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80% of local heads in nuke disaster areas say they can’t meet population goals: poll

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Weeds grow through the pavement at a derelict gas station in Tomioka, Fukushima Prefecture, in this Aug. 22, 2018
 
September 6, 2018
TOKYO — About 80 percent of 45 administrative district heads inside six municipalities in Fukushima Prefecture with areas rendered difficult to live because of the March 2011 nuclear accident said it is impossible for enough evacuated residents to return to meet population goals at “reconstruction hub areas” set by those local governments, a Mainichi Shimbun survey has found.
The heads said meeting those goals as part of recovery efforts is not possible because many of the evacuees now have new jobs and homes, and aging is advancing among them. The survey results placed a question mark on the feasibility of the local governments’ recovery plans.
The population goals for the northern Japan municipalities are set for around 2027 or 2028, five years after evacuation orders for difficult to return areas would presumably be lifted in 2022 or 2023. The numbers are calculated based on evacuees’ positive or undecided responses to opinion polls conducted by the municipalities.
The reconstruction hub areas receive national funding for decontamination and will have concentrated residential areas and infrastructure. They were incorporated in a special law for the reconstruction of Fukushima areas affected by the nuclear disaster, and the six municipalities received the central government’s approval for their reconstruction hub plans and their population goals by the spring of this year.
The population goals were 2,000 for the town of Futaba, 2,600 for the town of Okuma, 1,500 for the town of Namie, 1,600 for the town of Tomioka, 180 for the village of Iitate and 80 for the village of Katsurao.
The Mainichi survey of the administrative district heads was conducted by mail and other means from July through August of this year. Questionnaires were sent to 59 heads, and 45 of them responded. Of the total respondents, 37 said it is impossible to meet the goals, while six said it is conceivable, and the remaining two gave other answers.
When asked why they think that the population goals are not feasible, 16 said it is because evacuees established their base of living in new places, while 10 cited fear of radiation. Five said it is because the evacuees are aging.
A local head in Futaba said seven years of life in refuge was “too long,” while an official from Okuma pointed out that young people are especially worried about radiation. Another local leader from Okuma said aged people will not return unless medical and other facilities are available.
Local heads with positive responses said meeting the population goals depends on the influx of new residents who would move to their districts to carry out work decommissioning the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant operated by the Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO). The plant’s three reactors leaked massive amounts of radioactive materials after fuel rods in their cores melted because of cooling system shutdowns triggered by the massive earthquake and tsunami. The six municipalities around the plant became contaminated by the fallout.
After the nuclear accident, 11 cities, towns and villages came under government evacuation orders. Currently, entry is restricted at all of Futaba and Okuma, where the plant is located, as well as parts of Namie, Tomioka, Iitate and Katsurao. Even in areas where evacuation orders are lifted, populations are around 20 percent of the registered numbers of residents.
Associate professor Fuminori Tanba of Ritsumeikan University, a specialist on social welfare, explained that the population goals reflect the hopeful expectations of those municipalities counting on the inflow of decommission workers and researchers, and they are different from the perception of evacuees. “Town planning should be done by seeking the participation of returning evacuees, those going back and forth between their old and new homes, and new residents including plant workers,” said Tanba. “They should have plans suitable for returnees, and it is important to have plans going beyond municipal boundaries and assigning different roles to towns and villages involved.
(Japanese original by Toshiki Miyazaki and Keita Kishi, Fukushima Bureau)

September 10, 2018 Posted by | Fukushima 2018 | , , | Leave a comment

2015 census 1st to confirm national population decline / Fukushima Pref. sees 5.7% fall since 2010

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According to preliminary figures of a simplified 2015 census released Friday, Japan’s population dropped to 127.11 million — the first confirmed census decline since the government started conducting such surveys in 1920.

The Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry said the latest census shows that Japan’s population as of Oct. 1, 2015, was 127,110,047. This represents a decline of 947,305, or 0.7 percent, since the last census conducted in 2010. In the 2015 census, men accounted for 61,829,237 of the population, and women 65,280,810.

The population of Fukushima Prefecture, where many residents are still being forced to live away from home due to damage caused to their hometowns by the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, decreased by 115,458, a 5.7 percent decline from the last census. The two other prefectures hit hardest by the disaster — Iwate and Miyagi — also saw population declines.

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The ministry had estimated that the nation’s population had been declining for four straight years since 2011. The latest results are the first confirmation via a census that the national population has gone down since the government began conducting them.

A ministry official said Japan’s population decline seems to be largely due to the natural factor of deaths outnumbering births. The government conducts a census every five years, and this is the first since the 2011 disaster.

Out of 47 prefectures nationwide, populations declined in 39, including Hokkaido and Aomori. Of the three prefectures hit hardest by the disaster, Miyagi’s population dropped by 13,950, or 0.6 percent; and Iwate’s by 50,333, or 3.8 percent. The decline in Miyagi Prefecture was small, probably due to the inflow of people working on reconstruction projects. The population increased in eight prefectures, including Okinawa, Tokyo and Aichi.

The census found the number of households in the country was a record high 53,403,226, but the average number of people per household was a record low of 2.38.

A large-scale census is conducted every 10 years, and a simplified census is carried out every five years after a large census. The 2015 census was a simplified one.

Disparity seen widening

The vote-value gap between the most and least populated single-seat constituencies of the House of Representatives is estimated to widen to 2.334-to-1, according to trial calculations based on preliminary figures from the latest census released Friday.

This represents an expansion of the disparity from 1.998-to-1 calculated based on the 2010 census.

Selected for comparison were Tokyo Constituency No. 1, which has the largest population per its lower house member, and Miyagi Constituency No. 5, which has the lowest such ratio.

The disparity when compared to the least-populated constituency is estimated to expand to 2-to-1 or more in 37 electoral districts.

The law on the establishment of the Council on the House of Representatives Electoral Districts calls for limiting the gap to less than 2-to-1.

Since 2011, the Supreme Court has ruled that three lower house elections, conducted when a national disparity of more than 2-to-1 existed, were held in a “state of unconstitutionality.”

A research council on the lower house electoral system also demanded that the gap be brought to within 2-to-1. The council is an advisory panel to the lower house speaker.

Up 9, down 15

The allocated number of seats in the lower house will increase by a total of nine across five prefectures, but one seat will be eliminated in each of 15 prefectures, according to an estimate made by The Yomiuri Shimbun based on the latest census results and using the Adams’ method, which is recommended by an advisory panel to the House of Representatives speaker.

Under the current allocation of lower house seats, vote-value disparities between prefectures are 1.885-to-1 or less. But if the increase of nine seats with a reduction of 15 seats is realized, the disparities will drop to 1.668-to-1 and remain lower than the current figure for a while, even if populations in prefectures change in the future.

Though the Democratic Party of Japan, Komeito, the Japan Innovation Party and others intend to accept a report made by the advisory panel recommending the Adams’ method, the Liberal Democratic Party is wary of introducing it. The LDP says vote-value disparities should initially be dealt with by trimming six seats and not adding any.

However, according to an estimate based on the latest census results made with the LDP reform plan to eliminate six seats, one seat each will be eliminated in six prefectures — Aomori, Iwate, Mie, Nara, Kumamoto and Kagoshima. But the largest vote-value disparity between prefectures will remain unchanged at 1.885-to-1. This might require complicated changes to the demarcation of electoral districts, observers said.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has already expressed his desire to enact a bill to revise the Public Offices Election Law and other legislation by the end of the current Diet session.

February 26, 2016 Posted by | Japan | , , | Leave a comment