Environment Minister Nobuteru Ishihara apologized Tuesday for suggesting that money would ultimately decide whether local authorities accept the central government’s proposal to build storage facilities for soil contaminated by the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear disaster.
Ishihara, appearing at a news conference after drawing criticism from some of his fellow Cabinet ministers, acknowledged that his remarks may have upset people in Fukushima Prefecture.
Ishihara said he had wanted to say it is important to point out the amount of compensation that will be paid to local governments for the storage sites.
On Monday, Ishihara told reporters in Tokyo that protracted negotiations between the central and local governments in Fukushima will ultimately be settled by the “monetary value” of accepting the interim storage facilities, such as grants to local authorities that host them.
Fukushima Gov. Yuhei Sato said Ishihara’s initial comments were regrettable.
“The remarks trample on residents’ longing for their hometowns. I want to find out what his true intention was,” he said.
Futaba Mayor Shiro Izawa, whose town is being considered for hosting storage facilities for top soil and other waste generated through decontamination efforts, said the remarks would lead to “misunderstanding” that local residents are only interested in receiving compensation.
The central government on Sunday ended briefing sessions for the residents of Futaba and Okuma, the other town being considered for hosting the facilities. The crippled nuclear power complex straddles both towns.
The sessions drew criticism for being overly vague about compensation. The prefectural government and the two municipal authorities called for greater clarity.
The talks between the central government and local officials began in December on whether and where to build temporary repositories for irradiated material such as topsoil.
They remain far apart on the price for accepting such facilities, according to a source familiar with the matter.
The central government plans to nationalize about 16 sq. km of land around the Tokyo Electric Power Co. plant and use it for the temporary facilities, which are to start operating by January.
While the central government says the contaminated waste will eventually be moved to a permanent storage site outside the prefecture, there is little prospect at present of agreeing where that site will be.