Japan: Legal Responses to the Great East Japan Earthquake of 2011   [open pdf - 2MB]

From the summary: "The Great East Japan Earthquake brought the starkest crisis since the desolation of the Second World War. During the emergency period just after the earthquake, the Japanese government tried to do everything it could under existing disaster response systems. However, because large areas were affected and some municipalities lost functions, the existing systems, which placed the responsibility on each affected municipality to take action, did not work well in some parts of the country. The national government therefore made exceptions and stepped in, assuming financial responsibilities for local governments. Many issues arose as a result of the earthquake, such as food safety concerns and disaster debris management and disposal. The nuclear crisis caused by the earthquake also created long-lasting radiation problems. A new system was created for local governments outside of the disaster area to accept and process debris. The government also established new standards for radiation levels in foods. In addition to utilizing existing systems and programs, exceptions were made and new systems were created to support disaster victims and ease their hardship, with many laws being amended or new laws created to address the situation. A reconstruction agency was created to coordinate various reconstruction efforts. Based on post-earthquake assessments of the effectiveness of the existing nuclear regulatory authority, a new nuclear regulatory agency and new standards for nuclear power plants were created. Japan has used the experience to better prepare for future disasters. Laws and regulations were amended, and a new tsunami countermeasure law was enacted."

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