Hagiuda vows to promote scrapping of Fukushima plant as top priority

© Kyodo News

Industry minister Koichi Hagiuda pledged to promote the decommissioning of the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant and recovery of the area as a top priority during his first visit Sunday to the northeastern Japan prefecture since assuming office.

Hagiuda also told Fukushima Gov. Masao Uchibori and the mayors of municipalities hosting the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant that his ministry will make its "best efforts" to release treated radioactive water from the facility hit by a massive earthquake and tsunami in March 2011.

Prime Minister Fumio Kishida is also arranging a trip to the Fukushima Daiichi complex over the next weekend as part of his first visit to the Tohoku region as leader of the country, government sources said.

Uchibori requested in his meeting with Hagiuda at the prefectural government office that the central government tackle issues such as the lifting of an evacuation order for residents near the crippled power plant.

Futaba Mayor Shiro Izawa and Okuma Mayor Jun Yoshida later jointly asked the minister that the state take effective measures against the reputational damage associated with the planned discharge of treated water.

The mayors also warned Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc., the operator of the plant, against sloppy management of radioactive waste at the power facility.

"The state, instead of TEPCO, will lead the decommissioning of (Fukushima Daiichi) reactors," Hagiuda told reporters after the meetings.

Japan is planning to begin discharging treated water into the sea from around the spring of 2023.

Water pumped into the ruined reactors at the Fukushima plant to cool the melted fuel, mixed with rain and groundwater that has also been contaminated, is treated using an advanced liquid processing system, while a low level of tritium remains in the water.

TEPCO Chairman Yoshimitsu Kobayashi, who accompanied Hagiuda on his tour of the power plant, met with Uchibori on Monday as part of his first visit to Fukushima since assuming his post in June.

Local fishermen remain opposed to the planned discharge of treated water as it could harm the reputation of Fukushima seafood, and Kobayashi told reporters after the meeting that he will "hold further dialogue (with locals) to enhance their understanding toward the safety steps."