Press Conference by the Deputy Press Secretary, 21 April 2011

  1. Present situation after the Great East Japan Earthquake
  2. Kyiv Summit on Safety and Innovative Use of Nuclear Energy
  3. Visit to Japan by the Hon. Julia Gillard, Prime Minister of Australia
  4. Questions concerning the TEPCO roadmap
  5. Questions concerning press briefings
  6. Questions concerning the 20km "restricted area"
  7. Questions concerning temporary entry into the "restricted area"

  1. Present situation after the Great East Japan Earthquake
  2. Deputy Press Secretary Hidenobu Sobashima: Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen. Welcome.

    Mr. Sobashima: First, on the present situation after the Great East Japan Earthquake. As of yesterday at 18:00 we have received offers of assistance from 142 countries and territories, as well as 39 international organizations. We are grateful for those countries, territories and international organizations, and indeed, for all the people around the world for their support. I think you are aware that last Sunday, 17 April, the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) announced a roadmap towards restoration from the accident at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station. As targets, they set Step 1 and Step 2. If Step 1 is achieved, the radiation dose will become in steady decline. This is the target to be achieved in around three months. After the completion of Step 1, they have Step 2, if achieved, where the release of radioactive material is under control, and the radiation dose is being significantly held down. These are to be achieved in about three to six months after achieving Step 1. To achieve these targets they have listed countermeasures under the three categories of (i) cooling, (ii) mitigation and (iii) monitoring and decontamination in five areas. The first is "cooling the reactors". The second is "cooling the spent fuel pools". The first two areas are for cooling. For mitigation, as the third area, they have containment, storing, processing and reuse of water contaminated by radioactive materials. Then, as a fourth area, still under the category of mitigation, "mitigation of the release of radioactive materials to the atmosphere and from soil". Finally as a fifth area, this is in the field of monitoring and decontamination, "measurement, reduction and announcement of radiation dose in the evacuation order area, planned evacuation area, and emergency evacuation preparation area". By announcing this roadmap they presented an overview of the problems of Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station and their countermeasures. 65 countermeasures are identified in the tables that they have provided. Following the announcement of the roadmap by TEPCO, Minister Kaieda, Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry, welcomed this roadmap as an important step forward, and said that the Government would like to move from the emergency response phase to the plan and stabilizing action phase. He said that the Government will request that TEPCO ensure the implementation of this roadmap steadily, and as early as possible. He also said that at the end of Step 2, when the release of radioactive material is under control, the Government will, following the advice of the Nuclear Safety Commission of Japan, review the designated areas for evacuation.

    Today Prime Minister Kan visits Fukushima Prefecture. He already met the Governor of the prefecture and visited the Government headquarters there, and he is visiting evacuation centers.

    Earlier today, Chief Cabinet Secretary Edano announced that the Government has designated the area within a 20km radius from Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station as a restricted area. Some may translate this keikai kuiki into an "alert area". Some newspapers described this area as the "no entry zone", but anyway, the restricted area, in accordance with the Basic Act on Disaster Countermeasures, effective as of 0:00 tomorrow. The Government already advised residents to evacuate outside that 20km zone, but this 20km zones will have this legal meaning from tomorrow on. These are about current situation. As you know, we have been continuing daily briefings for diplomatic missions and also for foreign media every day, and we hope that through these and others, foreigners will monitor the situation calmly, and that foreign governments will refrain from excessive measures, particularly import restriction measures on exports from Japan, taking into account the information we provide.

  3. Kyiv Summit on Safety and Innovative Use of Nuclear Energy
  4. Mr. Sobashima: We have distributed the text of the speech by Mr. Chiaki Takahashi, State Secretary for Foreign Affairs of Japan at the Kyiv Summit on Safety and Innovative Use of Nuclear Energy on 19 April, last Wednesday. He attended this Kyiv Summit and expressed the appreciation of the Government of Japan to the international community for their sympathies and offers of support, and explained the current situation after the Great East Japan Earthquake, particularly the situation of Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station. He explained the difference of the Japanese accident and the Chernobyl accident. He also mentioned the roadmap announced by TEPCO that I mentioned earlier and expressed his determination to continue to share information and the experience of Japan with the international community for the purpose of ensuring the safety of nuclear energy. The participants at the summit adopted the Declaration by Heads of States, Governments and the Representatives of the participating States and Organizations at the Kyiv Summit on Safety and Innovative Use of Nuclear Energy. They attached importance to the safety of nuclear energy and to cooperation in the international community, including sharing information.

  5. Visit to Japan by the Hon. Julia Gillard, Prime Minister of Australia
  6. Mr. Sobashima: Finally, on the visit to Japan by the Hon. Julia Gillard, Prime Minister of Australia. Prime Minister Gillard arrived in Japan yesterday evening, to pay an official working visit. Earlier today, she had a breakfast meeting with Japanese parliamentarians and she met the Emperor and Empress. She had a luncheon meeting with Japanese business leaders. This afternoon, Foreign Minister Matsumoto will be paying a courtesy call on the visiting Prime Minister, followed by a summit meeting between the Japanese and Australian prime ministers, and their joint press conference in the Prime Minister's Office. Tomorrow, Prime Minister Gillard will be making her policy speech at the National Press Club. She will be attending events later tomorrow. On Saturday, weather permitting, she will be visiting Minami-Sanrikucho, where the Australian rescue team had activities. So these are what I would like to share with you today. Now I invite your questions. Yes, please?

  7. Questions concerning the TEPCO roadmap
  8. Q: I have two questions, the first one I guess I will do now. You talked about the nine-month target deadline for the wrapping up of the nuclear incident. I understand that there is debate among experts about whether or not that actual target is going to be met or not, and it depends on how things go from now in terms of how smoothly the issue goes. What I would like to know is at this point, at the point that the target has been published, how should we interpret this nine-month framework? Is it a promise? Is it just kind of a goal? In other words, with how much confidence, as a firm deadline, has this nine-month framework been proposed by TEPCO and endorsed by the Government?

    Mr. Sobashima: Thank you. These targets were made by TEPCO. They said around three months for Step 1, and for Step 2 after the completion of Step 1, three to six months; so in total, around nine months. So this is their timeline. Minister Kaieda requested TEPCO to steadily implement their measures in accordance with this timeframe, and also he urged them to accelerate this to the extent possible. These targets were established by TEPCO. The Government acknowledged and the Government requested TEPCO to implement them steadily and to the extent possible, even to accelerate the implementation.

    Q: So would it be accurate to characterize it as something the Government hopes TEPCO meets, and that is about as far as it goes?

    Mr. Sobashima: These targets were established by TEPCO themselves, and we acknowledged them and requested them to implement the countermeasures to achieve these targets as quickly as possible. In any event we hope for the resolution of the problems as early as possible.

  9. Questions concerning press briefings
  10. Q: The briefing that will happen... is it for foreigners?

    Mr. Sobashima: Yes, the briefing for the foreign missions, embassies and international organizations, is conducted in MOFA in the afternoon. For the foreign journalists, in principle, it is in the Prime Minister's Office. Some weekends, the venue may be changed to the Foreign Press Center, for example. In principle, the daily briefings for the foreign journalists are conducted in the Prime Minister's Office. The invitation is dispatched every day. The briefings for foreign journalists take place later in the evening – from 19:00, 19:30 or 20:00 normally.

  11. Questions concerning the 20km "restricted area"
  12. Q: My other question relates to the 20km exclusion zone. As you suggested tonight at midnight, or 00:00 tomorrow, this 20km exclusion zone will have legal meaning. A lot of people have been entering that zone up until this point, from journalists and local people to even animal activists who want to save pets. So what changes tomorrow? If police nab somebody inside the 20km zone, what happens? Does this have any practical effect or is this sort of just a declaration of intent to give it legal meaning?

    Mr. Sobashima: My answer may be a little too abstract to you, but what I would like to say is that this restricted area is the area designated in the Basic Act on Disaster Countermeasures. We have a law, this law, and in accordance with the articles of the law there may be some measures that the authorities would take. We may enforce the implementation of these articles. The measures to be taken in accordance with the law will have an enforcement element.

    Q: Just a very simple factual question – the actual Act, what is written in the law, what powers does it provide to the Government to enforce these measures potentially?

    Mr. Sobashima: For the purpose of protecting the residents of the areas affected by disasters, the authorities may take the appropriate measures. In accordance with the law, we have an enforcement element. Therefore, the difference is the level of enforcement. Perhaps for protecting the people, we may enforce them outside of the area when necessary. Again, I am answering in general terms. What I would like to emphasize is that actions will be taken in accordance with this law. Enforcement will be possible only in the manner written in the law. What sort of specific action can be taken should be checked against the provisions of the law.

  13. Questions concerning temporary entry into the "restricted area"
  14. Q: What about visits into the zone for families?

    Mr. Sobashima: We understand that already, almost all the residents are outside the 20km area. However, there seem to be some instances of residents returning home for a while. The Government is now considering measures for how to make it possible for those who wish to return to their homes for a short while to collect precious articles, et cetera. Currently, all residents are requested to evacuate from the 20km zone. Therefore, nobody, basically nobody should be there except for those workers implementing countermeasures vis-à-vis the problems of the nuclear power station, or the police or the Self-Defense Forces personnel for the purposes of patrolling and other official duties. Except for those, there should be nobody there within this 20km zone.

    Can I conclude now? Thank you very much.

Back to Index