Thursday, July 14, 2011

Kyodo news: Tohoku land-use guidelines take two-track approach

 The government will allow municipalities devastated by the March 11 tsunami to construct fish processing firms along the coast but request them to build hospitals and welfare facilities inland, according to draft guidelines on land use in disaster-hit areas.

                                                                                                   Photo: AFP/Yasuyoshi Chiba

 The draft documents were compiled by the government to outline new land use policy so private entities can accelerate their housing and industrial development.
 They will also be used as a reference for municipalities in compiling their reconstruction policies.
 According to the draft, the government asks that municipalities designate areas to be given priority for rebuilding and to identify land safe from tsunami for building municipal offices, schools and residences.
 While the government will allow fishery firms to be built along the coast, it said measures against tsunami such as breakwaters, forests and evacuation facilities are necessary, along with measures to prevent chemical and fuel spills.
 The draft calls for hospitals and welfare facilities to be built inland, presumably on high ground, in principle.
 Nursing homes and hospitals in particular need to be in areas safe from even the biggest possible tsunami, according to the draft land-use guidelines.

Five safety scenarios

 The Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency is considering focusing on five scenarios, including the possibility of both an earthquake and tsunami hitting a reactor, when assessing safety under the stress tests to be introduced, government sources said.
 The scenarios, worked out after referring to the European Union's stress tests, include the possibility of earthquakes or tsunami hitting a reactor unit separately as well as in combination, the sources said.
 NISA is aiming to compile a draft plan, possibly this week, on how it will conduct the safety assessments, which will be carried out in two stages.
 Reactors idled for regular checks will undergo the first stage before resuming operation, with utilities and NISA checking the extent to which key installations would be able to withstand damage in the event of extreme events on a scale greater than expected.
 The second stage will be more comprehensive and carried out at all nuclear plants. Depending on the results, reactors that are currently in operation could be suspended.

Clean energy bill debated

 The Diet began deliberations Thursday on a bill to promote renewable energy, one of the conditions set by Prime Minister Naoto Kan under which he would consider resigning.
 The government and ruling bloc hope the bill will clear the Lower House this month, but the outlook remains uncertain as opposition camp is calling for revisions.
 The bill aims to introduce a system for the purchase at fixed prices by utilities of electricity generated by renewable energy, such as solar and wind power. The utilities would add the expense of such purchases to their electricity costs, which would then be shouldered by households and companies.
 The Liberal Democratic Party, the main opposition force, agrees on the need to promote renewable energy and intends to cooperate in the Diet but wants to ease the burden on large-lot power users.
 Kan has said he is ready to step down after securing passage of this bill along with the second extra budget for fiscal 2011 and another piece of legislation allowing the government to issue deficit-covering bonds for the year through next March.


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