July 21(Thursday)

Achieving "Step 1" in stabilizing the nuclear accident and the path ahead

 

Yesterday, the second supplementary budget bill for the reconstruction of all areas struck by the Great East Japan Earthquake disaster passed the House of Representatives.  I hope that this bill is enacted swiftly and that this will assist the people in the disaster areas.

 

Previous to this, in the late afternoon of the day before (the 19th), I convened a meeting of the Nuclear Emergency Response Headquarters, at which time I received reports from Minister for Nuclear Incident Economic Countermeasures Banri Kaieda and Minister for the Restoration from and Prevention of Nuclear Accidents Goshi Hosono that the "Step 1" objective had been achieved in the Roadmap for bringing the TEPCO Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station accident under stable control.

 

It has been a little over four months since the accident occurred.  Efforts to bring the situation under control through the national government's collective engagement are moving steadily forward.  The nuclear reactor's circulation cooling system, which has been a source of concern due to minor ongoing problems, has begun operating, and the injection of nitrogen into the containment vessel has succeeded in suppressing the risk of a hydrogen explosion by some remote chance.  The amount of radiation released into the atmosphere is also estimated at one two-millionth of the amount released immediately after the accident, and thus decreasing with absolute certainty.

 

Even now, I often think back on the days immediately following the accident.  I had a sense of tense urgency regarding what might become of Japan and the sensation of a chill running down my spine.  There were many individual decisions that had to be made on a moment's notice regarding one serious aspect arising after another.  When I think of the situation at that time, my true feelings are "it's such a relief we got this far," but this has been the result of the dedicated efforts of the several thousand people working at the accident site and the many other persons who have been involved, more than anyone.  As I mentioned in my previous blog entry, I have renewed once more my feelings of gratitude, along with my wishes that they continue their efforts safely into the future.

 

In the "Step 2" that is to come, the government must make concerted efforts even beyond those it has made thus far.  In addition, as a result of the distribution of radiation-contaminated beef, a sense of anxiety towards the safety of food has also been spreading.  Through suspending shipments and conducting necessary inspections in a thoroughgoing manner, we will keep a watchful eye so that this issue does not fall through the cracks of the compartmentalized areas of administration among government ministries and agencies and ensure a system that does not allow problematic food items to be distributed.

 

When I was attending the meeting of the Nuclear Emergency Response Headquarters the day before yesterday, I called on all those present to "redouble their efforts while being mentally prepared for the fact that the road ahead will also certainly not be smooth."  Our battle with the nuclear accident is far from over, including the issue of people still under evacuation returning to their homes.



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