For Kan and former Cabinet members, disclosure of Fukushima testimony a non-issue

June 06, 2014

THE ASAHI SHIMBUN

Ten politicians interviewed by a government investigative panel on the cause of the Fukushima nuclear disaster are in favor of their accounts being released to the public, The Asahi Shimbun has found.

The finding will likely add to growing public pressure on the Abe administration to disclose the records.

Among those who gave consent is Naoto Kan, the prime minister who spearheaded the Democratic Party of Japan-led government’s response to the March 2011 disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

“I left the decision to disclose the content of the hearings to Yotaro Hatamura and other officials,” said Kan, referring to the chairman of the government’s Investigation Committee on the Accident at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Stations. “They should be released to the greatest extent possible unless the current administration decides to handle disclosure in an arbitrary manner.”

Of 72 politicians interviewed by The Asahi Shimbun, 11 acknowledged they were questioned by the investigative panel. Of these, 10 concurred on the release in full or with conditions.

Former Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano was comfortable with disclosure.

“I will not oppose it as long as the records are not made available arbitrarily as a result of political intervention with regard to whose testimonies are subject to disclosure and which portions will be released,” Edano said in a statement.

Earlier, the newspaper acquired a copy of the testimony given by the late Masao Yoshida, who was the manager of the plant. It provided a detailed first-hand account of the circumstances as to the scope of the disaster triggered by the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami unfolded.

Tetsuro Fukuyama, a former deputy chief Cabinet secretary and one of the 11 interviewees, calls for rules to be drawn up with regard to the release of such materials. He called for consideration to be given to privacy issues and taking steps to prevent arbitrary disclosure.

Yoshihide Suga, the current chief Cabinet secretary and the government's most senior spokesman, told a news conference June 5 that the government “intends to release (the records) to the extent necessary” if those who testified give consent.

Suga has instructed the Cabinet Secretariat’s office, where the records are kept, to begin ascertaining the intention of the interviewees about the disclosure.

The government’s committee held hearings with 772 people.

Goshi Hosono and Manabu Terata, special advisers to Kan, were also in favor of the disclosure.

“I strongly hope that the records will be released,” Terata said. “I believe that my recollection (of the disaster) is public property.”

Motohisa Ikeda, former senior vice minister of the ministry of economy, trade and industry who headed the off-site emergency response center, declined to give an answer.

Toshimi Kitazawa, former defense minister, and Yoshito Sengoku, former deputy chief Cabinet secretary, said they were not interviewed by the committee.

Members of the government’s panel agreed before embarking on the interviews in July 2011 that, in principle, hearings will be conducted behind closed doors and with a small number of people.

They also agreed that the panel will disclose the contents of the hearings in an appropriate manner if the interviewees agreed to it.

But successive governments have denied public access to the records and did not name the individuals who were questioned by the panel.

(This article was written by Asako Myoraku and Kazuo Ikejiri.)

THE ASAHI SHIMBUN
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Naoto Kan presides over an emergency Cabinet meeting after the Great East Japan Earthquake. The meeting was held at the prime minister's office on March 16, 2011. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

Naoto Kan presides over an emergency Cabinet meeting after the Great East Japan Earthquake. The meeting was held at the prime minister's office on March 16, 2011. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

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  • Naoto Kan presides over an emergency Cabinet meeting after the Great East Japan Earthquake. The meeting was held at the prime minister's office on March 16, 2011. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

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