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Environment minister finally does about-face

February 13, 2016

Environment minister retracts radiation remarks, refuses to resign



Environment Minister Tamayo Marukawa has retracted her controversial remarks that denied the scientific grounds for the radiation criteria set after the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant disaster, while ruling out the possibility of stepping down.

At a press conference on Feb. 12, Marukawa announced the withdrawal of her earlier comments in which she said "there is no scientific evidence" for the government's long-term goal of lowering the annual additional radiation exposure dose to 1 millisievert or less through decontamination and other efforts.

Her retraction, which came five days after she made the remarks during a speech in Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture, marks a major about-face as she had earlier practically denied making such comments, on the grounds that she had no recollection of them.

"I would like to extend my sincere apologies once again to disaster victims, including those in Fukushima," Marukawa said on Feb. 12. However, she stopped short of offering her resignation as a Cabinet minister.

"I've concluded that I should retract my remarks in order to maintain my relationship of trust with people in Fukushima. It is my responsibility to work to live up to the wishes of Fukushima," the environment minister said.

Marukawa apparently surmised any further denial of her own remarks would aggravate her relations with the Fukushima Prefectural Government and other disaster-hit local governments, while opposition parties were eager to grill her further in the Diet. By retracting her statements the minister aimed to defuse the situation.

According to reports by the Shinano Mainichi Shimbun, Marukawa made the remarks during a meeting of House of Councillors members of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party on Feb. 7, where she said the government's long-term radiation goal was "decided by the then environment minister without any scientific grounds" -- accusing then Environment Minister Goshi Hosono of the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ). In response, the DPJ demanded Marukawa step down from her post.

Later at a Diet session and on other occasions, Marukawa effectively denied making such remarks, saying, "I don't remember using such phrases. I'm sorry my point didn't get across due to insufficient explanation."

On Feb. 12, however, Marukawa said she came to believe she made those remarks after examining a note recording her remarks and a testimony by an attendee of the Feb. 7 meeting. She then telephoned Fukushima Gov. Masao Uchibori to offer an apology.

The long-term radiation goal, which was introduced during the reign of the DPJ government, provides that decontamination work and other efforts should be carried out to lower the annual radiation exposure dose for the general public at normal times to 1 millisievert or less after deducting exposure to natural radiation.

Marukawa said on Feb. 12, "The government will work together to achieve that goal," emphasizing that the current administration will uphold the long-range goal.



Environment minister withdraws radiation remark, apologizes to Fukushima residents



By YU KOTSUBO/ Staff Writer

Environment Minister Tamayo Marukawa retracted her remark about the government having “no scientific grounds” for its radiation decontamination target in the Fukushima nuclear disaster, saying she wanted to rebuild trust with local residents.

As the minister in charge of overseeing the decontamination efforts in Fukushima Prefecture, Marukawa, 45, said Feb. 12 she wants to “sincerely apologize to residents in Fukushima.”

During a speech in Matsumoto, Nagano Prefecture, on Feb. 7, she labeled the government’s long-term goal of reducing radiation levels near the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant to an annual dose of 1 millisievert or less as having “absolutely no scientific grounds.”

A local newspaper, The Shinano Mainichi Shimbun, picked up the story and reported her comments on Feb. 8, which she promptly denied having made.

At Diet sessions on Feb. 9 and 10, Marukawa stated that she had “no recollection of using such wording” in the speech.

Nevertheless, she told the news conference on the evening of Feb. 12 that she had decided of her own volition to "retract the remark in order to maintain a relationship of trust with residents in Fukushima.”

Marukawa went on to say that the government's decontamination target is “indeed scientific in the sense that it was set as a result of thorough discussions by scientists.”

Her acknowledgment of making the faux pas will likely prompt the opposition camp to go on the offensive during Diet sessions in the coming week. For the time being, at least, Marukawa is standing firm. She said she has no intention of stepping down and wants to continue fulfilling her duties.

The decontamination goal was set by the Democratic Party of Japan-led government of the time on the basis of recommendations by the International Commission on Radiological Protection in the aftermath of the triple meltdown at the Fukushima plant triggered by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster.

After the newspaper covered her remarks, Marukawa told reporters on Feb. 8 that she did not remember using such wording as “scientifically ungrounded.” She repeated the plea at Lower House Budget Committee sessions on Feb. 9 and 10.

During a regular news conference after the Feb. 12 morning Cabinet meeting, the minister finally acknowledged the possibility of making the remark.

She eventually retracted the comment later the day after obtaining a memorandum of her speech and confirming the content with attendants.



February 12, 2016

Environment minister withdraws radiation remarks






Environment Minister Tamayo Marukawa on Friday withdrew remarks she reportedly made about the government’s radiation decontamination target following the March 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster.

Speaking at a news conference, Marukawa said she apologizes from the bottom of her heart to those suffering from the nuclear accident, including people in Fukushima Prefecture.

She denied that she might step down over the remarks, saying she will continue to fulfill her duties.

Marukawa has been under fire since a newspaper reported remarks she made in a speech in the city of Matsumoto in Nagano Prefecture on Sunday.

She was quoted as saying the government’s long-term goal of reducing radiation levels near Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant to an annual dose of 1 millisievert or less has no scientific grounds.

The goal was set by the government led by the now-opposition Democratic Party of Japan, based on recommendations from the International Commission on Radiation Protection and requests from the Fukushima Prefectural Government.

At Friday’s news conference, Marukawa said that the central government will not drop the decontamination goal.






February 12, 2016

Environment minister apologizes to Fukushima governor over radiation comments



Environment Minister Tamayo Marukawa said on Feb. 12 that she telephoned Fukushima Gov. Masao Uchibori to apologize over a report on her remarks allegedly denying scientific evidence for the government's long-term goal of lowering the annual additional radiation exposure dose to 1 millisievert after the 2011 meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant.

She also said at a post-Cabinet meeting news conference that she offered a similar apology to a local government leader in Fukushima Prefecture, saying she did not explain herself fully during a Feb. 7 meeting of House of Councillors members from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party in Nagano Prefecture.

Marukawa emphasized, though, that she has no plan to retract her comment, saying there was no record of her remarks and she cannot independently confirm them. She added that the current government will continue to maintain its long-term radiation level objective, work hard to achieve this goal, and also restore the areas hard hit by the Great East Japan Earthquake, tsunami and Fukushima nuclear disaster.


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