Press Conference by Chief Cabinet Secretary Prime Minister of Japan and His Cabinet top page


Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary

Thursday, April 21 at 11:00am, 2011
[Provisional Translation]
JAPANESE


Opening Statement by Chief Cabinet Secretary Edano

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The Establishment of a No-Entry Zone

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY EDANO: Today, I would like to begin by reporting on the establishment of a no-entry zone around Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station. We recognize that the order to evacuate issued for the area within 20km of the station has caused those residing in the area a lot of trouble and inconvenience.

This state of the power station continues to be unstable. We have repeatedly asked the public to refrain from entering the area 20km around the station, regardless of the radiation levels there, due to the concern that doing so may pose a dire safety risk.

As a result of coordination efforts with the concerned local governments, based on the Basic Act on Disaster Control Measures, we have decided to declare this area a no-entry zone. A moment ago, in line with the Act on Special Measures Concerning Nuclear Emergency Preparedness, the head of the Nuclear Emergency Response Headquarters issued instructions on this zone to the Governor of Fukushima Prefecture and the mayors of relevant cities, towns and villages. The area will be stipulated as a no-entry zone from midnight on April 22.

In accordance with this declaration, entry into the zone shall be prohibited for all except those carrying out emergency response work in the area, and in instances in which temporary entry is granted by the mayors of the region's cities, towns and villages.

It is our hope that this measure will also help to alleviate any concerns residents of the 20km zone have about crime prevention.

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Basic Policies Concerning Temporary Re-entry

We realize that those who left the zone with only the clothes on their backs have the strong desire to re-enter the area, and that there are certain instances in which it would serve the public good to allow temporary re-entry. In light of this situation, the Government has carried out discussion on how to allow people to do so.

We will therefore implement the following policies from the perspective of allowing each household to visit their home at least once while ensuring the absolute safety of those who enter the zone.

1. One representative from each household will be allowed to temporarily re-enter the 20km zone. Representatives will be shuttled in on buses and in groups.

2. Representatives shall be provided with necessary protective gear and shall be screened for radiation upon leaving the zone.

3. Representatives will be asked to carry out only what is absolutely necessary, and will be allotted a maximum of two hours in their homes.

In addition, for cases where it is deemed that it would cause a great disservice to the public good to not allow members of corporations into the zone, including offices of local governments, re-entry shall be granted on an individual basis.

Based on these basic policies, and in consideration of the results of radiation monitoring within the 20km zone to be announced by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology (MEXT) after this, we will make every possible effort to ensure the absolute safety of the public, carrying out measures such as the further announcement of monitoring results just prior to the re-entry operation. We will coordinate our concrete actions on how to implement the re-entry operation with the relevant local governments and try to realize this operation as soon as possible. We understand that the disaster has caused a great deal of inconvenience to those who have evacuated from the region, but this procedure will allow for temporary re-entry and ask that they be patient for just a little while longer.

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The Re-designation of the Evacuation Zone around Fukushima Daini Nuclear Power Station

Next, I would like to report on the re-designation of the evacuation zone around Fukushima Daini Nuclear Power Station.

Although cold shutdown has been achieved at the power station, among other issues, one of the two cooling systems is currently unusable, and some of the emergency diesel generators are still being repaired. The station has not been fully restored yet.

Nonetheless, with the cold shutdown and other advances, compared with the time when we announced the Declaration of Nuclear Emergency on March 12, the risk that a major incident will occur has dropped significantly.

In consideration of the situation at the power station and the opinion of the Nuclear Safety Commission (NSC), it has been judged that a certain level of safety has been achieved. Thus, in line with the Act on Special Measures Concerning Nuclear Emergency Preparedness, a moment ago, the head of the Nuclear Emergency Response Headquarters also informed the Governor of Fukushima Prefecture and the mayors of relevant cities, towns and villages that the size of the evacuation zone around the station would be reduced from 10km to 8km, and that the order to evacuated based on the incident at Fukushima Daini Nuclear Power Station would be lifted from areas farther than 8km around the station. That's all I should report.

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Q&As

REPORTER: About the no-entry zone, once it is established, will you prohibit entry into the area or order those there to leave? What kind of specific measures will be taken? In addition, will this be enforced primarily by cities, towns and villages? And will it exist alongside the evacuation order?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY EDANO: The instructions to evacuate were based on the Act on Special Measures Concerning Nuclear Emergency Preparedness, and will continue. In addition, the establishment of a no-entry zone is being done based on the Basic Act on Disaster Control Measures. Concretely, we are posting police and others along all major roadways, right at the entrance to the area 20km around the power station, and having them patrol the area. This has been based on the aforementioned law and is being done on the premise that entry into the zone is prohibited. We are already receiving the cooperation of police officers from many prefectures in Japan, and we hope to strengthen the system we have in place to guard the area as much as possible with their further cooperation moving forward.

REPORTER: You said that the establishment of the no-entry zone is based on the Basic Act on Disaster Control Measures. I understand this means that within the act is a provision on prohibiting entry once a no-entry zone is created. However, I wonder if the Government won't also be considering issuing specific instructions stating that entry into the zone will be prohibited? I think that the police officers on the field also have the authority to issue such instructions. Will you do something like this?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY EDANO: I think it should be obvious that we have established a no-entry zone for the purpose of creating an area into which entry is prohibited.

REPORTER: As a follow-up question to that, supposing that one did enter the zone, I think that there must be some sort of punishment stipulated in the law for this, but what actually would be done in this case?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY EDANO: Just as when we issued the instructions to evacuate, the no-entry zone is being established to ensure the safety of the public. Accordingly, more than anything; we hope that everyone will comply with our instructions, for their own safety. There are those who wish to return to their home briefly, and since we managed to formulate our basic policies on this in time for the announcement of the no-entry zone, we sincerely hope to first establish the zone and then allow people to conduct temporary visits home, in that order. Naturally, there will be others outside of those returning home temporarily who will try and enter the zone, and we will deal with such people strictly, in line with the law. Today, I am requesting that everyone understand our instructions and act in a way that will allow us to deal with this situation without having to ask residents to comply with compulsory legal measures.

REPORTER: According to the explanation that was given to the affected municipalities about this, the 3km area closest to the power station is extremely dangerous, and thus absolutely no entry will be permitted. Is this true?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY EDANO: Sometime after this, in the afternoon I believe, MEXT will announce the results of the monitoring operations they have carried out thus far within 20km of the station. Based on these results, we will look at where radiation levels are high and what the situation is at the power station and make decisions about which areas we will be able to ensure safety and what approach we should take even if something unexpected happens. I think that looking at the power station right now, it cannot be denied that there is a certain amount of risk. If something bad were to happen, how many hours would it take to evacuate? What would be the effect of a large amount of radiation being released from the station? In consideration of these factors, I think it is goes without saying that we will need to exclude the area within 3km of the station from our considerations of allowing temporary re-entry.

REPORTER: It has been more than a month since the earthquake. Don't you think it is a bit late to be establishing a no-entry zone now?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY EDANO: I think there are two opinions on this. While some are questioning whether we should have done this sooner or not, some, particularly residents of the area, have asked whether we aren't at the point where we need to use force to prohibit entry into the area. Most people evacuated following our instructions to do so and respected our request not to re-enter. Although many of these people are very concerned about their homes, they fully understood the situation and did not go into the evacuation zone. However, some people have entered the zone, and without taking sufficient safety measures. In addition, should the situation at the reactor take a sudden turn for the worse, we may face the problem of being unable to contact everyone who has entered the evacuation zone. It has been reported to me that not a few people have entered the zone on their own without telling us. I understand the way those people must feel, but what if something terrible were to happen? We are taking these measures with the understanding that we must consider such possibilities.

REPORTER: I believe that your discussions on this matter have come about as a result of requests from local governments. What kinds of ideas have been expressed within the Government about restricting entry or conversely, the possibility that people may reenter the zone without such restrictions?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY EDANO: We have considered such possibilities. We have been posting police officers around the entrances to the zone, but did not want to use force to prevent people from going in. Basically, in principle, we were hoping that people would understand our instructions without having to use legal force, as they evacuated the area due to the incident at the nuclear power station which they were not directly responsible for in any way. This is the judgment we have made up until now.

REPORTER: Regarding the re-designation of the evacuation zone around Fukushima Dai-ni Nuclear Power Station which you mentioned earlier, I would like you to tell us if there are any municipalities that have now been placed outside of the evacuation zone due to the zone being shrunk to within 8km of the station. Furthermore, although you shrunk the evacuation zone to 8km, I wonder if this isn't because the area of the evacuation zone around Fukushima Dai-ni Nuclear Power Station and the zone around Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Station overlap at such a distance. Also, is there a numerical basis for your decision about this?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY EDANO: While I think that this judgment was also possible considering that the evacuation zones of the two stations overlapped by about 2km and thus it should be feasible to shrink this area of overlap, actually the current issue is, with the 20km area around Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Station becoming a no-entry zone, we needed to make a decision about what should be done for the evacuation area around Fukushima Dai-ni Nuclear Power Station that does not overlap with that zone. As for the specific towns affected, I will report back to you on this after verifying the matter.

REPORTER: With regard to temporary entry into the no-entry zone, you have said that the Government wishes to enable temporary entry as early as possible, in coordination with local governments. It is certain that residents will want to return to their homes, so when do you think these temporary entry operations will be achieved in specific terms?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY EDANO: Ideally, the Government would wish to implement the temporary entry measures immediately and respond to the wishes of the local residents, however, preparations are still being made with the cooperation of the police service and the Self-Defense Forces (SDF), and at the same time it is necessary to also receive the cooperation of the local governments, who are most familiar with the local areas and the status of the various communities. In practical terms, these efforts are difficult to coordinate and so the cooperation of the local governments will be essential, as is set out clearly in the policy for temporary return that has been issued, and the local governments will engage in specific operations to respond to evacuees and individual communities. In terms of the public interest, including offices at local governments there are also separate measures that will need to be implemented to ensure the safety of the people who enter the no-entry zone and therefore once all these measures are in place, it is expected that temporary entry operations will be initiated within the next few days.

REPORTER: On a related note, how long, in terms of weeks or months do you expect that it will be before all the residents have been able to make a temporary return to their homes?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY EDANO: With the cooperation of the local governments and depending on climatic conditions and wind direction and other considerations, and assuming the situation at the nuclear power station does not deteriorate, we would expect that all people who wish to return temporarily to their homes will be able to do so in the course of one to two months.

REPORTER: The policy that has been set out stipulates that one person from each household may enter the no-entry zone for a short period of time. Does the current policy envisage multiple entries into the affected areas?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY EDANO: As I mentioned before the first priority is to ensure that all people who wish to do so can enter the zone at least once. Following that there will likely be people who wish to enter the zone once again and while the first round of temporary return operations is underway, the status of requests for further entries into the zone will be reviewed, together with the safety status, and once the first round of returns is completed, we would like to contemplate further returns at that point.

REPORTER: This is a question related to the legal penalties to be imposed for remaining in the no-entry zone. I believe that there are people who still remain in the zone and who have never left. How do you intend to persuade these people to leave, and what measures have you prepared for such people, who may have been exposed to radiation after staying in the evacuation area continuously?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY EDANO: First of all, for the people who remain in the no-entry zone, every effort will be made to explain to them that the legal situation has been made more stringent, and to persuade them to leave. These efforts will have to be implemented thoroughly by the members of the police service. Also, with regard to the degree of exposure to radiation over the course of more than one month, given that monitoring of radiation volumes is being implemented in the vicinity and also in the 20km zone, it is possible to estimate what the degree of exposure might be, based on monitoring results. If there is a possibility that people who have remained continuously in the zone have been exposed to radiation, then of course a request will be made for these people to receive appropriate medical treatment.

REPORTER: Do you have the figures for the population who will be affected by the imposition of the no-entry zone, and the number of people who will be eligible to enter the zone temporarily, excluding the 3km area?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY EDANO: If you require this information it can be provided at the working level in the form of a handout.

REPORTER: With regard to the specific methods to be employed for temporary entry operations, will the buses to be operated by the Government? Also what kind of safety measures will be in place? Will people be expected to wear protective clothing and who will accompany the people?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY EDANO: With regard to the equipment required for entering the zones, naturally, the Government will ensure that all equipment is provided. Also, with regard to the vehicles to be used for entry into the zone, these will be arranged by the Government. However, as I have mentioned it will be necessary for personnel to have an understanding of the local situation, and we are currently finalizing consultations with individual local governments concerning the degree of cooperation that they will provide.

REPORTER: In your statement, you did not mention planned evacuation areas or emergency evacuation preparedness areas. When do you expect to implement the measures for these areas and what is the reason for the delay?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY EDANO: Efforts are being made to implement operations in accordance with the wishes of the local residents while also ensuring their safety. However, as some time has passed since this measure was announced, it must be implemented as early as possible with a sense of urgency.

REPORTER: The meeting between the government of Fukushima Prefecture and the Prime Minister has just finished, and it seems that the governor made a request that the Government make a robust response regarding damage compensation relating to the nuclear power station accident. I believe that the Government's current position is that Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) bears primary responsibility for compensation payments. What are your views on this issue?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY EDANO: It is, of course, of the greatest importance that compensation is paid in full to the people who have been affected by the accident, and the Government will join TEPCO in ensuring that responsibilities are fulfilled. In terms of the relation between TEPCO and the Government, while I believe that primary responsibility lies with TEPCO, it is also the Government's responsibility to ensure that all the people who have been affected are provided with appropriate indemnity for loss.

REPORTER: On a related note, it has been reported that some people in the Government have expressed the view that a ceiling should be placed on the payments to be made by TEPCO. In practical terms, government funds could be used to support the business operations of TEPCO. What are your views on the injection of government funds to TEPCO and how this should be implemented?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY EDANO: This is an ongoing process, but in order to support TEPCO in fulfilling its responsibilities for providing compensation and continue to ensure a power supply, there are certain areas where the Government must provide assistance. In the final analysis, I think that the Government will request that TEPCO takes on the primary burden with regard to compensation payments.

REPORTER: On a different issue, it has been reported that following the announcement that the nuclear power station accident had been raised to Level 7, you stated to people around you that, gI couldn't say anything I knew from a very early stage that the accident was equivalent to Level 7.h This report implies that the Government concealed information. What are the facts behind this report and were you aware from a very early stage before a formal announcement that the accident was equivalent to Level 7?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY EDANO: As I have said on a number of occasions, the possibility that radioactive materials had been released in quantities in the 10^16 bequerel range was announced at the same time as the results of the simulation implemented using the System for Prediction of Environment Emergency Dose Information (SPEEDI) were announced. These figures represented only a possibility that such levels of radiation had been released, and I said at the time that there was no certain probability that this was the case. This was also my own personal recognition of the situation. There was absolutely no discussion at that time to what level of accident these figures were equated. I personally found out about the high possibility that the accident was equivalent to Level 7 the day prior to the announcement. Therefore the report by the weekly magazine that you mention is totally groundless and I have not been interviewed at any time by the magazine in question. The contents of the article are therefore entirely one-sided, reporting matters as if they were factual. There are many cases in which what I have said has been reported contrary to the facts and I have always followed a basic line of not responding directly to such reports. If it were just my own credibility or honor in question, I would not mind, but this report is something that needlessly seeks to arouse unease concerning the content of Government statements relating to the nuclear power station accident, which could lead as a result to great worry among the public about contents that have no basis in fact. Accordingly, through a representative, I have issued a strongly worded written request to Bungeishunju Ltd. to refrain from publishing such groundless reports in the future.