The government said Thursday it was prepared to provide a host of safety measures in return for Nagasaki authorities backing plans for a new biosafety laboratory in the prefecture.
The biosafety level 4 laboratory at Nagasaki University would be constructed and operated to the most stringent biosafety standards on a four-level scale, it said.
BSL-4 labs allow research into highly contagious pathogens, such as the Ebola virus, that cause disease with a high risk of death and lack effective treatments.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said relevant Cabinet ministers have decided on specific ways ministries and agencies will cooperate to secure the safety of the facility.
A plan for dealing with accidents or disasters and an independent mechanism to monitor activities at the university was also discussed, he said.
“I have been informed that consultations will be held between the prefecture, city and Nagasaki University in the near future,” Suga told a news conference.
If the plan gets the approval of the city and Nagasaki prefectural governments, the central government plans to allocate several hundreds of millions of yen in the fiscal 2017 budget for the construction of the facility at the university and other preparations, according to a source close to the matter.
Nagasaki Mayor Tomihisa Taue and Nagasaki Deputy Gov. Makiho Hamamoto had asked for the central government’s active involvement in the lab plan in a meeting with Suga at the Prime Minister’s Office Monday in Tokyo.
Taue told reporters after the meeting he was impressed by the government’s response and said he would decide in the near future whether to approve the lab.
Japan’s only other working BSL-4 lab is a 35-year-old facility at the National Institute for Infectious Disease in Musashimurayama, western Tokyo, which worked at BSL-3 until August 2015 due to opposition from local residents.
A BSL-4 lab at a Riken facility in Tsukuba, Ibaraki Prefecture, northeast of Tokyo, has not been used since 1989.
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