Ishihara visits Fukushima in latest apology over cash-for-storage gaffe

Kyodo

Environment Minister Nobuteru Ishihara on Monday apologized again for making a remark suggesting that the issue of where to store contaminated soil from the damaged Fukushima No. 1 power plant was a matter of handing out money.

This time Ishihara made the apology to Toshitsuna Watanabe, the mayor of the town of Okuma, one of the candidate sites in Fukushima Prefecture for building temporary storage facilities.

On June 16, Ishihara told reporters that protracted negotiations between the central and local governments would ultimately be settled by the “monetary value” of accepting interim storage facilities, such as grants to the local authorities hosting them.

He suggested that money would ultimately decide whether local authorities accept the central government’s proposal for the facilities.

Watanabe told Ishihara at a meeting Monday that many residents were hurt by the remark, but that the town would accept his apology, noting that the minister came to Fukushima Prefecture to apologize.

The meeting between the minister and the mayor was held in Aizuwakamatsu, where the Okuma Municipal Government has been relocated while the town, which hosts the plant, remains evacuated.

Later on Monday, Ishihara was to meet with the mayor of Futaba, Shiro Izawa, in the city of Iwaki. Futaba is another candidate site for the temporary storage facilities.