Saying he distrusted the government, a mayor skipped a key meeting with Cabinet ministers on Feb. 26 on hosting a temporary storage facility for radioactive soil, further frustrating decontamination efforts in Fukushima Prefecture.
The absence of Katsutaka Idogawa, mayor of Futaba town near the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, resulted in the cancellation of the meeting between the mayors of eight municipalities and nuclear accident minister Goshi Hosono and rebuilding minister Tatsuo Hirano.
The central government had expected the meeting in Koriyama, Fukushima Prefecture, to discuss the outline of a temporary storage facility that will serve as the starting point toward its goal of deciding on its site by March 2013.
But Idogawa said he was upset that the media reported about the central government’s policy on the location and land acquisition ahead of the meeting.
“I felt a great deal of fear about the government making decisions behind our back,” Idogawa told a news conference in Kazo, Saitama Prefecture, where many town officials and residents now live. “I have a high level of distrust in the government.”
The central government has been struggling to find areas where it can store the tons of radioactive soil piling up before final disposal. Unless the outline of the temporary storage facility is finalized, decontamination work in Fukushima Prefecture cannot go into high gear.
Idogawa has been opposed to the government plan to build the facility in Futaba county, which comprises the town of Futaba and seven other municipalities. The Fukushima No. 1 plant straddles the towns of Futaba and Okuma.
“It was extremely regrettable (that the meeting was canceled),” Hosono told reporters. “We want to schedule the next meeting as soon as possible and prepare to give detailed explanations on the temporary storage facility.”
Hosono and Hirano proposed to the mayors that a government-led council be set up for officials from the central and local governments to discuss the facility and other issues concerning the nuclear crisis.
Specifically, Hirano called on municipalities in Futaba county to work together on the return of evacuees, decontamination, compensation and infrastructure development in addition to the temporary storage facility.
Although Idogawa chairs an association of the eight mayors, local leaders criticized him for abruptly skipping the meeting.
“We cannot avoid addressing (the issue of the temporary storage facility),” Yuko Endo, mayor of the Kawauchi village, said. “Now is the time for the heads of the municipalities to reach a consensus on the issue.”
Fukushima Governor Yuhei Sato said it was regrettable that the meeting was canceled. He said he expects all the people involved will sit for consultations.
It was not the first time for Idogawa to frustrate government efforts to win the understanding of the local governments for the temporary storage facility.
A meeting between vice mayors of the eight municipalities and Fukushima prefectural government officials was held on Jan. 12, but Futaba’s vice mayor was absent, citing Idogawa’s policy.
Idogawa said the town has not heard the voices of residents, which he said are important in democracy.
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