Japan’s economy continues to circle the drain. January’s trade deficit was the worst in Japan’s recorded history. However, it seems Tokyo is content to continue throwing away big bucks in the desire to sooth the radiation fears of a numerically-significant minority in the population.
Last weekend, Japan’s Environment Ministry announced that 23% of 103,000 designated homes outside Fukushima Prefecture had been decontaminated by the end of 2012. The percentage had not changed since August, 2012, but not because the work had ceased. Actually, the number of homes approved for cleansing between August and December by the former Tokyo regime, had increased by 30% before they were voted out of office. The criterion for approval was based on Japan’s ridiculously low “health limit” of one millisievert per year exposure, rammed through the government in 2012 by the government of the two former antinuclear PMs; Naoto Kan and Yoshihiko Noda.
Now, here’s the problem. None of the 103,000 homes are in Fukushima Prefecture! They are all located in Iwate, Miyagi, Ibaraki, Tochigi, Gunma, Saitama and Chiba prefectures, some of which are more than 200 kilometers from Fukushima Daiichi. Decontamination efforts in the evacuation zones around F. Daiichi are not the issue here. But, homes 200 kilometers away with contaminant levels that are barely detectible by the most sensitive monitoring equipment in the world, yet will never harm anyone, makes no sense. Deconning most of these 103,000 homes will make them no safer than without the expensive cleansing. While the effort is politically expedient, the money being spent on decontamination of the vast majority of these homes is being wasted.
The former Tokyo regime was rhetorically slaved to the phobic fears of a loudly-vocal minority within the Japanese public fueled by non-scientific media polls. In general, the minority has a mortal fear of radiation, in all forms, and the news media’s desire to exploit the Fukushima accident as much as possible gave them wide-spread publicity before last December’s election. The former Tokyo regime could not silence them by sticking to the scientifically-based international standards for radiation exposure, so they arbitrarily chopped their national standards to a tenth of what should have been the case. They did it to hopefully silence the radiophobes, and it worked…somewhat. However, it also seems the Kan and Noda administrations may have had a subtle but significant agenda behind their moves.
The tsunami of 3/11/11 forced the evacuations of more than 400,000 Tohoku coastline residents. The fleeing happened hours before the Tokyo government called for the first three-kilometer-wide evacuation around F. Daiichi. A full quarter-million of them had their homes swept away or totally destroyed. These were/are the people who cannot really go home again. The then-unpopular regime of Naoto Kan was helpless in effecting swift tsunami recovery. Tsunami rebuilding would cost many billions of dollars the government did not have due to then-PM Kan’s failing economic policies. However, the accident at F. Daiichi gave Kan, and his successor Noda, something they could possibly make some political hay over. They pumped billions of emergency funds into disaster recovery, but only a tiny fraction of it was used to alleviate the plight of the tsunami refugees. While the 70,000 Fukushima refugees receive more than an average of $1,500 monthly in compensation and temporary housing allotments from Tepco, the tsunami refuges only get an emergency housing allotment of about $650/month. Although Kan promised the tsunami refugees 23,000 new housing units, they have only finished 30. Much of the $Billion’s ear-marked for the tsunami refuges was frittered away on distantly-related projects, and never reached where it was really needed – rebuilding the tsunami-obliterated communities along the Tohoku coast.
The new regime of Shinzo Abe seems to want to fix this deplorable situation, but they are ham-strung by the former government’s policies. It is a lame-duck period, after all. Abe has appropriated an additional $9 billion for Tohoku recovery, but about half of it will go to Fukushima clean-up. It should all be going to tsunami refugee recovery. At least it is one small step in the right direction, but it is not what ought to be happening. I’m not saying Japan should turn away from the Fukushima refugees. Not that at all. It’s long past time to turn towards Japan’s “Kimin (forgotten people) – the tsunami refugees.
PM Abe says they need to review the lame-duck energy policy of “no-nukes by 2040” and replace it with something realistic. They should also review the lame-duck policy of spending many millions on decontaminating homes outside of Fukushima prefecture that don’t need it and never will. Tokyo should shift the funding from this politically-expedient boondoggle, and put it where it is really needed – the reconstruction of the Tohoku communities forever lost to the 3/11/11 tsunami.