August 16(Tuesday)

Dialogues with experts: "Now or never" countermeasures against radiation contamination


Just before and after this past weekend, there was a steady 'step forward' in the reconstruction from the earthquake disaster and then regarding the nuclear energy issue. First of all, last Friday, the pending matter of the bill on "Special Measures for the Disposal of Rubble" was passed through the solid efforts of the persons involved.  Through this, in combination with allowances received through the tax revenues allocated to local governments, the local authorities in the disaster-afflicted areas for all practical purposes now do not need to shoulder any of the cost burden involved in disposing of rubble from the earthquake disaster.  I have high expectations for this becoming a powerful step forward towards progress in reconstruction.


Meanwhile, within the preparations for the reform of our nuclear energy administration, yesterday a Cabinet Decision was taken on the basic polices for the establishment of a 'Nuclear Safety and Security Agency.'  Through the ongoing efforts of Minister for the Restoration from and Prevention of Nuclear Accidents Goshi Hosono, the work to create a framework has moved forward rapidly.


While it goes without saying, the urgent issue that exists in parallel with these efforts is countermeasures to address the contamination at hand resulting from radioactive materials.  While we are intensively engaged in countermeasures together with the local authorities, the large-scale contamination associated with the nuclear accident is something our nation is experiencing for the first time, and experts hold a diverse range of opinions on the matter.  I am also hearing grave concern being voiced by the public, especially those with small children.


In light of this, I, together with the relevant ministers and vice-ministers, took time once again yesterday to listen carefully to seven experts in total, over roughly three hours.  The first of these was Professor Tatsuhiko Kodama, Director of the Radioisotope Center of the University of Tokyo, who has also given testimony at the National Diet as an unsworn witness.  After that, we heard from six experts on nuclear disasters who have been advising the Cabinet thus far.  All of these experts have an abundance of experience, including in field research at Chernobyl.  On the government side as well, among other things Senior Vice Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Takashi Shinohara made remarks based on the knowledge he obtained through his visit to Chernobyl in April.  In this way these came to be very concrete and in-depth discussions.


I myself asked quite a number of questions.  Among the opinions of the experts, there were views that all of them held in common but perhaps not surprisingly also points where their views diverged.  I felt that in order for the public to have a common understanding of this issue, it will be necessary to hold further discussions utilizing an open format.


Insofar as contamination from radioactive materials is an issue that impacts upon all aspects of our daily lives, the government must determine in an integrated manner the overall picture of the contamination, safety standards, and so on, and then formulate a strategy, including legislation, which cuts across the various ministries and agencies.  Rather than wait for the next administration to get on track in this area, I too will be assiduously engaged in addressing this issue to the extent possible immediately prior to my resignation.

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