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Japan's Reconstruction Agency to get 10 more years to aid Fukushima nuclear disaster recovery

Kyodo, JIJI

The government on Thursday proposed extending the term of the Reconstruction Agency, due to expire at the end of fiscal 2020, by 10 years to facilitate recovery in areas affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake and the resulting nuclear crisis in Fukushima.

Under the plan, the agency will continue to provide aid for the next five years to areas affected by the magnitude 9.0 earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011.

The special budget for rebuilding, which is separate from the regular account, and special tax grants for the financial support of affected municipalities will also be maintained.

The plan was proposed to a panel on reconstruction comprising experts and the governors of Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures. The region suffered extensive damage from the earthquake and tsunami, in addition to the core meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

The plan is expected to be approved at a Cabinet meeting within this year and be submitted to the Diet next year.

“We have shown our basic view on finances and the legal framework,” Kazunori Tanaka, reconstruction minister, said at the panel meeting. “Based on various opinions from the panel members, we will continue to work toward realizing the plan.”

Fukushima Gov. Masao Uchibori expressed satisfaction with the plan, saying it “reflects the reality of our prefecture” as the government is continuing to lead efforts to address problems in connection with the nuclear crisis.

But Miyagi Gov. Yoshihiro Murai said the ending of aid for areas damaged by the quake and tsunami in five years is “too harsh.”

Iwate Gov. Takuya Tasso shared the concern, saying, “I hope it will not be a strict deadline after which everything will be stopped.”

The Reconstruction Agency was established in February 2012 as the central control point for efforts to rebuild from the disaster.

During the proposed extended period, the agency will continue working on a variety of tasks including the decommissioning of the Fukushima plant, combating radiation-tainted water and helping residents return.

It will also provide psychological support to people affected by the earthquake and tsunami, and review the progress in reconstruction efforts in fiscal 2025.

The plan is mostly in line with a recommendation the ruling coalition submitted to the government in August. The coalition said the Reconstruction Agency should remain under the direct control of the prime minister and the oversight of a full-time Cabinet minister.

The ruling bloc also called for preserving the agency’s function as a one-stop source to coordinate planning for reconstruction policies and to respond to the needs of affected communities.

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