17 Juin 2014
June 17, 2014
Tokyo (AFP) - A Japanese cabinet minister apologised on Tuesday after appearing to suggest people in nuclear disaster-hit Fukushima could be persuaded to put up with contaminated waste if the government threw cash at them.
Environment minister Nobuteru Ishihara came under fire after saying money would be a decisive factor for local governments and residents being asked to accept plans to build storage facilities for radioactive waste.
The remarks were seen as insensitive to the tens of thousands of people who remain unable to return to homes around the crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant because of persistently high levels of radiation.
Fukushima Governor Yuhei Sato immediately hit back, saying: "It was extremely regrettable. The remarks rode roughshod over the feelings of residents who are longing for their hometowns."
Goshi Hosono, former environment minister and a senior lawmaker of the opposition Democratic Party of Japan, called for Ishihara's resignation, telling reporters: "The remarks -- it's about money -- should never have been made."
Ishihara on Tuesday told reporters "I sincerely apologise to those who were annoyed by my remarks."
He said, however, that as the minister in charge of reconstruction, he would continue exploring proposals for waste-storage facilities, including details of compensation.
Central and local governments have been negotiating for months over the construction of "temporary" storage facilities for soil and other waste contaminated by fallout from the meltdowns at Fukushima following the 2011 tsunami.
Ishihara's gaffe was unusual for a man who has shown himself to be a relatively sure-footed politician, but was redolent of his father, current lawmaker and former Tokyo governor Shintaro Ishihara, who is no stranger to controversy.
Just three days after Japan's northeast was swamped by the huge tsunami, Ishihara senior caused outrage by saying the disaster -- which killed more than 18,000 people -- had been divine punishment for a nation obsessed by materialism.
Ishihara: Money comment was misunderstood
Japan's environment minister has apologized for controversial remarks on storing radioactive waste in Fukushima towns.
Nobuteru Ishihara said on Monday that money would ultimately decide what happens to the waste. He made the remarks after briefing the chief cabinet secretary about his meetings with residents of 2 host towns for intermediate storage facilities.
Ishihara tried to clarify the comments on Tuesday. He said in the end, compensation for land and to help rebuild lives and local economies will be the issue.
He said he is sincerely sorry for causing any misunderstanding.
The minister said there was no change to his approach of standing alongside the local people and carefully explaining the situation to them.
The government hopes to build the storage facilities with the approval of Fukushima Prefecture and the host towns. It plans to begin sending contaminated soil and debris to the towns next January.
Jun. 17, 2014 - Updated 02:08 UTC
June 16, 2014
Ishihara: Money ultimate decider for storage plan
Japan's Environment Minister has been trying to clarify comments he made about building intermediate storage facilities for radioactive soil and waste in Fukushima towns.
Nobuteru Ishihara appeared to say that money can solve any problems.
Ishihara held meetings with residents of the towns of Futaba and Okuma. They expressed concern about government plans to situate the facilities there, and asked for clarification about how much the government plans to compensate them for their land and buildings.
Ishihara and Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga discussed the meeting at the Prime Minister's office in Tokyo.
Nobuteru Ishihara later told reporters that money will ultimately decide what happens.
But he later said he hadn't meant to imply that it could solve everything. He said the government cannot propose an exact figure until residents accept the plan, but they will discuss the value.
The government hopes to begin sending contaminated soil and debris to the facilities from next January. But the plan needs approval from the host towns and Fukushima Prefecture.
Jun. 16, 2014 - Updated 19:25 UTC
Minister slammed for comments on contaminated soil storage in Fukushima
TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Environment Minister Nobuteru Ishihara drew criticism from Fukushima officials on Monday for suggesting that money would ultimately decide whether local authorities accept the state's proposal for building facilities in the prefecture to store contaminated soil after the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster.
Ishihara told reporters in Tokyo earlier in the day that the protracted negotiations between the state and local governments in the northeastern prefecture would ultimately be settled by the "monetary value" of accepting the interim storage facilities, such as grants to local authorities hosting them.
Ishihara immediately sought to contain fallout from his remarks, telling a hastily called news conference that he had meant to say details of any compensation for hosting such facilities cannot be explained to local residents until local governments accept the proposal.
Fukushima Gov. Yuhei Sato criticized Ishihara's remarks, calling them regrettable. "The remarks trample on residents' longing for their hometowns. I want to find out what his true intention was," he added.
Futaba Mayor Shiro Izawa, whose town is being considered for hosting storage facilities for top soil and other waste generated through decontamination efforts in the disaster-hit prefecture, said the remarks would lead to "misunderstanding" that local residents are after compensation and damages from the state.
Ishihara's remarks came a day after the state ended its briefing sessions for the residents of Futaba and Okuma, the other town being considered for hosting the facilities. The crippled nuclear power complex straddles both towns.
The sessions drew criticism that the state's explanation about compensation remained vague, prompting the prefectural government and the two municipal authorities to call for a more concrete explanation from the state.
Since last December, the state and the local authorities have been negotiating over the construction of temporary storage facilities for contaminated soil and other waste.
There is a large gap between the state and the local governments over the size of grants to be created as the price of accepting the storage facilities, keeping the negotiations deadlocked, according to a source familiar with the matter.
The state plans to build the interim storage facilities by nationalizing about 16 square kilometers of land around the Tokyo Electric Power Co. plant, seeking to start operating the facilities next January.
While the state says the contaminated waste will be moved to a permanent storage site to be built outside of the prefecture, there is little prospect of finding such a permanent site at the moment.
June 17, 2014(Mainichi Japan)
Fukushima governor irked over remark
Fukushima Governor Yuhei Sato has expressed displeasure over the environment minister's remarks.
Sato told reporters on Tuesday that the comments were made at a time when local people still haven't agreed to host the facilities.
The governor said he wonders whether the minister truly understands how much the people have suffered, having to leave their homes for 3 years and 4 months.
He added he wants to look into the minister's intentions.
Jun. 17, 2014 - Updated 02:52 UTC