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Fukushima Nuclear Accident and Harmful Rumor [2011年10月17日(Mon)]

Ears of rice that bend heavily under the blue skies of Fukushima
Safety of rice has been confirmed, but….

Fukushima Nuclear Accident and Harmful Rumor

I have already reported on the “International Experts Symposium on Radiation and Health Risks” sponsored by the Nippon Foundation on September 11 and 12, in 5 series of my blogs.

The honest opinion of the experts who participated at this symposium was that the task facing the scientists today is to how to convey correct knowledge concerning radiation, not only to the people of Fukushima Prefecture and the Japanese citizens who are frightened with anxiety, but to the entire world in an easy to understand language.

“Is it necessary to go to that extent?” were the words of surprise uttered by many experts from overseas when they learned that the Fukushima prefectural government had started a full-scale and long-term health survey for all the 2 million inhabitants of the prefecture, as of August, as well as large-scale decontamination activities, and evaluated the government’s action very highly. Not only that, but it was also pointed out that the influence on the health of the people is kept to the minimum through the prompt action of evacuation and food control compared to the Chernobyl accident.

In my opening address, I mentioned that a strict verification must be carried out for the insincere attitude of the Japanese government and the Tokyo Electric Power Company. Furthermore, the news coverage, especially from some irresponsible comments made by the so-called “better informed” television commentators and specialists continued to provoke further anxieties concerning radiation health risks and magnified the harmful rumors.

Harmful rumors still continue to trouble the people of Fukushima prefecture even to this day, six months since the nuclear accident.

“The Gozan-no-okuribi”, more commonly known as “Daimonji”, an August festival in Kyoto in which five giant bonfires are lit on the mountains surrounding the city to send off the deceased family members back to the spiritual world after their return during the O-bon festival. The plan was to burn the pine trees of Rikuzentakata City, Iwate Prefecture, but it was suspended since some of the citizens protested saying that Lake Biwa will be contaminated. After some discussion, it was decided to go ahead with the original plan, but was stopped as soon as very small amount of radiation was detected.

More recently, many inquiries had come in from worried citizens for the annual fireworks display to be held in Nisshin City, Aichi Prefecture, saying that the fireworks of Fukushima pyrotechnists would be contaminated with radioactive materials, and the city authorities decided to cancel the display of fireworks from Fukushima.

On September 4, the guest panelist Professor Kunihiko Takeda of Chubu University on the nationwide TV opinion program, “Sokomade Itte Takajin Iinkai” answered to whom a fourth grader asked a question, “What would happen if we ate vegetables and beef from the Tohoku region?” “Throw them (vegetables and beef from Tohoku region) away as possible because it would be hazardous to health” was the answer from the professor which spurted a great commotion.

The people who turned their backs to the voices of many citizens that “Japan is united to support the disaster area” have amplified anxiety among the people. There are people who have made their existence known triumphantly winning fame feeding on the misfortune of others. These names must never be forgotten.

Yet there was a man, even in the depth of great sadness, who came to Japan recognizing the importance of the Symposium, despite having lost his two sons in a traffic accident just prior to his departure. He is Mr. Abel J. Gonzalez, the Vice-chair of Main Commission of International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP). “We, mankind all live in a radioactive environment. There was a question whether 20 millisieverts is a dangerous amount of radiation or not, but there are places that have high radiation such as state of Kerala in India, a region in France and in Argentina where I live. The health risk from radioactive materials in Fukushima is at a level that should not be a matter of concern. However, it is necessary for Fukushima prefectural government to carry out health risk survey to liberate people from their anxiety. There is no simple solution as to how fear could be removed and it is therefore important that experts make the utmost effort to disseminate correct knowledge to the people. It is extremely dangerous that people hurt each other by exaggerating the impact of radiation through fear and lack of knowledge. The same thing is about to happen in Fukushima. Japan has taken good initiative to prevent serious damages.” These are the words of Mr. Gonzalez.

There were 10 reporters from NHK and 7 from Asahi Shimbun Newspaper that came to cover this international symposium. I do not expect them to agree wholly to what has been discussed at the symposium, but it is my utmost desire that the media cooperate with us to contribute to take away the anxiety of the people of Fukushima, even in the least, through their accurate coverage.

There are still 40 countries that ban partial or total import of Japanese food and agricultural products due to damage caused by unnecessary rumor that prevail not only in Japan but throughout the world. Let us all work together as citizens of Japan for the quick reconstruction of Fukushima and other victimized regions of our country with each of us understanding radiation correctly.
Posted by Y.Sasakawa at 09:00 | URL | comment(0)
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