Comment : Fomenting groundless fear in Japan

Some of the Japanese Press continues to shamelessly promote radiophobia. Monday, the Mainichi Shimbun alleged that the health effects of radiation exposures below 100 millisieverts remain “unknown”. The Mainichi states, “…the health effects of radiation — including from relatively low doses — are a matter of concern for many, and unknowns remain.” This contradicts a small mountain of evidence showing exposures below 100 msv are essentially harmless and further evidence that it may actually improve human health. But the Mainichi doesn’t stop there. They assert that radiation irreversibly damages DNA and mistakes can occur during DNA repair that can cause chromosomal abnormalities, mutation, and/or death. This contradicts recent discoveries in America (Livermore Laboratories) showing that DNA repair processes are more efficient with increased exposures and the degree of radiation-induced mistakes actually decrease. What’s worse, the aiding and abetting of fear proliferation has wormed its way in to the minds of “officials” who should know better. Yasuhito Sasaki, director at the Japan Radioisotope Association and former member of the ICRP, says, “There is no safe amount of radiation exposure. The less radiation one is exposed to, the better.” The Mainichi has been at the fear-inducing forefront of Japanese news media since March 11. This is but the latest example..

Today’s updates…

  • An American expert says the Fukushima accident was wholly preventable. George Apostolakis of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission said this at a Washington nuclear symposium. He points out that there was sufficient information available in the decades before Fukushima to allow Japan to technologically prevent full, prolonged power outages at nuclear plants. But, Japan’s government and power companies ignored these recommendations. Had they taken these additional steps to mitigate blackouts, it is likely Fukushima Daiichi would not have experienced its three meltdowns. (NHK World)
  • Environment/Disaster Minister Goshi Hosono confirmed that Tokyo will pay for all tsunami debris disposal costs. That is, with any local government that accepts and disposes of the tsunami rubble. In addition to disposal costs, Tokyo will pay for radioactivity tests that might ease contamination fears in the local residents. Also, the central government will provide financial aid for the expansion of existing facilities or construction of new ones. “I think this will largely resolve the concerns of the municipalities,” Hosono said. “We will continue to strongly seek everyone’s cooperation to overcome this situation.” He also stressed that none of the debris would come from Fukushima Prefecture and public concern about the fallout is groundless. (Japan Times)
  • An American human rights group says Japan has been way too slow on health checks for Fukushima residents. “A year on, we are really not seeing basic health services being offered in an accessible way and we are not seeing accurate, consistent, non-contradictory information being disclosed to people on a regular basis,” said Jane Cohen, a researcher at Human Rights Watch. “People have to at least be equipped with accurate information so that they are evaluating their situation based on real facts. There should be a clear plan and place for testing everyone in Fukushima for radiation.” Fukushima Prefecture says the 360,000 children aged up to 18 at the time of the disaster will be subject to thyroid checks for the rest of their lives. So far, 40,000 have been screened. About 380,000 children and pregnant women are eligible to have internal radiation exposure levels checked and 15,400 have done so as of January, according to the government’s website. But, Cohen says this is not nearly enough and has caused growing mistrust of authorities. She urged the government to explain the reasoning behind its decisions. “People don’t feel that they have a real picture of what their safety situation is,” she said. (Reuters)
  • A few dozen Fukushima residents may be seeking emigration to South Korea. A Japanese pastor is seeking Korean immigration for some members of his flock. Pastor and civic activist Nagato Tsuboi from Fukushima Prefecture visited the southwestern Korean county of Jangsu last month, a local official said on condition of anonymity. “He came with several South Korean estate developers and said he was looking to buy land at a place similar to Fukushima, like our county and Jeju,” he said. He added that the pastor alleges many Fukushima residents wanted a place where their children did not have to fear radiation. (Japan Times)