Prime Minister NODA's BLOG

We are now enjoying quintessentially autumnal air even in the area around the Prime Minister's Office. How did you spend the three-day weekend?

On Sunday the 7th, I visited Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO)'s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station together with Minister of the Environment Mr. Hiroyuki Nagahama and others. It was my second visit there since September 2011. This time, I was able actually to enter the rooftop area of the Unit 4 nuclear reactor building.

In order to head to the reactor building, I suited up in the same protective gear as the workers. The hermetically-sealed protective clothing was stiflingly hot and I soon found myself drenched in sweat, and the oppressive feeling from the full face mask covering my head was considerable. I could not help but feel once more the harsh rigor of the work here.

The debris covering the upper section of the Unit 4 nuclear reactor building had been removed and reinforcement work had been done to protect the spent fuel pool. Last autumn I had heard that the most pressing issue was that of water circulation, and I was able to confirm the enhancement of the storage tank for retained water and the water treatment equipment with my own eyes.

I also spoke with people who had been engaged in the handling of the accident on-site immediately after the earthquake.

The starkness of working 48 hours continuously without replacements, with nothing other than water and hard emergency-ration biscuits. The terror felt by those injured by rubble that had smashed through their windshield by the blast from a hydrogen explosion. The anguish of those higher in rank upon ordering subordinates to work on the wiring amidst an atmosphere of great fear. Their sense of responsibility and their sense of duty continued to flow out in great abundance even now, clearly evident in their words as they spoke of these experiences.

I also entered the room that had served as the central control room for Units 1 and 2 at the time of the nuclear accident, where the operation room's pitch blackness resulting from the power outage was recreated for me. It was not by any means an environment in which one could work in a calm manner with proper presence of mind. I believe that it was because these workers continued to have a sense of mission and pride in their duty to maintain the nuclear reactor that they were able to summon up their courage.

I heard that even now, each day over 3,000 workers are engaged in work to decommission the reactor. I conveyed my feelings of appreciation to the people engaged in dedicated work at the site, both at the time of the accident and at present, and provided encouragement to them.

Besides the nuclear power station, I observed people who are engaged in decontamination work, in securing a temporary storage site, and in ensuring the safety of rice grown in Fukushima Prefecture.

Decontamination work will serve as the foundation for the reconstruction and rebirth of Fukushima. I instructed Minister Nagahama to compile as quickly as possible a policy package that will accelerate the pace of decontamination work. We are proceeding one step at a time down the path towards the decommissioning of the nuclear power station where the accident occurred, and we will steadily move forward in our responses, based on the roadmap addressing the medium to long term.

I observed operations at the inspection laboratory for rice, with all bags of rice subject to inspection. While we at the Prime Minister's Office are already eating the tasty rice grown in Fukushima, I intend to make sure that the cafeterias in central government ministries and agencies use Fukushima rice as well.

On the 8th, all of Japan was abuzz with the happy news that Professor Shinya Yamanaka of Kyoto University had been awarded the Nobel prize. I myself also telephoned him directly to extend to him my congratulations.

Since the change of government, the government has begun to put effort into promoting regenerative medicine as one part of "life innovations." This awarding of the Nobel prize to Professor Yamanaka, who has been conducting domestically-based research, will surely provide dreams and hope to young people and encourage them greatly. We will also have greater expectations towards the development of treatments for intractable diseases and also of new drugs.

I was struck by the fact that at his press conference, Professor Yamanaka, who has surmounted a tremendous number of trials to date, placed emphasis on "appreciation" and "a sense of responsibility." A source of courage and pride for Japan's future can be found here as well. I would like for the government to garner strength from the awarding of this prize and reinforce policy support for the enhancement of basic research and the practical application of new technologies.

We will carry through to completion the fight against the nuclear accident, a major undertaking involving Japan's trust. We will furthermore carve out the new frontier of regenerative medicine. Both of these are underpinned by the noble courage and pride of the pioneers heading down this path and those engaged in the struggle there in the field. I intend for Japan as a nation to respond properly by preparing the environment that such people require. I cannot help but think in such terms.

Yoshihiko Noda
Prime Minister of Japan
October 9, 2012

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