Occurrence of the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami and the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant accident
At 14:46 on March 11, 2011, a massive earthquake (now referred to as the “Great East Japan Earthquake”) with a magnitude of 9.0 occurred. The epicenter was the seabed of the Pacific Ocean, off the coast of Sanriku. Following the earthquake, a tsunami struck the Pacific coast extensively from Tohoku Area to the northern Kanto Area. This worsened the damage.
Due to the earthquake and tsunami, at the TEPCO’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant (Fukushima Daiichi NPP), all AC sources including emergency power sources of Reactors No. 1 to No. 4 were lost. As a result, the cooling function for the reactors and spent fuel pools was lost. Explosions happened which were believed to be caused by hydrogen at Rectors No. 1 and No. 3 on March 12 and March 14, respectively. On March 15, Reactor No. 2 was significantly broken and another hydrogen explosion occurred at Reactor No. 4. A large amount of radioactive materials containing nuclides with a long half-life period were extensively released.
Therefore, many residents were forced to evacuate within Fukushima Prefecture and outside the prefecture or were left and isolated in their living areas. There were survivors who lost their lives due to the extensive evacuation process or living environmental conditions that were changed after the evacuation. There are other survivors who got physically or mentally sick because of their prolonged evacuation. The Fukushima Daiichi accident brought on significant humanitarian consequences.
Occurrence of the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami and the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant accident
Adoption of a resolution on “preparedness to respond to the humanitarian consequences of nuclear accidents” at the 18th IFRC General Assembly
Efforts by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent (IFRC) for responding to nuclear disasters can be traced back to the Three Mile Island accident in 1979 and the Chernobyl accident in April 1986. The enormous damage caused by the Fukushima Daiichi NPP accident (Fukushima Daiichi accident) again gave the rest of the world recognition of the significant impact from a nuclear accident. At that time, there were more than 400 reactors in about 30 countries. After the Fukushima Daiichi accident, the world shared a strong sense of crisis that preparedness within an international framework including the Red Cross is necessary in case of an emergency. Once an accident occurs, the effects are so extensive that it would be difficult for only one country and the National Society to respond. Therefore, the resolution on “preparedness to respond to the humanitarian consequences of nuclear accidents” (IFRC Resolution 11/46) was adopted at the 18th IFRC General Assembly (GA) in November 2011. The resolution contains active involvement in relief of survivors by the IFRC and each National Society in the event of a nuclear disaster in order to achieve international cooperation and support.
Working Group Meeting on Nuclear Disaster Preparedness co-hosted by the IFRC and the Japanese Red Cross Society
In order to discuss how the IFRC Resolution 11/46 should be operationalized, the IFRC and the Japanese Red Cross Society (JRCS) co-hosted Working Group Meeting on Nuclear Disaster Preparedness (Working Group Meeting) by inviting relevant National Societies (NSs) from the US, Germany, Norway and Japan.
The purpose of the meeting was to share the situation of each country and experience of each National Society and consider how the nuclear emergency preparedness can be incorporated into each National Society’s extensive preparedness program for overall disasters. The meeting was also aimed at discussing how a cross-border collaboration structure should be fostered in each region.
The participants agreed to hold another meeting in Tokyo in May of the same year to discuss the following points: (1) how the operationalization work of the IFRC Resolution 11/46 should be established; (2) definition of the scope that the Red Cross and Red Crescent (RCRC) Societies should respond to; (3) mobilization of the RCRC leadership; and others. It was also agreed upon to invite RCRC Societies of the then 38 countries who were operating or building nuclear power plants, related external organizations and governments and experts.
National Society Consultation Meeting on Nuclear Disaster Preparedness in Tokyo
Following the agreement made at the Working Group Meeting in January 2012, National Society Consultation Meeting on Nuclear Disaster Preparedness was held in Tokyo co-hosted by the IFRC and the JRCS. To encourage as many related RCRC Societies as possible to participate in the discussion, this meeting was scheduled subsequent to the Partnership Meeting for the Great East Japan Earthquake. As a result, RCRC Societies from 16 countries and regions and related external organizations took part in the meeting. Mr. Yuko Endo, Mayor of Kawauchi Village which is one of the affected areas, was invited to the meeting.
At the meeting, the importance for the RCRC Societies as auxiliaries to governments and specialized organizations to respond to nuclear emergencies in a position of neutrality was reconfirmed.
The meeting participants agreed to ask the IFRC Secretary General for realization of several points including:
1. Establishing a focal point in the Secretariat for nuclear preparedness;
2. Establishing preparedness for CBRN emergencies including biological and chemical disasters as well as nuclear disasters;
3. Establishing a Reference Group Meeting on Nuclear and Radiological Emergency Preparedness (Reference Group Meeting);
4. Starting to work on Nuclear and Radiological Emergency Guidelines - Preparedness, Response and Recovery - (IFRC Guidelines).
Establishment of a unit to promote nuclear preparedness in the IFRC Secretariat in Geneva
A focal point was established in the IFRC Secretariat in Geneva to promote nuclear emergency preparedness. The promotion activities have been conducted mainly by the focal point. In addition, preparations were started for developing an action plan to realize the points agreed upon at the previous two meetings and holding the Reference Group Meeting.
The First Reference Group Meeting in Vienna
The First Reference Group Meeting was held in Vienna. The meeting was joined by five RCRC Societies from the US, Austria, Israel, Japan and Qatar, IFRC Secretariat, IFRC Europe Zone Office and International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
The purpose of the First Reference Group meeting was to: (1) have a common understanding of the Strategic Action Plan for the program; (2) discuss issues around the two-year Plan of Action and possible budget for 2014 and 2015; and (3) exchange experiences among NSs on their nuclear preparedness programs.
The goal of the Strategic Action Plan is to globally strengthen IFRC and NSs’ response capabilities to humanitarian effects of nuclear and radiological emergencies. At the meeting, it was agreed that these efforts should be extended within the RCRC Movement and the collaboration with related external organizations should be enhanced. Furthermore, for the specific efforts to operationalize the IFRC Resolution 11/46, the following points were discussed: (1) to survey NSs’ capabilities; (2) to share knowledge and information via database and tools; (3) to develop the guidelines.
The Second Reference Group Meeting in Geneva
The Second Reference Group Meeting was held in Geneva with RCRC Societies from 11 countries. There were many NSs who attended the meeting for the first time and the content agreed upon at the previous meeting and the Reference Group Meeting’s principles were shared. For cooperation with external international organizations, the following organizations as well as the Red Cross organizations were invited to the meeting: World Health Organization (WHO), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affair (OCHA) and International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
The outline of the IFRC Guidelines was discussed. Based on the discussion, it was decided that the American Red Cross would cooperate in preparing the draft guidelines. It was also agreed that the IFRC and NSs would try to organize and hold working group sessions and regional meetings to improve knowledge about nuclear preparedness, and enhance collaboration with the participating external organizations to have more expertise.
At the meeting, the specific activities to operationalize the IFRC Resolution 11/46 were reconfirmed including a survey for NSs’ capabilities, information sharing via database and tools and developing e-learning tools, which had been agreed upon at the First Reference Group Meeting.
The Third Reference Group Meeting in Fukushima
The Third Reference Group Meeting was held in Fukushima. The aim was to show relevant RCRC Societies the real situation of Fukushima or the affected area; to introduce them how Japan, the affected prefectures and the JRCS worked on nuclear disaster preparedness, response and recovery; and to invite many NSs of Asian countries where more NPPs s are planning to be built. RCRC Societies from 16 countries and regions participated in the meeting.
The participants visited the Fukushima Prefectural Office and Fukushima Red Cross Hospital where presentations were given about the current situation of Fukushima, relief activities conducted during the disaster and the health survey program for Fukushima citizens. They also visited a coastal area of Namie Town where entry is still restricted due to the high radiation level. During the field trip, they visited other places including a seaport in Soma City where the fishermen still conduct test fishing to check for safety and a temporary housing in Fukushima City where the evacuees from Namie Town live. The participants met the affected people there and listened to what they had to say. From the next day, the participants had discussions based on what they saw and heard during the field trip.
The following points were confirmed regarding the IFRC Guidelines:
1. The final draft is to be completed in 2015;
2. Consideration of holding workshops to promote regional collaboration to respond to CBRN* emergencies;
3. To work more to make each NS program sustainable;
4. NSs need to further clarify their roles on nuclear emergency response and preparedness as auxiliary organizations to governments according to their disaster preparedness/response capabilities.
During the meeting, a group of high school students from Fukushima and Tokyo gave a presentation about what they expect the Red Cross to do and what they can do from the perspective that the issues of Fukushima are their own issues because they bear the future.
* Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear
The Fourth Reference Group Meeting in Berlin
The Fourth Reference Group Meeting was held in Berlin participated by 15 RCRC Societies, IFRC, ICRC and the German government. At the meeting, (1) the participants confirmed the final draft of the IFRC Guidelines that were developed based on the discussion at the previous Reference Group Meeting in Fukushima; (2) the IFRC reported about an e-learning program for nuclear emergency preparedness and response, which was developed and released by the IFRC; (3) the participating NSs shared their response capabilities to nuclear disasters and their countries’ legislative preparations. Following the recent outbreak of Ebola virus disease in West Africa and chemical explosions in China, the participants reconfirmed the necessity of expanding the Red Cross’s response scope to biological and chemical threats. The NSs shared their response capabilities and training content to respond to such threats. As part of this, the meeting participants were guided to the Logistics Center of the German Red Cross. They had a tour of the CBRN decontamination unit there and were given an explanation on how the German Red Cross responders put on/took off protective gear when they responded to Ebola in West Africa and the considerations in taking it off.
Based on a view that the CBRN response issue should be taken up at the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement’s statutory meetings, the NSs recognized that they need to improve capabilities for CBRN emergency preparedness and response. The Reference Group also recognized that each NS will need to have more knowledge and will need to ensure a group of experts as well.
Side event at the 20th IFRC GA
In the Report of the Secretary General which was prepared for the 20th IFRC GA, the activities and outcome for nuclear emergency preparedness are mentioned as follows:
- The IFRC mapped the existing capacities and legal engagements of NSs;
- In order to strengthen the role and expertise of the IFRC and NSs, the IFRC Guidelines, an e-learning module and the Digital Archives of the Red Cross Nuclear Disaster Resource Center from the JRCS have been developed;
- An operational review of the CHARP (Chernobyl Humanitarian Assistance and Rehabilitation Programme) was finalized.
During the report of the Secretary General at the GA, the JRCS appreciated the IFRC’s action for nuclear emergency preparedness and commented on the JRCS’s efforts for the future.
Prior to the GA, a side event sponsored by the JRCS entitled “Are we prepared for emerging risks?” was held. The purpose of this side event was as follows:
1. To review the lessons learned from the Chernobyl and Fukushima nuclear disasters and other recent large crises;
2. To present new global/regional/country level preparedness for such crises;
3. To present the accomplishments since the adoption of the IFRC Resolution 11/46.
During the side event, presentations given by panelists and a group of high school and university students from Tokyo and Fukushima were followed by discussion. The importance and necessity of preparedness for CBRN emergencies including nuclear disasters were pointed out in the presentations and discussion.