On June 23rd and 24th I attended the Citizen-Scientist International Symposium held in Inawashiro, Fukushima along with a few other Safecast members. The symposium was entitled the “Scientific basis for investigating into health effects of the disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant and for establishing required future measures” and drew experts from throughout Japan and around the world. Two organizations that are partnering with Safecast by sharing radiation measurements were participating in the event: symposium co-host “Citizens’ Radioactivity Measuring Station“ and cooperating organization “National Parents Network to Protect Children from Radiation” (the Fukushima bureau is partnering with Safecast.) The symposium was made possible through the planning and management of the many hosting and cooperating organizations including many located in Fukushima. The symposium brought together scientists and citizens one year after the Fukushima Nuclear Accident to discuss the effect of radioactive emissions on soil, food and health, and to learn what types of research and activities various organizations and research institutions have been undertaking.
At the symposium I learned that there are researchers and medical doctors who are continuing to closely assist people in Fukushima dealing with anxiety from the stresses stemming from the events of and recovery from last year. Honestly speaking, learning about these people’s efforts was a pleasant surprise and I believe this type of support must be heartening. Their dedication reminds me of the story of Dr. Masazumi Harada who recently passed away. Dr. Harada began treated patients of Minamata Disease from the early days. I had the chance to meet him once and he was a friendly doctor with a sincere smile who never forgot to consider how things seemed from a patient’s perspective. It is hard to fathom how much Dr. Harada helped the patients of Minamata. At the symposium I realized there were many researchers and doctors serving the people in Fukushima in the style of Dr. Harada.
This symposium aimed to provide a platform for scientists to share their research with general citizens so that the understanding could be put to use in their everyday lives.
Presentations included: ”Genetic Effect of Radiation” (Norio Niikawa/ Health Sciences University of Hokkaido)”, “Estimation of radioactive fallout over land and ocean after the accident at Fukushima Dai-ichi Power Plant” (Masayuki Takigawa/ Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology), and ”Internal Contamination of Fukushima Citizens: what we learned from the recent whole body counter measurements.”（Ryugo Hayano/ The University of Tokyo, Physics Department.）Further topics included the present state of agricultural crops, and the danger of low level radiation and internal exposure. My impression from hearing their presentations and discussions was that not only are many of the researchers themselves obviously very focused on the developments in Fukushima from a research perspective, but their concern is on a very personal level as well.
The symposium hall
Each day ended with panel discussions in which experts from various fields sitting around a round table like on “Asa Made Nama Terebi” [late-night live TV program in Japan with discussion of political issues.] The symposium attendees sat nearby and listened to the discussion.
There are many things going on presently in Fukushima that aren’t known by the rest of the world. The government’s botched response after the nuclear accident in Fukushima has already been exposed and is widely known, but until I heard it directly from the Fukushima citizens I didn’t know about all the problems with the government’s handling of health related issues including health exams and policies, etc.
For example, even though the amount of class time held outside on school yard is limited to 2 hours per day, it is not mandatory for students to wear a filtering face mask when outside. Another example: if children who are given thyroid gland exams are found to have higher than normal doses of radiation which fall under the official threshold, they are not allowed to receive further exams. Under normal medical practice, it is a matter of course that if they so desire any individual or guardian can request and obtain an additional exam. However in Fukushima no matter how much concerned parents request further tests for their children, they are not allowed to be retested for two and half years. The reason given is that “it will cause anxiety in the local community.” Actually the current situation is causing more anxiety.
Parents in Fukushima said that on a daily basis they question whether they really made the right decision in terms of their children’s welfare to stay in Fukushima and they aren’t sure what type of food is safe to give to their children.
As you know, Safecast is an organization that measures radiation levels. After attending the symposium I feel more strongly that Fukushima’s needs for the efforts of gathering of quality data are not going away.
Safecast did not present at this symposium, but we (Pieter Franken, Joe Moross and other volunteers) were able to introduce the activities of Safecast to many people.
Safecast’s Pieter, Joe, and Hideki Washiyama with Lake Inawashiro at their back. 。
I also want to mention, that attendance to the symposium was free of charge. My hat goes off to the organizers for their efforts and drive to be able to pull of such an impressive conference without charging the attendees. Thank you!
Translation: Stephen Rife
PS: An hour to the west of Inawashiro, at a closed-down elementary school in Aizumisato Safecast members are working on a b-geiger counter. It is such a beautiful area surrounded by rice paddies. At night, you can enjoy lightning bugs and a sky full of stars.
Monitoring Post at a closed-down elementary school in Aizumisato. It is solar powered.