Unwanted radioactive soil from Fukushima sent to Japan’s Environment Ministry

An anonymous sender earlier this month mailed a package to the Environment Ministry apparently containing dirt contaminated by radioactive fallout from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant that was later dumped in an empty lot near a ministry official’s home in Saitama Prefecture, Environment Minister Goshi Hosono revealed Thursday.

The ministry received another box Wednesday, apparently from the same sender.

Hosono apologized to the public at a news conference and said the officials involved in discarding the soil would be punished. The names of the officials were not released.

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Japan to set up new nuclear safety watchdog

Japan will set up a new nuclear safety watchdog under the auspices of the Environment Ministry, it said on Friday, part of an effort to tighten safety standards after an earthquake and tsunami triggered the world’s worst nuclear crisis in 25 years.

The Environment Ministry, while less powerful than the trade ministry which previously both regulated and promoted nuclear power, is seen as relatively untainted by the collusive ties with industry which plagued the existing safety agency.

The new agency will, as expected, combine the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) with another government advisory body. Experts have warned that the organization change alone may not be enough to restore tattered public faith in Japanese utilities or ensure effective oversight.

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