Hosono urges towns to aid disposal effort


Environment Minister Goshi Hosono said Saturday that the government must do more to persuade cities and prefectures to store tsunami debris so disaster-hit areas can rebuild.

“We are having a tough time implementing the disposal of rubble across a wide area. But we need to make local governments aware of how severely they are suffering in disaster-ravaged areas,” Hosono said in talks with Miyagi Gov. Yoshihiro Murai.

Murai handed Hosono a letter asking him to promote debris disposal.

“We will do our utmost to clean up the rubble within the prefecture, but we have to depend on other areas if it is beyond our disposal capability,” Murai said.

After the meeting, Hosono told reporters that while many municipalities and prefectures outside the disaster zone support waste disposal, most do not volunteer to take it.

“I expect local governments (outside the tsunami zone) will become willing to accept the rubble if they become more aware of the serious situation there,” Hosono said.

A number of municipalities across Japan have reported that residents are mainly concerned that they might be contaminated by radioactive fallout from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant if their areas are used to store and dispose of tainted debris.

Before he spoke with the Miyagi governor, Hosono visited some temporary waste storage sites in Ishinomaki, where tsunami rubble is piled as high as 25 meters.

He also confirmed that the radiation level of the debris at the site was 0.05 microsievert per hour, or about the same as that in surrounding areas.

The only city that has formally decided to accept tsunami debris is Tokyo.

Hosono saw worst case


Nuclear disaster minister Goshi Hosono was one of the few lawmakers who was shown the secret worst-case scenario for the Fukushima crisis, which was buried to avoid “confusing” the public.

That privileged group included Prime Minister Naoto Kan, who ordered the scenario drawn up two weeks into the disaster.

“The scenario was not a possibility in fact. If it had been made public at the time, it is likely that no one would have remained in Tokyo,” Hosono said, echoing previous reports on the way the government handled the report. “It would have caused trouble regarding the government’s handling of the nuclear crisis.”

The scenario was examined by only a few key lawmakers in and was not shared even with the Nuclear Safety Commission “because we wanted to prevent gossip from spreading,” Hosono said. “We could not even announce the fact that we compiled such a simulation.”

Hosono, who was serving as a special adviser to Kan, recommended that he “be prepared for the worst possible scenario, just in case” about 10 days after the nuclear crisis was triggered by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, Hosono said.

Kan then ordered the scenario drafted on March 25 by Japan Atomic Energy Commission Chairman Shunsuke Kondo.

While several government officials said the scenario was initially considered “a private document,” Hosono countered by saying, “Documents compiled by us in an official capacity cannot be considered private. We were ready to disclose it (the scenario) if we received a freedom-of-information request.”

The scenario, meanwhile, prompted the government to brace for unforeseen trouble, Hosono said. For example, the government sent nine concrete pumping vehicles to the No. 4 reactor so it would not dry up.

“It was not wrong to prepare for the worst cases, based on the scenario,” he said.

The scenario said that the Fukushima No. 1 power plant’s damaged No. 1 reactor would explode again and that the spent-fuel pool on top of the No. 4 reactor would dry up and allow the fuel rods to burn, sending more toxic fallout into the atmosphere.