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Thursday, 21 August 2014

Local leaders seek disclosure of testimony by former nuclear plant chief

August 21, 2014

Leaders of local governments near the stricken Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant want the testimony given by the plant manager months after the accident to be disclosed.

The Asahi Shimbun ascertained that eight local leaders want full disclosure after seeking the views of the Fukushima governor and heads of 13 cities, towns and villages located within 20 kilometers of the plant and areas outside the 20-km radius where radiation levels were more than 20 millisieverts per year.

Masao Yoshida was plant chief when the March 11, 2011, Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami set off the nuclear accident.

He gave hours of testimony to the government's Investigation Committee on the Accident at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Stations, and died in July 2013 from esophageal cancer. Tokyo Electric Power Co., operator of the plant, said Yoshida's cancer was not related to radiation exposure.

The survey also revealed that five of the leaders said there would be no problem if their own interviews with the government investigation panel were made public.

After the onset of nuclear crisis, the government’s investigation panel interviewed 770 officials and others involved in the disaster.

Although the central government currently plans to publicly disclose part of those records by the end of the year, it will not release the contents of Yoshida's interview, citing Yoshida’s request not to disclose his testimony.

The Asahi Shimbun asked Fukushima Governor Yuhei Sato, as well as those who served as leaders of the 13 municipalities at the onset of the disaster, for interviews.

Kawamata Mayor Michio Furukawa, who served on the investigative panel, and former Hirono Mayor Motohoshi Yamada refused to comment on The Asahi Shimbun's inquiries, while Katsuya Endo, former Tomioka mayor, died in July after the newspaper asked for an interview.

Of the 11 local leaders interviewed by The Asahi Shimbun, the mayors of Futaba and Okuma, which host the Fukushima No. 1 plant, as well as leaders in Namie, Minami-Soma, Naraha, Kawauchi, Katsurao and Iwaki, said Yoshida’s testimony should be made public. The Fukushima governor and mayors of Tamura and Iitate were undecided.

Six of the 11 leaders said they were interviewed by the government panel, and five of them said they would not mind if their accounts were disclosed.

The central government is trying to ascertain if the hundreds of people who were interviewed mind if their statements are released into the public domain. It has said it will disclose the contents if it gets their approval.

Exceptions will be testimonies whose disclosure could infringe on the rights of third parties or compromise national security, officials said.

Goshi Hosono, who served as minister in charge of the nuclear accident under the Democratic Party of Japan-led administration at the time of the disaster, said he does not mind if his statements are publicly disclosed.
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