I will retire from my role as Minister of the Environment today, September 11. My final press conference was held yesterday, and I was asked about my impressions on the events in which I had been involved over the past year. I spoke about what came to my mind—measures to cope with marine plastic pollution, the promotion of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, regulations on nuclear power generation, welfare and management of animals, visit to national parks to promote tourism, and operational reforms of Shinjuku Gyoen National Garden. The range of issues I got involved in was really wide and varied. I also referred to my official letter addressed to Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings, Inc. (TEPCO) requesting for a reduction of the coal-fired power generation.
With regard to the issue of the treated water stored at TEPCO’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, I dared to say, “There is no other way except discharging the treated water into the Pacific Ocean and diluting it. I am aware that we will face many difficulties—fishermen will be hit hard by harmful rumors and we will receive criticism from neighboring countries—but we will have to draw a conclusion on this issue at some point.” “The treated water meets the scientific safety standards for radioactivity. The current and former Chairmen of the Nuclear Regulation Authority have made it clear that the treated water should be discharged into the ocean and be diluted. Other nuclear power stations in the world are actually doing so, and no harm has been reported.” Finally, I stressed, “Most important thing is that the government should guarantee its compensation of damages to fishermen and other potential victims, and fully explain to consumers in and outside Japan the safety of the treated water based on the world’s scientific standards of radioactivity. If this can be accomplished, I firmly believe that the discharge of the treated water into the ocean will be understood by the people of the world.”
If you visit Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, you will see several hundreds of tanks, each of which stores the treated water. These storage tanks will fill up in 2 to 3 years’ time, and we will have to find an alternative vast storage site. People should be aware of the absurdity of this situation.
I had always thought that “someone has to say it,” and this probably inspired me to make the remark at the press conference. Formally, the treated water issue is under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI). However, in my view, nuclear power is a decisively important issue to the whole nation and the Nuclear Regulation Authority, an extra-ministerial bureau of the Ministry of the Environment, is the most prestigious committee in terms of implementing nuclear regulations. I have served as Minister of the Environment and concurrently, as Minister of State for Nuclear Emergency Preparedness. Besides all that, I am a member of the House of Representatives representing the nation. I will not hesitate to make a proposal which I believe is beneficial to the Japanese people. I feared that this issue would continuously be discussed among politicians and related parties without reaching any conclusion. Someone had to say this for the sake of national interest.