the measures.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, March 13, 2011)
(2011年3月13日01時12分 読売新聞)