Home > Reconstruction following the Great East Japan Earthquake > Press conferences > Chief Cabinet Secretary > May 2011 > Press Conference by Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Tetsuro Fukuyama
Reconstruction following the Great East Japan Earthquake
May 23, 2011(AM)
Press Conference by Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Tetsuro Fukuyama
Opening Statement by Deputy Chief Cabinet Secretary Tetsuro Fukuyama
DEPUTY CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUKUYAMA: I have two items to report to you. Today, in accordance with Article 20, Paragraph 3 of the Act on Special Measures Concerning Nuclear Emergency Preparedness, it was decided to lift the restrictions on shipment of log-grown shiitake mushrooms grown outside in certain designated areas of Fukushima Prefecture. Instructions to this effect have been communicated to the governor of Fukushima Prefecture. For further details please direct your questions to the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare (MHLW) and the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (MAFF). The details will be announced by MHLW and MAFF, but the lifting of restrictions on this occasion applies to the village of Kawauchi.
The second report concerns the planned evacuation zones that have been established in the village of Iitate and the town of Kawamata. Yesterday marked exactly one month since the implementation of evacuations and I am aware that further evacuations took place yesterday. I would like to express the appreciation of the Government for the understanding of the residents and leaders of Iitate and Kawamata and for their efforts in undertaking the evacuations, which have caused them great hardship.
REPORTER: Yesterday I believe that representatives of the Government met with Nuclear Safety Commission (NSC) Chair Haruki Madarame, and there have also been questions asked today in the Diet. Could you provide further explanation of the case concerning the injection of seawater on March 12?
DEPUTY CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUKUYAMA: Yesterday NSC Chair Madarame came to the Prime Minister's Office, where a meeting was held, at which I was also present, in which the facts of the case you mention were discussed. Yesterday Mr. Madarame stated himself that he had not made any statements that there could have been a dangerous situation. Given that Mr. Madarame had requested a correction of the statement that had been made and in order to share information on the facts of the matter among those who were present, it was decided to hold this meeting at the Prime Minister's Office. The facts of the matter are that on the day in question a meeting was held from six o'clock, at which the Prime Minister was present, but at that point there had not been any report from Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) concerning the experimental injection of seawater. Therefore at that point the persons present at the meeting were totally unaware of whether the experimental injection of seawater was being implemented or not, or even whether there were plans to implement such an operation. However, it was on the afternoon of that day that a hydrogen explosion occurred, and in the course of discussions on what was occurring at the plant and whether the explosion had been caused by a hydrogen or water vaporization explosion, we discussed a variety of possibilities, and given that the pure water were cut to the plant the possibility of injecting seawater was discussed. Although it was recognized by the persons present that seawater should be injected, it was the case that the hydrogen explosion had just occurred and there had not at that point been a clear explanation from TEPCO concerning the causes and reasons for that explosion, though we now know for sure that it was a hydrogen explosion. Therefore we asked Mr. Madarame about the various possibilities and discussed them. In the course of those discussions we discussed whether or not the injection of seawater would be likely to cause a recriticality and Mr. Madarame responded, "the possibility is not zero." As it was still the second day following the accident, the Government took his comments with all due seriousness as the opinion of an expert and the representative of TEPCO who had been dispatched to the Prime Minister's Office also indicated that it would take some time before seawater could be injected. Given the premise that it would take time for preparations to inject seawater, it was decided to use that time to confirm and consider whether the injection of seawater would be likely to cause a recriticality and instructions were given to the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) to that effect. It was agreed that a report would be required within approximately one hour, by eight o'clock, after which the meeting was adjourned. I repeat, therefore, that at that point we were unaware that TEPCO had plans to inject seawater, or that it was making preparations to do so, or that from shortly after seven o'clock it had begun the injection of seawater. It is therefore impossible for the Prime Minister to have ordered that the injection of seawater be stopped at that point.
REPORTER: On a related note, after the meeting yesterday, according to a number of press reports, Mr. Madarame is reported as having stated that he does not recall what he actually said at that time. I would like to ask if the final analysis of the facts of this matter, as they will appear in the reports of the Government accident inquiry committee and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) fact-finding mission, will be the same as the Government has announced, or whether there is a possibility that they will be changed as we move forward?
DEPUTY CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUKUYAMA: When we met yesterday, Mr. Madarame stated that in his position as a scientist he has used the phrase "the possibility is not zero" on a number of occasions, and also stated that he could have used this phrase at the time of the meeting in question. He has also stated in his responses to questions in the Diet that he did say, "the possibility is not zero." It is therefore my understanding that the facts of this matter will not change in the future.
REPORTER: Many press organizations have reported that many people at the Prime Minister's office have stated that the Prime Minister stated, "I have not heard that." Why would they be saying such a thing?
DEPUTY CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUKUYAMA: I cannot understand why they would be saying such a thing.
REPORTER: Does that imply that you think they are lying?
DEPUTY CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUKUYAMA: No, what I am saying is that I cannot understand why they would say such a thing. Looking in press reports I cannot know whether those comments were made by those actually present in the meeting and as Special Advisor Hosono was also present yesterday at the meeting I checked the content with him. Some reports suggested that I have presented a proposal of some kind, but rather than present a proposal, what I did was confirm with Mr. Madarame that he made a statement to that effect, which Mr. Madarame himself confirmed. We then agreed to correct the facts concerning the meeting of March 12.
REPORTER: According to your explanation, in response to questions Mr. Madarame has accepted that there is a possibility he made such a statement. If that is the case, who raised the issue of the possibility of a recriticality in the meeting held from six o'clock?
DEPUTY CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUKUYAMA: In actual fact, in meetings like that one a number of different people talk about various possibilities. Discussions on what could happen in the worst-case scenario have been discussed on various occasions and not just in that one meeting. Therefore, in the meeting at that time it was the case that the hydrogen explosion had just occurred and the possibility of a recriticality was discussed as one of a number of scenarios. Although I do not remember clearly who said what, I think it is possible that the Prime Minister asked about the possibility of a recriticality, which is extremely natural, given that the point of the meeting was to consider the various possibilities and scenarios.
REPORTER: This is not a question about the content of the meeting, but rather about the delay in injecting seawater, which, it has been noted, could have had an impact on the way the accident unfolded. What is the Government's view on the impact of this delay?
DEPUTY CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUKUYAMA: What do you mean by delay?
REPORTER: When I say "delay," I mean the fact that the injection of seawater was stopped and then later restarted.
DEPUTY CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUKUYAMA: The decision to stop the injection of seawater was not made by the Government, but by TEPCO. As we were unaware of the experimental injection of seawater, it is not possible for an order to have been given to halt such an operation. In any case, as it was understood that it would take an hour to an hour-and-a-half to start the injection of seawater, it was decided to use that time to direct NISA to confirm the possibility of a recriticality. Regardless of whether it was delayed or not, the Government was unaware that the injection of seawater was being implemented at that time. It was around eight o'clock, or five minutes after eight, that Minister Kaieda issued an instruction to stare the injection of seawater and the actual injection was begun at twenty-past-eight. Therefore I cannot understand why it would be pointed out that the injection of seawater was delayed.
REPORTER: I think that part of the reason this issue has arisen is because tapes or minutes of meetings are not taken. Are there in fact minutes of the meeting, or if there are not, what do you think about the lack of a record of the meeting?
DEPUTY CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUKUYAMA: In a way I understand why you would ask such a question now, but at that time the situation was highly fluid and uncertain, and there was very limited information available. The power supply to the nuclear power station had failed and damage had been caused by the earthquake and tsunami, which had been followed by the hydrogen explosion. While I can understand your question about keeping records of meetings, the situation at that time was one in which we made judgments by the minute and it was therefore not possible to take such a record of the meeting.
REPORTER: You have stated that the experimental injection of seawater, which carried with it the possibility of causing a recriticality, was implemented without the involvement of the Prime Minister's Office and that it was implemented based on a decision by TEPCO. I think this is an important point, because notwithstanding the possibility of a recriticality, this experimental injection of seawater was implemented without the knowledge of the Prime Minister's Office and it was only disclosed after it had been raised in press reports.
DEPUTY CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUKUYAMA: I have checked the legal standing of this matter and under the stipulations of legislation and regulations relating to nuclear power it is possible for the operator, in this case TEPCO, to make a decision. I would like to confirm with TEPCO what the basis for that judgment was. However, as the Government was unaware that experimental injection of seawater was being implemented, in response to Mr. Madarame's comment that "the possibility is not zero," it was decided to instruct NISA to confirm the possibility of a recriticality in the intervening period while preparations for injection were being made.
REPORTER: That is not what I am asking. It is a fact that the experimental injection of seawater was implemented without the knowledge of the Government. Also, the disclosure of the facts of this matter was delayed. What are your thoughts about the fact that it has taken until now for the facts to come to light?
DEPUTY CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUKUYAMA: I would like to confirm that.
REPORTER: I have a question on a slightly different topic related to the nuclear power station incident. Yesterday, it came to light that according to the procedures described in a manual for Unit 1 of TEPCO's Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, the pressure inside the vessel had risen to a level that requires a venting operation 13 hours before the hydrogen explosion occurred.
DEPUTY CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUKUYAMA: Sorry, can you speak a little louder?
REPORTER: I'm sorry. Regarding the hydrogen explosion at Unit 1 of Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, it was reported that 13 hours before the explosion, the pressure inside the reactor was already at a level at which a venting operation could have been carried out. According to the report, 13 hours later the reactor exploded due to the delay of the venting operation. Can you confirm the facts as well as once again tell us the Government's view on why TEPCO delayed the venting operation for such a long length of time?
DEPUTY CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUKUYAMA: As we have told you, as of 1:30am in the morning, the Government as a whole shared the view that venting was necessary. From the evening of March 11, one day before the explosion occurred, the Prime Minister, Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry Kaieda, the Chief Cabinet Secretary, and Chair of the Nuclear Safety Commission Madarame gathered for the discussions on the possibility and the necessity of venting. As a result, at 1:30am, the Government gave its approval on going forward with the venting operation, and at 3am, there was a press conference. Regarding why the venting operation was delayed, we have explained this a number of times. Especially after the press conferences of Minister Kaieda, TEPCO, and the Chief Cabinet Secretary, since they had already given their press conferences and announced that venting will be conducted, the Government told TEPCO that venting should be conducted and persistently urged TEPCO to promptly start the operation and questioned why it could not start the operation. Although I believe the reasons are as TEPCO stated, the fact of the matter is that we persistently urged TEPCO to conduct the venting operation.
REPORTER: If I can confirm just one item with you. Around when did the Government find out that TEPCO was conducting a trial run of the seawater injection?
DEPUTY CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUKUYAMA: I will confirm it later.
REPORTER: Regarding the subject of seawater injection, I believe in any case the situation has raised a few questions over the credibility of the Government's announcements. What is the Government's opinion on this?
DEPUTY CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUKUYAMA: Are you referring to the announcement of the Government-TEPCO Integrated Response Office on the previous day?
DEPUTY CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUKUYAMA: You are asking me about the remarks of Chair Madarame?
REPORTER: Yes, about everything in general, including his remarks.
DEPUTY CHIEF CABINET SECRETARY FUKUYAMA: Chair Madarame requested that a correction be made on the basis of his knowledge as a scientist. Since he did actually say, "the possibility is not zero," I asked him to use that phrase in the revision. Meanwhile, on our part as the people on the other end of the discussion, since we indeed had recognized the possibility of recriticality, we allowed ourselves to make a slight revision to the language of the text. Although we believe any revision needs to be made carefully, my understanding is that at the time Chair Madarame himself said that the possibility of re-criticality was not zero and, that time permitting, the possibility of recriticality needs to be confirmed. This point came to light, and we ourselves took it upon us to make the correction.