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New Environment Minister on nuclear waste

October 9, 2015

New environment chief vows to engage communities targeted for nuclear waste facility


Staff Writer


Newly appointed Environment Minister Tamayo Marukawa said Thursday the ministry will continue to lobby Fukushima residents to back the construction of storage and disposal facilities for radioactive waste generated by the Fukushima nuclear crisis.

The government is building a temporary storage facility in the tainted towns of Okuma and Futaba, which host the heavily damaged Fukushima No. 1 power plant.

Decontamination efforts have been underway in dozens of municipalities to remove radioactive material ejected by the triple core meltdown in March 2011, which tainted the air, sea and land surrounding the plant.

Although Okuma and Futaba eventually agreed to host a facility that will store 30 million tons of radioactive waste for up to 30 years, the government is far from securing agreement from the more than 2,300 landowners whose cooperation is needed to build it.

“This process will move forward with officials visiting each landowner, explaining the details carefully and persuading them to cooperate. I’d like to make sure that we firmly take these steps,” Marukawa said in an interview with reporters on Thursday.

Marukawa said the ministry needs more manpower to deal with the landowners.

“This storage facility is necessary for reconstructing Fukushima,” because the rebuilding efforts will not move forward when waste is piled up all over the region, she said at her inaugural news conference Wednesday night after being appointed to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s latest Cabinet.

But Fukushima is not the only prefecture with a radioactive waste problem. Other prefectures — chiefly Miyagi, Gunma, Ibaraki, Tochigi and Chiba — are facing exactly the same issue.

The Environment Ministry plans to build a disposal site in each prefecture, but the process has been stalled by local protests.

People in the town of Kami in Miyagi, for example, have blocked ministry officials from conducting geological surveys of the candidate site.

Marukawa said her ministry has no intention of forcing the surveys but “will continuously give careful explanations to the residents.”

On other issues, Marukawa briefly touched on her experience as a woman in politics.

Marukawa, an Upper House member from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, is one of three women in a Cabinet Abe says will promote women’s empowerment.

Asked how she balances her work with motherhood, she laughed and said: “If there are such examples, I myself would like to know.”

Since her husband is also an LDP lawmaker who is often away from home visiting his constituents, she said she just does her best day by day to maintain a work-life balance.


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