TEPCO sites in Fukushima should hold contaminated waste: vice minister

A vice education minister has said that Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s facilities in Fukushima Prefecture should take charge of disposing of radiation-contaminated waste, calling the northeastern Japan prefecture "uninhabitable" due to the nuclear accident.

"We should place it (waste) in TEPCO's facilities in Fukushima which has become uninhabitable for people due to the nuclear accident," Yoshitaka Sakurada was quoted Monday as telling a gathering of lawmakers from Chiba Prefecture on Saturday.

Sakurada made the remarks after one of the participating mayors called on him to tackle the issue of disposing of ash contaminated with cesium.

He told Kyodo News later that he was not referring to Fukushima as a whole but rather to TEPCO's facilities there, including the stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.

Under the government's waste-disposal policy, each prefectural government should dispose of "designated waste" -- sewage, ash and other waste with a radioactive cesium concentration of over 8,000 becquerels per kilogram -- found in its own region.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said in Monday's press conference that he had reprimanded Sakurada for his remarks, saying "They should not make comments that could cause misunderstanding."

Some mayors in Ibaraki and Tochigi prefectures where construction of disposal facilities is planned have argued that such waste should be concentrated in Fukushima, but the Environment Ministry has dismissed the idea, saying it "would seriously affect waste disposal and decontamination work in Fukushima Prefecture."