Evacuation advisory outside 20-km zone to end Friday

Kyodo

The government is planning to lift on Friday its advisory for residents living in areas more than 20 km from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant that have been designated for evacuation in the event of an emergency, Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura said Tuesday.

Fujimura said the government’s nuclear disaster task force will hold a meeting Friday and lift the designation of emergency evacuation preparation zones covering all or part of five municipalities in the 20- to 30-km ring from the crippled power station.

The five municipalities have already submitted recovery plans to the central government, a precondition for lifting the advisory, which covers all of Hirono and parts of Naraha, Kawauchi, Tamura and Minamisoma, all in Fukushima Prefecture.

Their recovery plans spell out the details for decontaminating the areas and rebuilding basic infrastructure to facilitate the return of residents.

The central government said in August it would lift the evacuation advisory outside the 20-km zone around the leaking nuclear plant in the near future, saying there is only a slight risk of cooling system failures at the plant and radiation levels are very low in the area.

Quake-proof ceilings

The infrastructure ministry will seek funding for fiscal 2012 to start subsidizing renovations of gymnasiums, theaters and other large halls with new quake-proof suspended ceilings, ministry sources said Tuesday.

The ceilings of the Muza Kawasaki Symphony Hall, Ibaraki Airport’s terminal building and several other facilities collapsed in the magnitude 9.0 quake on March 11, with quake-proof work for such ceilings having been delayed due to high costs, the sources said.

To reduce the risk of multiple deaths under collapsed ceilings in the event of similar disasters, the Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism Ministry plans to cover one-third of the costs, amounting to tens of millions of yen, they said.

A survey in early March showed that while 4,671, or 24 percent, of 19,212 facilities with such ceilings and floor space of 500 sq. meters or more across Japan did not meet the ministry’s technical guidelines to prevent collapse from jolts or winds, only 1,622, or 35 percent, of them have taken or are due to take countermeasures, they said.

Because ceilings collapsed in March not only in old buildings but also in relatively new ones, including at Ibaraki Airport, the ministry also plans to review the guidelines and other rules to come up with standards by next March so renovation work can be subsidized starting in April, the sources said.

Med student scholarship

The municipal assembly of Minamisoma, Fukushima Prefecture, where doctors have been in short supply amid the Fukushima nuclear crisis, enacted an ordinance Tuesday to set up a scholarship program for medical students to work at its public hospital with funds donated by a former resident.

The city will set up a scholarship fund using some of a donation of around ¥100 million for reconstruction by a man who has moved to the city of Fukushima.

Students who enroll next April or later at Fukushima Medical University or Tohoku University School of Medicine and intend to work after graduation at Minamisoma City General Hospital are eligible to receive loans providing ¥240,000 a month in allowances and covering university admission fees of about ¥3 million.

The loans won’t have to be repaid if graduating students work at the hospital for 1.5 times the period over which they received the scholarship, the municipal government said.

At the hospital, which serves as a regional core medical institution, the number of full-time doctors has declined to seven from 12 and the number of beds to 100 from 230 in the aftermath of the nuclear disaster.