Environment Minister Nobuteru Ishihara apologized on June 17 for suggesting that payments to residents in Fukushima Prefecture would resolve the problem of selecting a site to temporarily store radiation-contaminated soil.
“I would like to express my heartfelt apology to those who experienced unpleasant emotions due to a comment lacking character that I made,” Ishihara said.
That comment came the previous day, after Ishihara reported to Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga on the status of the project to construct the interim storage facility in Okuma and Futaba, both near the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.
“With the conclusion of the explanatory meetings, I talked (with Suga) about the future schedule,” Ishihara told reporters June 16. “In the end, it will come down to money. (Suga) did not say anything in particular about the monetary figure (for compensation to local residents) that was presented at the explanatory meetings.”
Under the government’s plan, tons of soil removed during decontamination work and currently stored in various locations in Fukushima Prefecture would be transferred to the interim storage facility. That would speed up reconstruction work in locations where the contaminated soil has been removed.
Residents of the candidate sites have been reluctant to host the interim facility, fearing it will end up becoming a permanent fixture in their neighborhood.
At the June 17 news conference, Ishihara explained what he was trying to say on the previous day.
“I meant to say that in the end what would be important was presenting the monetary figure to compensate for use of the land, to help rebuild the lives of residents and for the reconstruction of the local community,” Ishihara said. “I never said the issue could be resolved through money.”
When asked if he planned to apologize to the residents of Fukushima Prefecture, Ishihara only said, “Naturally, I will have many opportunities to visit Fukushima.”
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