Shizuoka's expanded nuclear disaster preparedness zone

On October 20, 2011, Japan's Nuclear Safety Commission has proposed an expansion of the recommended emergency planning zones (EPZ) around nuclear plants from 10 km to 30 km , as well as a proposed 50 km radius called a Plume Protection Planning Area (PPA) in which residents must stay indoors and towns must be prepared to distribute iodine tablets in an emergency situation.

The newly proposed 30 km Urgent Protective Action Planning Zone (UPZ) has increased the number of targeted cities and towns from 44 to 130 and the number of residents living in the expanded area is 7.93 million, or 6% of Japan's population. It would also include parts of prefectural capitals such as Shizuoka, Mito, Fukui, Kyoto and Kagoshima. There has been criticism that, similar to what has been observed in Fukushima, the radiation does not travel in concentric circles and may spread to towns that fall just outside of the UPZ.

Shizuoka Prefecture created a special research group to investigate disaster-preparedness measures for the area surrounding the controversial Hamaoka Nuclear Power Plant in Omaezaki City.Read more

Vacant home owners at risk of punishment

According to the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, there were 7,570,000 empty homes across Japan in 2008. Poorly maintained properties pose fire and crime risks and can also be a hazard in a natural disaster. However, there are currently no yet nation-wide laws to deal with such potentially dangerous properties.

Instead, individual cities and prefectures are starting to introduce their own "Vacant House Regulations" to combat this problem. Last year, a total of nine cities and/or prefectures including Tokorozawa (Saitama), Matsui (Shimane) and Wakayama Prefecture introduced such regulations. A further 9 areas ranging from Tohoku to Kyushu also have plans to enact similar ordinances. Read more

Sendai's hillside houses still at risk of landslides

The hillside residential areas in Sendai City suffered from serious landslides during the March 11 Tohoku earthquake and a recent survey by Kyoto University's Disaster Prevention Research Institute has shown that landslides are continuing in these neighborhoods.

While aftershocks and heavy rains were thought to be the main cause, the Institute said that it is unusual for landslides to continue for such a long period of time.Read more

Kawasaki apartment block to be rebuilt after construction defects discovered

A 7-storey apartment building in Kawasaki City is due to be demolished and rebuilt after construction flaws were recently discovered that compromize the integrity of the structure.

A routine building inspection in 2009 uncovered gaps inside the beams and pillars of the building, as well as styrofoam and wood mixed in with the concrete pillars and walls. There were also fewer reinforced bars in the concrete than the construction blueprints indicated.Read more

Owner of foreclosed property attempts to destroy building

The Tokyo Branch of the National Tax Agency (NTA) had seized an office building due to the owner's non-payment of taxes. Immediately prior to the public auction, the owner damaged part of the building and removed electrical wiring and the air-conditioning system and effectively rendered the building unusable. The auction was delayed for 3 months and re-listed at a lower price. According to the NTA, this is an unprecedented situation.

The empty 10 story building in Kofu City, Yamanashi Prefecture, was purchased in June, 2009, by a female operator of a nursing care company. The new owner planned to demolish the current building and develop an aged-care rental apartment complex, with a total estimated cost of 2 ~ 4 billion Yen (25.6 ~ 51.2 million USD). However, due to non-payment of taxes, the building was seized by the Tax Agency.Read more

Apartment being built directly on top of fault line

In Toyonaka City, Osaka, construction work is continuing on a 14-storey apartment building on a site that is directly above an active fault line.

"Uniheim Senri Momoyamadai" is located in Higashi-izumigaoka 3 Chome and is directly above the Butsunenjiyama Fault - an active fault line that runs from the north of Toyonaka and south to Suita in Osaka. It is an extension to the Uemachi Fault, a relatively active fault line which has a 2~3% chance of producing an earthquake within the next 30 years, and a hypothesized magnitude of 7.2 would result in an estimated death toll of 42,000.Read more