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

Press Conference by the Chief Cabinet Secretary

Friday, April 22 at 09:44am, 2011
[Provisional Translation]

Opening Statement by Chief Cabinet Secretary Edano

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY EDANO: I have some item to report. With regard to the designation of planned evacuation zones and emergency evacuation preparation zones, the Prime Minister, as head of the Nuclear Emergency Response Headquarters, has issued instructions to the governor of Fukushima Prefecture and the heads of municipal governments concerned.

Designation of planned evacuation zones

As you know, in the areas outside the 20km radius from Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, there are certain areas where radioactive materials emitted from the power station have accumulated as a result of climatic and geographical conditions and in some localized areas, these accumulated volumes of radioactive materials are at high levels.

In view of the criteria set by international organizations, including the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which state that for the purpose of protection from emergency exposure situations, reference levels should be set in the band of 20-100mSv effective dose, in the case that residents continue to remain in the designated areas, their accumulated exposure to radiation could increase further. As there is a concern that within the period of one year following the accident, the cumulative radiation volumes could reach 20mSv in these areas, it has been decided to designate them as "planned evacuation zones."

This measure will cause great hardship for the residents living in these areas, but in view of the potential impact on their health, they are requested to evacuate in a planned manner to another location.

The planned evacuation zones designation is to be applied to the following areas that are outside the 20km radius of Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station of Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO): the villages of Katsurao, Namie and Iitate, part of the town of Kawamata, and part of the city of Minamisoma.

The specific procedures relating to evacuation from the planned evacuation zones will be coordinated by the local governments concerned, the prefectural government and the central government, working in close cooperation. The planned evacuations are expected to be implemented in approximately one month's time.

Designation of emergency evacuation preparation zones

In addition, with regard to the areas located within a 20 to 30km radius from the nuclear power station, the advisory to shelter indoors that has been in effect to date has been lifted. However, given the status of the power station, which has not yet been fully stabilized, there remains a possibility that an emergency response may have to be made and therefore, excluding the areas that have been designated as planned evacuation zones, it has been decided that all the other areas in the 20 to 30km radius shall, in principle, be newly designated as "emergency evacuation preparation zones," in which preparations should be made so that the residents can take shelter indoors or evacuate by their own means in the event of an emergency.

In these areas, it continues to be the case that residents should be able to evacuate using their own means and accordingly certain people, particularly children, pregnant women, persons requiring nursing care and hospitalized patients, are requested not to enter the areas. People wishing to enter the emergency evacuation preparation zones for essential purposes, including engaging in business and work, shall not be prevented from doing so. In particular, those who or shipping goods do not face any problem in entering for taking the goods in so that please transport and transfer commodities to the area.

The emergency evacuation preparation zones designation is to be applied to the following areas within a 20 to 30km radius of Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station: the towns of Hirono and Naraha, the village of Kawauchi, and parts of the cities of Tamura and Minamisoma.

Measures to respond to these areas will be conducted under the close cooperation of the local governments concerned, the prefectural government and the central government.

The Re-designation of the No-Entry and Evacuation Zones

The demarcation of the no-entry and evacuation zones will be revised at the time that release of radioactive materials from the power station is deemed basically controllable (6 to 9 months from now according to the "Roadmap towards Restoration from the Accident at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station" recently published by Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO)), after gathering and analyzing data from environmental monitoring.

Although the new zoning will continue to cause great inconvenience to the people somewhat in a different way, we ask them for understanding.

Establishment of on-site national government offices in Iitate Village and Kawamata Town In two municipalities more than 30km away from the power station, Iitate Village and Kawamata Town, which fall under the newly designated planned evacuation zone, and where most of the residents are living within the zone, on-site national government offices will be established, consisting of eight standing officers including those of manager-level from the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications (MIC), the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare (MHLW), the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF), and the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI). The staff have left Tokyo this morning and are heading toward their destinations.

Through the on-site national government offices, the Government intends to coordinate with local municipalities to respond to consultations, support evacuation, and assist with daily living, among other activities, in a manner tailored to the specific needs.

Concerning this, the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) will be holding a lecture later. Please ask them for further details.

Plan to Strengthen Environmental Monitoring

Next, I will announce a plan to strengthen environmental monitoring. Along with the announcement of the establishment of planned evacuation zones and related measures on April 11, the Government also announced policies to strengthen environmental monitoring and gather and analyze data in the time until the evacuation zones are re-designated in the future.

Accordingly, the Plan to Strengthen Environmental Monitoring was established today by the Nuclear Emergency Response Headquarters.

The Plan to Strengthen Environmental Monitoring will be implemented to help us understand the overall situation of the incident and make an assessment of the designation of planned evacuation zone and other zones.

To be concrete, the Plan stipulates the following points, among other matters:

1. Activities for the purpose of preparing for radiation monitoring and other related operations in each area going forward;

2. The creation of Radiation Distribution Maps (radiation measurement maps, estimated accumulate radiation maps, and soil contamination maps) based on the results of environmental monitoring;

3. The undertaking of measurements and dispersion prediction analyses in coastal areas, in addition to that already being done in inland areas;

4. The comprehensive evaluation of accumulated radiation monitoring results by the Nuclear Safety Commission (NSC), and the implementation of necessary measures by the Nuclear Emergency Response Headquarters based on those results;

5. To be concrete, that joint monitoring conducted by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) (which will also be cooperating with the Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA), universities, and the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)), the Ministry of Defense (MOD), prefectural police, Fukushima Prefecture, power companies, and other entities;

In line with this Plan, the Government will strengthen environmental monitoring operations and act appropriately based on the result of such operations.

For further details, please ask the officials of the NSC, MEXT, or METI. The three organizations shall be holding a joint press conference later.

My next item to announce is that a decision has been made to prohibit the cultivation of rice for the duration of the 2011 harvest within the evacuation zones, planned evacuation zones, and emergency evacuation preparation zones. We are terribly sorry for farmers in the region, the Nuclear Emergency Response Headquarters has instructed the Governor of Fukushima Prefecture to impose restrictions for this. The Government will ensure that appropriate compensation is paid to affected farmers.

For further details, please inquire at MAFF.

Continuing on, I would like to report on the main points of today's Cabinet meeting. The general proposal for the first supplementary budget from the general account in FY2011 was approved, and we heard an explanation from the Minister of Finance about this budget. Besides this, there were four other items approved in addition to law promulgations, bill submissions, declarations, and decisions on matters of personnel. In particular, among today's items of business was the submission to the Diet of an amendment to the Act on Access to Information Held by Administrative Organs. One of the promises we made following the change in political administration had to do with this Act. I worked on the bill for this from the beginning stages. The first draft was my own work as the Minister of State for Government Revitalization at the time. That bill underwent a number of changes, although the spirit of the initial draft has been preserved, and has finally been approved by the Cabinet and will be sent to the Diet. I expect that we will soon see an amendment encouraging even greater compliance with requirements for information disclosure. Another bill approved by the Cabinet today was an amendment to the Basic Act for Persons with Disabilities. Although those concerned with the progress of issues affecting the disabled have expressed the opinion that we still have a way to go on this, for the first time in our country's history we have established the legal recognition of Japanese sign language. As you can see, there is a sign language interpreter here with me today. I think that this amendment is an important step forward.

Finally, I would like to give a short report on the meeting of the Council on the State of the Economy, which took place before today's Cabinet meeting. The council this time reviewed the macroeconomic effect of the earthquake and debated about needed economic and fiscal measures in light of the state of the macroeconomy. I believe that the press has already been told about this, but the Prime Minister has instructed Minister Koichiro Gemba and Minister Kaoru Yosano to cooperate and formulate overall directions for Government policy on this by the time of the next meeting. I have confirmed that Minister Yosano has already provided the media with further information on the details of this meeting.


REPORTER: Concerning the Planned Evacuation Zones, I believe that instructions have been issued designating Minamisoma City as both a Planned Evacuation Zone and Emergency Evacuation Preparation Zone. Which parts of the city have been designated as which type of zone?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY EDANO: Details on this will be provided later by NISA; however, I will report that in Minamisoma City, areas close to Iitate Village and Namie Town are designated as a Planned Evacuation Zone. Other areas within the City that fall within the 20-30km radius of the power station has been designated an Emergency Evacuation Preparation Zone.

REPORTER: I think that the response that needs to be made by the public differs greatly depending on whether they live in an area designated as a Planned Evacuation Zone or an Emergency Evacuation Preparation Zone. I also think that there must be many people living right on the line between the two zones in the City that are not really happy with the designation they have been assigned. How is the Government explaining this situation to them?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY EDANO: I believe that each resident must have a different opinion and position on this. I also think that the establishment of these zones has placed the mayors of the area's cities, towns and villages in a fairly difficult position. I understand all that. The decision on these designations was based on scientific data regarding radiation, the situation in each region, and other conditions, with the premise of putting safety first. That is why we drew straight lines in certain parts and district-based lines in others - this decision was based on consultations with regional mayors and, I will say it again, safety considerations. We are acting in consideration of the local situation in each area. I would like for everyone to try to understand this.

REPORTER: You have set the time by which evacuation should be completed for the Planned Evacuation Zones in about one month. Why did you not narrow it down to a more specific time?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY EDANO: One month is just a goal. During this time, we will be of course discussing the issue with relevant ministries and agencies and naturally will develop a better understanding of the situation based on the results of radiation monitoring. As monitoring operations continue, there will be some areas where we may find earlier evacuation to be advisable and other areas where one full month or so can be granted for people to evacuate safely. We also want to proceed forward with considerations for the securing of shelters for evacuees and what should be done for those with jobs in these areas in particular. That is why we have only set a goal, and not a deadline. We would like to move forward while making considerations for individual circumstances as much as possible.

REPORTER: As a follow up to that, have you thought about establishing a kind of deadline, such as say, by the end of May or middle of June?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY EDANO: It is just a goal. In any case, since we are now in the latter part of April, the end of May would be within the goal of one month.

REPORTER: One more question on that - I think that many residents would prefer to evacuate to an area close to their homes. What is the state of coordination work with relevant municipalities on this?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY EDANO: We would like to move forward while respecting the wishes of locals, which is to say individual residents, as much as possible. We are trying to responds to their demands to the extent we can. However, the construction of temporary housing takes a certain amount of time. We have pointed out a number of flexible options that might be undertaken, such as allowing people to stay temporarily in hotels or ryokan (Japanese inn) until temporary housing has been completed. We are working to meet the demands of each individual to the greatest extent we possibly can.

REPORTER: Sorry, one more question - I think that many have also expressed the strong wish to have their livestock evacuated as well. Can you comment on this?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY EDANO: No special restrictions has been implemented yet for livestock. Nevertheless, almost every concerned party has refrained from moving or shipping their livestock out of these areas. We hope to provide support for such transport or shipping in the future to those residing in areas designated as Planned Evacuation Zones or Emergency Evacuation Preparation Zones. Each animal transported or sent out of these areas shall be inspected with a survey meter and thoroughly decontaminated if radiation values are detected above a certain standard. The office of animal health and hygiene in Fukushima Prefecture will create a checklist for each animal, verifying such matters as whether they have been raised inside or outside and whether they have been provided with appropriately managed water and feed. The tires of vehicles carrying cattle that needed to be decontaminated will also be decontaminated before the vehicle sets out from the Prefecture. Fukushima Prefecture will be carrying out inspections for meat already butchered. We in the national government hope to provide the Prefecture with as much support for this as we can.

REPORTER: Finally, there are many strong demands being made regarding soil contamination. What exactly has the Government decided at this point on this issue?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY EDANO: We are going to address this issue thoroughly, starting this process at the earliest possible stage. That is the overall policy that has been decided. Along with steady progress on evacuations, we will continue to carry out monitoring activities and watch the situation at the power station and make a decision in consideration of what we see. This work will primarily be done by MAFF. I have already requested that they hasten their deliberations.

REPORTER: Will there be rules regarding temporary entry for Planned Evacuation Zones?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY EDANO: Unlike the No-entry Zone announced yesterday, we are not currently thinking of doing this. Rather, we would like everyone to evacuate with a certain understanding of the situation. And our thinking is that, if people are going to enter these zones, since the radiation levels are high, they should only do so after taking safety precautions and under certain conditions. For example, it may be possible for people to commute to their workplace or factory within the zone, but this requires a number of concrete judgments on radiation in the area - or to be specific, the affected areas - as well as on how long they will be working or be in the area, and the amount of work they will do outside. We will make these decisions while consulting with NISA. We hope to make individual arrangements for everybody.

REPORTER: Some municipalities are saying that the Government was slow in establishing Planned Evacuation Zones and Emergency Evacuation Preparation Zones and that it doesn't make sense to establish these zones before confirming where evacuees will go. The order in which evacuation destinations are assigned will be officially announced today. Will you be first making arrangements for the No-entry Zone declared yesterday and then making arrangements for the people residing in today's zones?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY EDANO: The residents of the No-entry Zone were evacuated immediately after the onset of the nuclear incident, and have been living in very harsh conditions for over a month in places such as school gymnasiums. They continue to live in such places even now, a situation which I cannot help to feel extremely sorry for. As for the timing of the announcement today, we have heard two conflicting opinions on this. While some have said that we should have announced these zones as soon as possible, many people from the concerned regions also requested that we make proper arrangements and discuss the matter thoroughly in consideration of a number of delicate issues before making a decision. The Government needs to consider all opinions. We cannot be flexible on safety, but utilizing the range of actions which are possible to carry out while still ensuring safety, we have been trying to act in a way responsive to our discussions with locals and their demands.

REPORTER: I would like to confirm something about temporary entry into the Planned Evacuation Zones. Are you saying that although everyone will be expected to evacuate, depending on the situation, continued work at certain factories will be allowed as long as workers do not reside in the area?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY EDANO: If everyone understands understand the general thinking on this to be that it should be okay, that's not my intention, I don't want anyone to get their hopes up about this. What I have said is that temporary reentry may be possible, on an individual basis, depending on many different conditions, such as the amount of radiation in the area and how the person enters the area. We will act in a way responsive to each individual situation. Whether or not this is possible will actually be determined on an individual basis.

REPORTER: So it's not that it is up to the individual then, but that the Government will individually approve entry into the area?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY EDANO: The Government will take responsibility for this and will consider the matter in light of the results of monitoring and consultations with the NSC. We will consult with relevant parties on whether the conditions of each individual make entry possible. Particularly for the Planned Evacuation Zones - or at least, those areas where radiation levels are high - since we are asking people to evacuate, we would like them to refrain from making a decision to re-enter the area on their own.

REPORTER: Will you begin consultations and procedures for this soon then?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY EDANO: Procedures will move forward on an individual basis. For some time, we have been hearing requests from locals about whether or not they will be able to do this or that. We will discuss these issues prior to the actual evacuation. Moving forward, as we work in particular toward the goal of completing evacuation in a month, we would like to work hard and see just how much is really possible.

REPORTER: I think that there are also some areas within the 20-30km area that do not lie within either the so-called Planned Evacuation Zone or Emergency Evacuation Preparation Zone. Could you specify these areas, and explain the decision to leave them out of both of these zones?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY EDANO: Of course, serious consideration was given to this question from the perspective of safety, such as the radiation dose levels in each of these areas and the risks involved, and based upon our recent consultation with the respective local governments. Specifically, as I had explained in my opening statement, although a section of Iwaki City lies within the 20-30km area, it has been exempted from either of the designated zones, and instructions to stay indoors have also been lifted. Under current circumstances, radiation doses are not considered high there. The two zones have been designated in order to facilitate the establishment of a proper system whereby residents could evacuate on their own in the event of a large-scale leakage of radioactive substances, or in other words, if the situation of the nuclear reactors should take a turn for the worse. For Iwaki City, it was decided that the section that originally fell under the 20-30km area could also remain out of both the designated zones from the viewpoint of safety, in response to strong calls and demands from the residents. While taking into consideration the wishes of the residents and the opinions of the NSC, this decision was made on the condition that the City will undertake thorough preparations with an organized evacuation plan.

REPORTER: The designation of these evacuation zones came some time after the intention to do so was announced. The time was probably expended on coordinating with the local residents, but could you tell us, specifically, what types of coordination work the time was spent on?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY EDANO: Naturally, the local residents had many concerns relating to shelters, livestock, which we talked about earlier, and business owners who run factories. With regard to these concerns, although there are, of course, many questions that we may or may not be able to give definitive answers to at this point in time, at the very least, we explained our direction, stance, and ideas. At the same time, while we communicated these points to the residents, there were also exchanges of opinions on certain ways of doing things that the residents considered more appropriate, given the actual circumstances on the ground. Amidst such circumstances, I think it is natural if the people affected remain unconvinced on many points. However, the Government has gained a certain degree of understanding on the wishes of the local residents, and is able to indicate a certain course and direction to the people. With that, it arrived at the decision to designate these zones at this particular point in time.

REPORTER: Could you give us some detailed information on the contents and timing for compensations to be paid out as a result of rice planting restrictions?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY EDANO: I would ask you to put the question to the MAFF. The plan is for the MAFF to compile the basic stance, and thereafter, for the headquarters in charge of dealing with economic damage due to the nuclear power station incident to compile the Government's policies in this regard.

REPORTER: Could you clarify, again, if the one-month timeline for the Planned Evacuation Zones pertains to the end or the beginning of the evacuation period?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY EDANO: The Government's request is for all affected persons to evacuate completely within one month, in a successive manner and according to plan.

REPORTER: My question concerns the rice planting restrictions. I believe the half-life of cesium is about 30 years. Does this not mean that we will not be able to grow rice for a rather long period of time?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY EDANO: Once the problems at the nuclear power station have been resolved, the Government plans to inject much effort into this issue, such as taking steps to improve soil quality. Of course, we may be faced with technological limitations, and I think that the situation will also be dependent on the amount of radioactive substances we are faced with at the point in time after the problems have been resolved, and whether there has been an accumulation of radioactive substances with a particularly long half-life. However, in order to be true to the country's reputation in technology, the Government will face an immense challenge in restoring conditions such that agricultural activities can resume as soon as possible.

REPORTER: On a different subject - though related - regarding the No-entry Zone, a forced evacuation is said to possibly take place. What is the possibility of this actually happening? Also, if this were to in fact happen, are you hoping to do this as soon as possible, or are you going to try to talk to the people into leaving for those 60-some households that are refusing to leave, and tell them, "Please leave"? Please tell us your thoughts on this.

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY EDANO: I believe I already answered this question yesterday.

REPORTER: I would like to ask you about electricity. There is talk that the degree of restriction on usage would be reduced from the 25% due to the increase in supply volume. As commercial-scale electricity consumers are currently preparing for usage restrictions, many wish to know a specific number as soon as possible. Some have presented the number of 15%. Please let us know at what stage you currently are with regard to the considerations being made and the number 15%.

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY EDANO: As I reported at yesterday's press conference, TEPCO has told us that they would "make even further efforts" to increase the amount of electricity supply. But in order to ensure that this will in fact become a reality, I believe that the Government must conduct a detailed investigation. As such, we are in fact currently conducting a detailed investigation to find out to what degree we must actually restrict the level of demand. We are of course having relevant parties do their utmost to consider all the possibilities. The percentage is something that everyone is most concerned about, and therefore, we hope to come up with a number as soon as possible. But to make any errors in this area will have grave implications, and therefore, we must first conduct a thorough investigation and the Government, through the Headquarters for Emergency Response for Power Supply and Demand, is working to be able to give an answer at as early a date as possible.

REPORTER: So do you expect not to have an answer right away, but rather, think you need a bit more time, say, till the end of the month, for example?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY EDANO: I would like to make it as soon as possible, so I hope it will happen by early next week.

REPORTER: I realize that details regarding the planned evacuation are to be sought from NISA, but Minamisoma and Kawamata Town are on the border of the evacuation zone. Is the 20mSv line that you drew the week before last in line with the zoning you imagined would be put into place from the beginning?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY EDANO: We have been conducting even more detailed investigations and monitoring since then. Rather than drawing simple straight lines, because each region has its own system of sectioning their areas off, we are taking into consideration the existing sense of unity among local communities when making such government-designated divisions, while at the same time prioritizing safety.

REPORTER: About the Planned Evacuation Zones, when you visited Fukushima, I believe you kept getting asked about the possible dates on which the residents would be able to return to, say, places like Iitate Village. What is your view on when this might be? Also, please talk once again about the prospects on the possibility of the evacuation zones expanding in size in the future.

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY EDANO: With regard to the first question, one prerequisite is that the nuclear power stations are brought under control and there is no longer the possibility of new radioactive materials accumulating, or an increase in the amount of radiation being emitted. We are striving to reach this point in the next six to nine months, as we have already presented in a time schedule. Once we reach this point, we will be able to begin considering what specifically can be done after that. It goes without saying that, as I disclosed earlier, we must further enhance our monitoring efforts during that time. And I expect that by then, we will have accumulated enough data to be able to determine, based on such factors as the degree of soil contamination, for example, when the residents will be able to return. But we will not be able to know the answer until the power stations have actually been brought under control and we make our final confirmations. Beyond that, because the regions, which we have designated and asked to be looked into, all contain different levels of radiation and accumulated radioactive materials, I believe we must conduct minutely detailed analyses in each before we can make any decisions. As for the second question, we will of course conduct further detailed monitoring work, and will further enhance our monitoring efforts in the areas surrounding the evacuation zone, as I have announced earlier. Based on what we know at present - in other words, based on the monitoring that we are conducting with regard to the level of radiation - as long as the circumstances surrounding the nuclear power stations do not worsen more than they already have, we are not currently making any considerations to expand the size of the evacuation zone.

REPORTER: Do you mean to say that you cannot deny the possibility that the period of evacuation might not just end in months but carry on for years?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY EDANO: I have just answered that question.

REPORTER: In relation to that, judging from what you just said, can I assume that the evacuation order will be lifted gradually in consideration of the radiation levels in the region? Are you saying that the order will not be lifted all at once, but incrementally according to the situation in each region?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY EDANO: After concluding the situation in the nuclear power station to a certain extent, various kinds of monitoring operations will be carried out as final confirmation measures, and based on the results of these operations we will make a decision. That is all I can say.

REPORTER: So you won't rescind the instructions to evacuate all at once?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY EDANO: It depends on the results of monitoring at that stage.

REPORTER: I hear that a part of Kawamata Town and Minamisoma City will be designated as Planned Evacuation Zones. Could you read out which districts will be affected, if you have that information?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY EDANO: Detail on this will be provided later by NISA, together with handouts and maps.

REPORTER: Concerning the highly irradiated water, TEPCO yesterday announced that they estimate water 30,000 times more radioactive than that which they intentionally released, leaked into the sea. Some seem to believe that a considerable amount of radioactive materials are still collecting in the sea near the power station, and have pointed out the risk of that these may spread on the tide to other areas. What do you think about this?

CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY EDANO: In any case, no matter how such material made it into the sea, as I have repeatedly said, we are taking the possibility seriously that a large amount of radioactive materials has been released due to these accidents. We have reinforced our monitoring operations in steps since the discovery of the possibility that this water leaked out of the station. I believe a certain estimate was presented concerning the amount leaked following the disaster. We will step up our monitoring efforts further regarding the actual impact on the marine environment in the area, and continue to strictly survey the situation so that it does not cause any adverse impact on the economy or human health in particular.