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2011 March 30 - April 5 TOP3 [JCP]

JCP proposal in the aftermath of the Great East Japan Disaster

April 1, 2011
Shii Kazuo
Japanese Communist Party Executive Committee Chair

Twenty days have passed since the occurrence of the Great East Japan Disaster of March 11. The massive earthquake and tsunami as well as resultant accidents at the Fukushima nuclear power plant have caused enormous damage to wide areas in Japan. The damage is reaching the worst-ever scale as a national crisis in Japan’s postwar history. Many disaster victims are experiencing various hardships both physically and mentally, and are worrying about the uncertain future. The Japanese Communist Party expresses its deepest condolences to the deceased and sympathy to all the sufferers of the disaster.

It is necessary for the people of Japan to band together to make concerted efforts to overcome the major catastrophe, irrespective of their political affiliation. Through these efforts, it is also required to explore ways to establish a new Japan in which everyone can live without undue anxiety.

The JCP has, since the earthquake occurred, made a set of requests and suggestions to the government on several occasions. In line with them, the JCP proposes that the following points be implemented right now.

1. Tackle two urgent issues ― relief for victims, nuclear crisis containment

The work to relieve the disaster sufferers and end the ongoing nuclear crisis is a matter of life and death. Japan must urgently mobilize the full potential to combat this challenge.

(1) Give appropriate assistance to victims of the unprecedented disaster

- Some survivors in evacuation centers became ill and died. Such a tragedy must be prevented at any cost. The JCP demands that support goods such as fuel, food, water, and medicine be stably supplied to the sufferers, and that a sufficient number of medical and nursing-care personnel be sent to the areas.

- It is essential for the government to do the maximum possible to use public housing, housing for the unemployed, housing for government workers, and also to lease houses from the private sector in order to secure more stable evacuation centers by asking surrounding municipalities for their cooperation.

- The issue of securing residence is a serious matter of concern and the most compelling need for those who lost their home in the disaster. The government should voice its clear stance to ensure temporary housing be made available to all the victims who wish to move, and should establish a project to achieve this and the progress should be reported to the sufferers. The need is for the government to take responsibility for reserving sufficient land and private-sector housing units. The construction of temporary dwellings must give consideration to defending local communities.

- There have already been several support programs for victims such as free medical care, livelihood support and loans, reduction or exemption from the payment of taxes and insurance premiums, unemployment insurance benefits, and special loans. These existing programs are still insufficient, but many victims and related-municipalities are not even informed of the support system that exists. The government should inform the victims, the municipalities, medical institutions, financial institutions, and schools of those programs so that any sufferer can use any program. In this regard, the JCP demands that the government implement flexible and appropriate responses based on individual circumstances in order to provide the maximum possible relief to the victims.

- The government should require large corporations to refrain from carrying out unfair layoffs, terminating job contracts, or canceling job offers to new graduates by blaming it on the disaster. The government should also make large corporations fulfill their social responsibility for ensuring job security and supporting reconstruction of affiliated companies and subcontractors in the disaster-hit areas. Every possible means to maintain employment, including the full use of the Employment Adjustment Subsidy, should be taken. The local agricultural and fisheries industry and small- and midsized businesses have been heavily damaged. In order to maintain their businesses, the JCP demands that the government urgently provide every possible program such as interest-free, mortgage-free emergency loans and compensation for loss of earnings.

(2) Put an end to the crisis at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant, compensate the victims for the damage

- The JCP continuously demands that all the wisdom and competence of the Nuclear Safety Commission, nuclear plant makers, atomic energy institutions, universities, Japanese and foreign experts, and relevant engineers be concentrated to prevent the crisis from further worsening and to swiftly overcome the crisis.

To achieve this, the government, Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), and nuclear plant makers should release all pertinent information they have regarding the present situation. The JCP demands that information regarding the crisis be fully disclosed, including the seismic movement and tsunami size that hit each nuclear facility, the extent of the damage, images taken by the government’s information-gathering satellite, and the radiation dose volume of all types of nuclei. Only by doing so can experts, researchers, and engineers in various studies mobilize their combined wisdom and expertise.

The government should explain to the public as much as it can on what strategies it has and what prospects it has at this moment toward a settlement of the nuclear accident.

- The JCP demands that the government take responsibility for the data on radiation proliferation and contamination and report it to the public accurately, immediately, and continuously. When releasing the data, supplementary explanation by experts to the people in addition to the official announcement of the government is needed for the public to accurately understand its meaning and determine what to do. The government should stop making statements that contradict the explanation of released data and the instruction it gives to the public regarding what to do. To fully release accurate information and share it with the public will help contribute to restraining both overly optimistic outlooks and excessive fear and will prevent the spread of harmful rumors regarding the contamination of agricultural products that have not been contaminated.

- To municipalities and residents of affected areas by the nuclear accident, radioactive release and the data on contamination should fully and continuously be provided. The government should take responsible measures to deal with the 20-30km zone from the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant, send authorized personnel to related-municipal offices, hammer away at the negative effects of contaminated products from further spreading, and compensate the farmers for damages across the board. The JCP demands that the government indiscriminately provide accommodation to all evacuees. Iodine tablets should be given to the surrounding residents of the plant. It is also necessary for the government to responsibly carry out checkups for radiation exposure on the residents and decontaminate them if detected.

- Caused by the nuclear accident, radioactive substances that exceed the accepted standards have already been detected in some raw milk and farm products in the afflicted areas. Since the government ordered the suspension of shipments of these products, many farmers have been seriously affected. The JCP demands that the government and TEPCO fully compensate the farmers and fishermen for the damages caused by the nuclear accident. Small business owners should also be included in the compensation list on the grounds that they were ordered to evacuate from their places of business due to the nuclear accident. At least for the present, TEPCO should immediately make a provisional payment of compensation to the affected farmers and residents who were forced to evacuate from their communities.

- The planned rolling blackouts have been hurting the economy and many communities. The government should not leave the conduct of the planned power outages to TEPCO and should promote more energy-saving efforts by regulating the volume of power which is supplied to large-lot users.

2. Mobilize full potential of nation for recovery from damage by the worst disaster in postwar history

In cities, towns, and villages hit by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, everything was destroyed: houses, shopping malls, local government offices, hospitals, roads, bridges, and ports. In addition to rebuilding these things, the local agriculture, forestry, and fisheries industries and smaller businesses should be restored. A national project mobilizing the full potential of the nation is necessary to reconstruct the disaster-stricken areas and compensate the victims.

(1) Reconstruction of people’s lives and local communities is essential

It is important to take the position that reconstruction of people’s lives and local communities is the fundamental task. This means that real reconstruction can only be achieved when peoples’ houses and communities are rebuilt.

- For reconstruction of people’s lives, it is essential to drastically improve the system for compensating individuals who lost their homes. After the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake, as a result of victims’ and people’s movements, the government changed its position that “it is the disaster victims’ responsibility to rebuild their houses because individually-owned houses are private property,” and established the Natural Disaster Victims Aid Law. However, the law puts a limit of three million yen for rebuilding totally-destroyed houses. This amount of money falls far short of what is needed to reconstruct disaster victims’ lives. The JCP calls for a drastic increase in the amount. In the case of the March 11 disaster, a great deal of land and the very foundation of houses were swept away. It is necessary to fundamentally improve the aid system in accordance with the seriousness of the damage caused by the massive tsunami.

- In order to restore local communities, it is necessary for the national government to provide to disaster-stricken municipalities sufficient financial support, including a special subsidy for reconstruction and a drastic increase in other subsidies to local governments. The earthquake and tsunami brought about unprecedented problems. Some municipalities were entirely crushed by the tsunami and have to move to other locations to reestablish their communities. Such local governments’ reestablishment efforts should be assisted with the decision-making power in the hands of residents by respecting the autonomy of these local governments and their residents.

- The devastating disaster inflicted enormous damage on the fishing industry on Japan’s Pacific side-regions from Hokkaido to Kyushu, but mainly in the Tohoku region. The disaster also seriously affected the farming industry in the disaster-hit areas, mainly the area hit by the tsunami. A wide area of farm land was submerged and covered with sand and sea salt. In order to revive the agriculture, forestry, and fisheries industry, a huge reclamation project is necessary. The JCP calls for assistance that goes beyond the current legal framework and for financial support for the reconstruction. A drastic increase in support and financial aid for small businesses and self-employed individuals is also essential to revitalize local economies.

(2) Proposal for a resource to fund reconstruction

The budget needed for reconstruction is far larger than that of the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake. In order to ease the great anxiety of the March 11 disaster victims and the general public, it is important for the state to provide the financial resources for reconstruction.

- The government should cancel its plan to cut two trillion yen in taxes for large corporations and the wealthy, including a corporate tax cut and the continuation of preferential securities taxation. The government should change the direction of government expenditures to one prioritizing reconstruction. To achieve this, the government should stop using tax money for unnecessary large-scale public works projects, the so-called “sympathy budget” for the U.S. forces in Japan, construction of a new U.S. base in Guam, the program making expressways toll-free, construction of more nuclear reactors, and government subsidies for political parties (except the JCP). This would enable the government to secure an additional budget of around five trillion yen a year.

- It is necessary for the government to take measures to utilize the corporate internal reserves of 244 trillion yen for recovery of devastated areas and reconstruction of local economies. The JCP suggests that the government issue “disaster reconstruction bonds” different from the conventional government bond, and ask large corporations to purchase the “reconstruction bond.” Large corporations have 64 trillion yen in hand and are “looking for ways to use this money.” They should be encouraged to use this huge amount of money for post-disaster reconstruction. This will contribute to the expansion of domestic demand throughout Japan and the redevelopment of the Japanese economy following the heavy blow it received from the March 11 disaster.

3. Drastic change of nuclear power administration and energy policy

The accident at the Fukushima nuclear power plant is not an inevitable event caused by a natural disaster that is “beyond the scope of expectation.” Although the Japanese Communist Party and civic groups repeatedly warned that a tsunami as large as the one generated by the major earthquake in Chile could destroy the reactor-cooling functions of the Fukushima nuclear power plant and called on the plant’s safety measures to be improved, TEPCO ignored such warnings. The latest accident is nothing but a human-generated disaster caused by the lackadaisical attitude of the atomic energy administration which has promoted the “safety myth” of nuclear energy and blindly pushed for more nuclear power generation without implementing necessary measures to ensure a modicum of safety.

To gather all the wisdom and expertise available to contain the nuclear reactor damage must be the first task above all others. At the same time, it is necessary to drastically reconsider whether or not the current atomic energy administration and energy policy should be maintained.

(1) Have the atomic energy administration put first priority on safety

- The biggest problem of Japan’s nuclear power administration is that it is based on its “safety myth”. The government has failed to meet the IAEA’s request to take countermeasures against “severe accidents,” claiming that it is unrealistic to assume that nuclear power plants in Japan will experience “severe accidents” releasing large amounts of radioactive materials. It has propagated the myth to the general public that atomic power is safe and thus there is no need to worry. It has also been caught up in the “myth” and neglected to take safety measures. No other nations in the world cling to such a myth so blindly.

After the nuclear plant accident occurred at the Three Mile Island facility in the United States in 1979, the final report of the investigation of the accidents stressed that the most serious problem was the “belief that nuclear power plants are sufficiently safe.” It also stressed that “the attitude must be changed to one that admits that nuclear power is by its very nature potentially dangerous.” The lesson here is widely recognized by many nations throughout the world.

Now is the time for the Japanese government to do away with the “safety myth”, reveal the inherent risk of atomic energy before the public, and create an honest and scientific nuclear energy administration that takes thoroughgoing measures to secure citizens’ safety.

- Japan’s nuclear energy policy should be drastically changed. We call on the government to establish new safety standards in accordance with international standards and the lessons learned from the latest disaster, and initiate a full inspection of all the nuclear power plants throughout the nation.

A reckless plan compiled by the government last year to build an additional 14 reactors should be cancelled. We demand that the government stop operations at the Hamaoka nuclear power plant which is located right in the area where an major earthquake is expected to occur, suspend the “life extension” of old reactors, close the extremely dangerous fast-breeder nuclear reactor plant “Monju,” and halt the nuclear-fuel recycling program that uses plutonium, more dangerous than uranium, in ordinary reactors. The Fukushima nuclear power plant must be closed.

- Japan’s nuclear security system has serious defects. Japan is far behind international standards in maintaining necessary safeguards associated with nuclear energy. The Convention on Nuclear Safety, which Japan has ratified, requires its member states to clearly separate regulatory bodies for nuclear safety from administrative promoters of nuclear energy. The role regulating nuclear power generation for its safety is played by an independent organ in other countries, such as the Health and Safety Executive in the U.K., the environment ministry in Germany, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in the U.S. with 3,900 regular staff members.

However, the regulatory role in Japan is assigned to the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency which is part of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, a strong and influential promoter of nuclear power plants. Although the Nuclear Safety Commission is a solo independent organization, it only has a limited and supplementary authority to impose safety regulations and respond to accidents. The absence of an independent regulatory body in Japan, a serious systematic defect, not only is in violation of international law but also is causing a major obstacle to transparency in the latest accident.

This systematic failure of the atomic energy administration needs to be corrected immediately. We urgently demand that Japan create an independent organ in charge of safety regulations in regard to nuclear power generation with authority and substance, like the NRC in the United States.

(2) Make strategic shift to natural energy and low-energy society

- Japan should make a strategic shift in its energy policy from depending on nuclear power generation to a policy promoting natural (renewable) energy sources.

In Germany, renewable energy sources produce 16% of total electricity volume, which is equivalent to 25 reactors as the same type of the first reactor of the Fukushima No.1 Nuclear Power Plant. Furthermore, Germany has a long-term strategic target to increase the ratio of reliance on renewable energy to more than 30% by 2020 and more than 80% by 2050. Japan should break away from its energy policy depending on atomic power generation and shift to develop renewable energy sources, including solar photovoltaics and cogeneration energies, wind power, hydro power, geothermal energy, wave and tidal energy, and biomass. It should set up a bold target and a plan to achieve it.

- At the same time, Japan needs to drastically review the “24-hour-open” society based on “mass production, mass consumption, and mass disposal” and turn it into a low-energy society. To regulate unusually long working hours and night-working shifts in order to guarantee decent working and living conditions is a significant task to work for in this context.
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