OSAKA–The Osaka District Court ordered the Environment Ministry to reveal the names of local governments that agreed to accept or considered accepting debris from the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake.
The court on Dec. 11 struck down the government’s decision to keep the names of the municipalities under wraps out of concern that disclosure could hamper waste transfer projects.
Presiding Judge Kenji Tanaka said citizens have the right to know if debris from the triple disaster of the earthquake, tsunami and Fukushima nuclear accident would be stored in their communities.
“Local residents were concerned that disaster waste could be contaminated with radioactive materials,” Tanaka said.
According to the ruling, the ministry surveyed municipalities in 43 of Japan’s 47 prefectures in October 2011 on their willingness to accept the waste. The three disaster-hit prefectures of Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima, plus Okinawa Prefecture, were excluded from the survey.
A citizens group in Moriguchi, Osaka Prefecture, filed a lawsuit demanding the ministry disclose the names. The ministry argued that it did not release the names “for fear of eroding neutrality in decision-making (on whether to accept the waste).”
Judge Tanaka said the potential disadvantages caused by the nondisclosure would have been enormous.
“We corrected the government’s stance on information disclosure,” Sugiko Hashimoto, head of the Moriguchi citizens group, told reporters in Osaka after the court’s ruling.
The Environment Ministry said in a statement, “We will consider a response to the matter after inspecting the content of the ruling.”