Re-reading an essay from right after the earthquake for the first time in three years
Three years have already passed since the Great East Japan Earthquake, and reconstruction is not taking place as planned. In light of this, I wanted to try verifying my essay entitled “Using This Crisis as an Opportunity to Revive Japan” that was published in the April 5, 2011 issue of this magazine, directly after the earthquake.
When reconstructing, “disaster prevention condominiums” should be build at intervals of 200 meters
The Great East Japan Earthquake occurred in Japan on March 11. This earthquake was of a scale that is said to only happen once every thousand years, and resulted in many deaths and major damage centered in the Tohoku Region. I pray that the people who lost their lives will rest in peace, and hope that the areas affected by the disaster are rebuilt as soon as possible. This earthquake caused a tsunami that inundated the lowlands for five to six kilometers. Some locations had absolutely no high ground, which resulted in significant damages. Traditionally, it has been thought that the construction of breakwaters was an effective measure against tsunamis. For example, a breakwater with a total length of around 2.5 kilometers and a height of 10 meters was built over dozens of years in Miyako City, Iwate Prefecture. For this reason, people thought they were completely prepared for tsunamis. However, the recent tsunami went right over the breakwater, caused it to collapse, and caused devastating damage throughout the entire area. What I would like to propose is the construction of six-story “disaster prevention condominiums” – which can be built in a period of 10 months – made from reinforced concrete with parking areas on the first and second floors at intervals of 200 meters perpendicular to the coast. In the Great Hanshin Earthquake (which was a near-field earthquake) as well, the reinforced concrete buildings that were made in accordance with the new Building Standards Act suffered little damage. The recent earthquake proved that they are strong against tsunamis as well. Considering that few tsunamis up until now have been over 18 meters tall, these disaster prevention condominiums should be six stories or taller. If a tsunami warning is given, local residents could head to the roof of a nearby disaster prevention condominium. Building these condominiums at intervals of 200 meters as part of an urban plan with abundant greenery would ensure that anyone, at any location, could take refuge in a condominium within 100 meters in one minute. Because they are so close, people could escape from a tsunami even if it were right before their eyes. Land in the affected areas that has been possessed up until now for town planning could be exchanged for these disaster prevention condominiums and provided at no cost. Certainly this would make more people happy than temporary dwellings that must be destroyed after some time. Disaster prevention condominiums could be created at significantly lower costs than super embankments that cost a great deal of money and time to build.
The earthquake occurred three years ago, but the disaster prevention condominiums I recommended have not been built. Rather, vast amounts of money are being used to erect super embankments over 10 meters tall in different locations – a measure to gain votes in elections – and many people still live in temporary housing. People are repeatedly given warnings and made to evacuate; if a real tsunami were to come, it would be like the story of the Boy Who Cried Wolf. If the government had decided on a policy immediately after the earthquake and constructed disaster prevention condominiums by exchanging land that was hit by the disaster, many residences would already stand in the affected areas today.
In the future as well, nuclear reactors are needed which can withstand unimaginable natural disasters
Due to the effects of the Great East Japan Earthquake, serious trouble has arisen at the Fukushima No.1 nuclear plant. This incident – in which accidents have occurred simultaneously at the plant’s six nuclear reactors – is more serious than the Three Mile Island incident of 1979 when an accident happened at one reactor. However, it is less serious than the 1986 accident at Chernobyl, when an accident happened during nuclear fission and there was no containment vessel. Still, it is a horrible disaster that is causing great anxiety in Japan’s neighboring countries as well. It is currently impossible to know for sure, but it seems as if the present situation is currently moving towards becoming less strained. However, the eyes of the world are paying more attention to how Japan’s nuclear crisis will be resolved than they are to the number of people who died in the tsunami. The five nuclear powers of the United States, France, China, England, and Russia are particularly interested, and they are pledging all sorts of aid because they desperately want data and Japan’s advanced nuclear reactor technologies. Japan is a country of nuclear power that has up until now been praised throughout the world for its safe nuclear power plants. Japan exporting its technologies overseas was even being considered when this accident happened. Japan became one of the world’s most prominent users of nuclear power by refining its nuclear technologies and filling in the gaps caused by constraints of various countries on the promotion of nuclear power after the incidents at Three Mile Island and Chernobyl. In recent years people are beginning to take another look at nuclear power as a counter-measure against the energy crisis and to suppress CO2 emissions to halt global warming. The momentum for constructing nuclear reactors was growing in China, India, and even Vietnam. Given that Japan is a highly seismically active country, the intent was to construct nuclear reactors that are strongly resistant to earthquakes. However, a meltdown occurred as well as a serious accident in which radioactive materials have probably been dispersed into the surrounding area.
Unfortunately, due to the nuclear accident the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) government set the evacuation area as the three-kilometer circle around the plant, and then quickly expanded it the next day to 10 and then 20 kilometers. The government should have referred to materials such as the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology’s System for Prediction of Environment Emergency Dose Information (SPEEDI) and considered factors like wind direction, and then slowly evacuated people as necessary – even if this was delayed by one or two days – based on measured radioactivity values. Yet the DPJ acted in an unscientific way by deciding upon an evacuation area that was a concentric circle all at once and giving emergency evacuation orders. There is no statistical data that shows an increased rate of cancer occurrence at a level of less than 100 millisieverts per year. Despite this, these emergency forced evacuations – which fully resembled transportation for forced labor – caused people to die from causes such as evacuation stress, including elderly people in senior citizens’ homes and hospital patients with serious illnesses. More than 1,000 people have died from disaster-related causes, which is truly lamentable. The Japanese media continues showing tragic videos from Chernobyl, but it doesn’t report that the power plant in Ukraine (which had 13 reactors at that time) is currently home to 15 reactors. Two new reactors will be added by 2030, and Ukraine is continually increasing its number of nuclear power plants.
Normal standards don’t apply in times of emergency
When the earthquake occurred on March 11, I was visiting a golf course at APA Resort Tochiginomori. It usually takes one and a half hours to return from there to our main office in Akasaka, but on that day it took nine hours because traffic on all expressways was stopped due to the earthquake. Ordinary roads could be used, but major traffic jams were caused because expressways were closed in accordance with normal standards. I believe that we should determine laws for times of emergency ahead of time based on an overall judgment of pros and cons. The same thing applied to railways such as the JR lines and subways. Safety standards should be relaxed considering the occurrence of traffic jams and the many people who will be unable to return home. Speed should be reduced on expressways, and then signs should be put up indicating that everything is all right on segments that have been tested by patrol cars and determined to have no problems. Instructions should be given for slow-speed driving on railways, and then lines with no problems should be switched successively to regular operation. Being bound by regular standards and being overly concerned with safety has too many negative implications when one considers economic and human losses. In addition, planned power outages are an inane measure that is exactly what one would expect of the DPJ, which esteems fairness and impartialness in all things. It would be immediately possible to conserve from 20% to 30% of power used if rate structures were temporarily changed so that nothing was charged for electricity usage that was half or less as much as last year’s amount, and twice as much was charged for electricity usage that was 80% or more of last year’s amount. This would be a method of conserving electricity based on market principles. Since transportation and communication absolutely must be ensured during times of emergency, it is certainly wrong to stop trains through planned power outages and even closing useable parts of expressways. The Tokyo metropolitan area fell into a state of panic, and people lined up for three or four hours at gas stations in order to fill their tanks – which were already 70% or 80% full – because they panicked and thought gasoline would run out. For this reason a limit of 20 liters was placed on gasoline. If a rule was created that said people who had more than half a tank of gas could not get gasoline during times of emergency, such lines would disappear immediately. These types of panic show the terrible nature of government policies. The best way to avoid panic is to promptly convey accurate information. In such situations, it is necessary to have a “control tower” that is responsible for everything underneath a farsighted and strong leader who takes control by concertedly gathering information and making judgments.
The biggest lesson learned from this earthquake was that Japan lacks a fundamental state of emergency act for responding to extraordinary situations. We should enact one as soon as possible. Based on the standards from normal times (which were created by bureaucrats who do not want to be responsible for anything), we must create a state of emergency act. We must also not stop the operation of public transportation. Knowing that no aftershocks will exceed the main shock, transportation on expressways should be ensured through sections of slow movement, even if some impediments are caused by the earthquake.
The mass media creates a man-made calamity by spreading harmful misinformation
In a certain newspaper, a former Defense Academy professor wrote as follows:
Unfortunately, the Government of Japan is not telling the truth about the accident at the Fukushima Nuclear Plant. They are downplaying the danger. The most striking discrepancy is in the establishment of the danger region. The Government of Japan has ordered evacuation within 20 kilometers from the nuclear plant. However, the United States has ordered evacuation within 80 kilometers for its citizens. Stars and Stripes, an American newspaper, reported on March 17 that people within one mile (approximately 1.6 kilometers) would die within one or two weeks, people within three miles (approximately 4.8 kilometers) would expel blood from their mouth and throat, and people within 30 miles (approximately 48 kilometers) would experience internal chemical changes. Clear damage is done to the body within 50 miles (80 kilometers). But this major country ordering its citizens to evacuate isn’t the only part of the current situation worthy of concern. It’s possible that the temperature of one of the nuclear reactors could go up, causing it to explode and disperse a large amount of radiation. Drainage water is necessary to cool the reactors, and the Japan Self-Defense Forces (JSDF) are carrying out this mission. As we have seen, this mission involves danger and they are resigned to the possibility of death. But if they don’t complete this mission, a reactor might explode. I am very grateful to the JSDF for putting their lives on the line to complete this mission.
By using information with no scientific basis from a third-rate American newspaper, the author spreads fear and makes it sound as if a major atomic bomb has been detonated at Fukushima. This Defense Academy professor spreads fear by saying “the Government of Japan is not telling the truth” and making it seem as if the U.S. was justified in telling its citizens in Japan to evacuate from an 80-kilometer area around the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant. However, I don’t believe that the Japanese people are lying. Just for reference, at the time of the Three Mile Island accident (which took place on the American mainland) the evacuation distance was 16 kilometers from the site of the accident. As a response to this nuclear accident, aid from the U.S. has included mobilizing over 10,000 people in the 7th Fleet alone, deploying the USS Ronald Regan (a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier), gathering information at the site 24 hours a day using the Global Hawk (an unmanned spy plane), and taking 131,000 photographs of the site from above with F/A-18 fighter aircraft. Furthermore, Okinawa’s 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit and relief supplies have been loaded on 20 military vessels, 140 aircraft, the USS Blue Ridge (the 7th Fleet command ship), and the USS Essex (an amphibious assault ship), and brought to the coast of the affected areas. I am suspicious of their motives; carrying out so much aid suggests that this accident is a golden opportunity for the U.S. that serves as a simulation of nuclear warfare and serious radiation accidents, and it seems that gathering data is in line with their national interest. Media reports from the U.S., China, and France are particularly bad, and foreigners are fleeing from Tokyo. Prime Minister Naoto Kan could put on a performance by drinking milk and eating spinach that has been “contaminated” by radioactivity on television. If he had, his popularity might have gone up.
Japan is bound to overly strict standards
The current upper limit for radiation exposure is 250 millisieverts (0.25 sieverts) per year. If a person is exposed to strong radiation via electromagnetic waves, his or her DNA will be cut apart. During the Tokaimura criticality accident, in one instant (30 seconds) three people were exposed to a dose of radioactivity that was one million times greater than the average value per hour for the annual upper limit. One person who was exposed to between 16 to 20 sieverts, and another person who was exposed to six to 10 sieverts, died. The person who was exposed to one to 4.5 sieverts received medical care and then was released from the hospital afterwards. This is why people estimate the lethal radiation exposure dose as six to seven sieverts. The human body is able to repair DNA, which can be fully restored if the damage is light, and the hurt cells are removed. Being exposed to a massive amount of radiation all at once, and the total amount of gradual exposure from day to day, are two entirely different things. It feels good to have your shoulders massaged every day, but if you calculated the weight placed on your shoulders each year and were subjected to it all at once, it would crush you to death. The DPJ is responsible for the tragedies that have occurred through their forced emergency evacuations from 20 kilometers around the nuclear plant, which was based on the prediction of 20 millisieverts of exposure per year and had no scientific foundation. During the six-year period after the first Tokyo Olympic Games were decided, Japan built Shinkansen, expressways, and the Tokyo Metropolitan Expressway. The Olympics will be held in Tokyo again six years from now, and we should take this opportunity to display a grand design for Japan’s restoration as soon as possible. In September 2013 – right before it was revealed who won the bid to hold the Olympics – South Korean President Park Geun-hye announced a measure to completely prohibit imports to South Korea of marine products from eight Japanese prefectures including Fukushima. She did this to hinder Japan’s Olympic bid. However, some of these eight prefectures do not even touch the ocean, and there was practically no basis for this embargo. At the International Olympic Committee Session in Argentina on September 8, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe stated, “The effects of the contaminated water are fully contained in the 0.3 square kilometer-area in the harbor of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.” This caused a great uproar, and many people pointed out that the harbor is connected to the ocean. However, monitoring values in the coastal waters of Fukushima are at most 1/500th of the water quality guidelines for drinking water set by the World Heath Organization, so there is absolutely no problem. Nuclear powers such as the U.S., France, and China are planning to take atomic reactors away from Japan, aided by the anti-Japanese media that is panicked by the contaminated water. Japan is bound by overly strict standards that are not based on a scientific basis or statistical probability. We must crack down on the mass media that stirs up anxiety with its baseless reports. When I re-read the essay I wrote three years ago, I still felt that I was not mistaken. Today, Japan is being forced to pay tremendous, unnecessary costs because of the excess fear that was stirred up about radiation. All nuclear power plants have been shut down, and surplus fuel costs to the tune of 3.6 trillion yen per year (10 billion yen each day) are flowing overseas. I think this is a strategy by the major oil companies, who want to increase exports to Japan since the discovery of shale oil has resulted in a crude oil surplus. The level for decontamination in the affected areas is ridiculous: one millisievert over the natural radiation amount (which is 1.4 millisieverts in Japan). This is below the worldwide of 2.4 millisieverts. Many people are being paid large sums of money (16,000 yen per day) to complete decontamination tasks such as wiping off guardrails and removing topsoil. This has led to a sharp decrease of construction workers in Tokyo and other locations, causing construction periods to be delayed and prices to soar.
We must create a genuinely conservative party with consistent doctrines and views
The Japan Restoration Party had determined a party policy of opposing atomic energy agreements that make it possible to export nuclear power plants. Joint Representative Shintaro Ishihara was against this officially, and some people in the party told him he should leave. It was bizarre to think of merging the Sunrise Party and Japan Restoration Party, which have entirely different party mission statements, in the first place. The Japan Restoration party will probably be split up at some point. The 610,000 votes earned by Toshio Tamogami in the Tokyo gubernatorial election in February are very significant, and it is especially promising that he had a high approval rating among young people in their 20s – the second highest after Yoichi Masuzoe. It seems highly probable that the House of Representatives will be dissolved at the timing of the House of Councillors election in 2016 (two years from now), and a double election will be held. At that time, I hope that Abe’s LDP “ship,” under a firm party mission, can serve as an icebreaker and prevent Japan from being like the Titanic. If this happens and a genuinely conservative party with common doctrines and policy was established, I think DPJ Diet members that agreed and members from the broken Japan Restoration Party would join in one after another. Tamogami earned 1/10th of the votes in Tokyo, which would correspond to 6.1 million votes in Japan. He should win the election based on this foundation of votes, form an alliance between the LDP and the genuinely conservative party, and set forth respectable policies such as exercising the right to collective defense and constitutional reform. In the past, I have thought the enemy of the Japanese people is the Japanese people, and have also seen the left wing as the enemy. However, the true enemy of the Japanese people is the anti-Japanese media, which still hasn’t been able to break the curse of the press code created by the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers (GHQ) to regulate freedom of speech right after World War II. Moreover, another enemy is the elite group of people with high academic deviation values (bureaucrats, diplomats, people in legal circles, the media, and major corporations) formed of graduates from the University of Tokyo’s Faculty of Law. This establishment is a “stealth complex” that has implemented the U.S.-Japan Regulatory Reform and Competition Policy Initiative thrust upon Japan by the U.S., has worked in concert with the U.S., and has profited from Japan’s defeat in the war. Japan must break free of this anti-Japanese control and be transformed into a decent country. Note: The italic text is quoted from the essay in the April 5, 2011 issue.
1:30 a.m., March 24, 2014 (Tuesday)