Many municipalities lack disaster evacuation sites

Kyodo

About 35 percent of municipalities that fall inside the government’s newly expanded disaster preparation zones around nuclear plants have yet to secure sufficient evacuation sites in the event of a critical accident, a Kyodo News survey showed.

The recent poll found that, excluding Fukushima Prefecture because of last year’s nuclear disaster, 29 of 83 municipalities in 20 prefectures that lie within the new disaster zones are not fully prepared to evacuate residents following a severe atomic accident.

The survey also showed that 90 percent of the 83 municipalities have still to decide how to distribute iodine tablets to protect residents’ thyroids from radiation exposure, with many citing concerns over possible side effects and difficulties with storage conditions.

The Nuclear Regulation Authority, the atomic energy industry’s new watchdog, recently expanded the radius for areas required to make special preparations to 30 km from 10 km around atomic energy plants, covering a raft of municipalities that must now draft mitigation plans for the first time.

In the survey, only 12 municipalities said they “have secured” enough evacuation sites, and 29 reported they “do not have any prospect yet” of finding sufficient locations in the near term.

Many local governments replied they do not have any areas to which their residents can flee because their entire municipality, as well as those nearby, fall within disaster preparation zones. For instance, the city of Echizen in Niigata Prefecture pointed out that as virtually all of the areas under its jurisdiction lie within one of the newly designated 30-km zones, all of its residents would have to evacuate the municipality.

The city of Shimada in Shizuoka Prefecture noted that “we will need to work with other municipal authorities to arrange evacuations across prefectural borders” to secure the safe pullout of residents.