Tokyo shoots itself in the foot again!

Although it seems almost too bizarre to be true, the Tokyo government “angrily” says the WHO report on Fukushima public exposures is an unreal overestimation (Asahi Shimbun). Some of the WHO estimates are greater than the government has published, and Tokyo doesn’t like it one bit! “The WHO estimates deviate considerably from reality,” says one source, “If those figures are taken at face value, that may spread disquiet and confusion among the Japanese public”. What makes Tokyo’s response so strange is, first, researchers from Japan’s Radiological Sciences and the National Institute of Public health served on the WHO panel. Further, the data used for the WHO report came from the Japanese government last September! Why is Tokyo be so upset? Another official said something that seems to shed revealing light, “If they [the WHO estimates] are released, that will not only arouse unnecessary anxiety among the Japanese public but also serve as negative publicity (emphasis added).” In other words, the WHO report might give Tokyo another political black eye. But, the hit may well be self-inflicted.

The WHO report on Fukushima health impacts is based on highest-possible exposure estimates. The estimates are high because WHO assumed all people stayed in their homes for 4 months after the accident, when in-fact most quickly evacuated. Plus, the effect of sales bans on contaminated food was not included in the prognosis, which suggests over-estimation of internal exposure. Such conservative approaches are common, and Tokyo has previously used the same techniques themselves. Should the government blast WHO because they came out with a somewhat different assumption?

The public in Japan has literally lost faith in their government because of Tokyo’s penchant for naïve bungling during the F. Daiichi accident. Naoto Kan’s inept handling of the F. Daiichi crisis, combined with his censorship of information released to the public, created a chasm of suspicion that the present government has been shackled with. Instead of possibly easing the distrust situation, Tokyo adds more fuel to the fire by attacking the findings of one of the most prestigious scientific organizations in the world, and concurrently denigrates their own official data. What are they thinking? Tokyo had been offered the opportunity to recover a modicum of confidence by praising rather than criticizing the WHO report. But in an utterly confounding move, they have decided to amplify rather than mitigate voter non-confidence. Naoto Kan shot himself in the foot several times after 3/11/12. Now, the Yoshihiko Noda government may have followed suit.

  • As part of UNSCEAR’s preliminary summary findings on Fukushima accident health effects, the greatest risk to the public from Fukushima might be psychological stress. According to Evelyn Bromet, a psychiatric epidemiologist at the State University of New York, after Chernobyl evacuees were more likely to experience post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) than the population as a whole. The risk may be even greater at Fukushima. “I’ve never seen PTSD questionnaires like this,” she says of a survey being conducted by Fukushima Medical University. People are “utterly fearful and deeply angry. There’s nobody that they trust any more for information.” While the mandated evacuations kept public exposures below the threshold for biological health effects, it has not been enough to rebuild trust between the government and local residents. Mental harm has taken its toll. Tatsuhiko Kodama, University of Tokyo and an outspoken critic of the government, questions the report’s value. “I think international organizations should stop making hasty reports based on very short visits to Japan that don’t allow them to see what is happening locally.” (Nature)
  • The UNSCEAR summary report also says the six deaths of F. Daiichi workers since 3/11/12 had nothing to do with radiation exposure. The deaths are attributable to cardiovascular disease or other reasons, but not radiation. One death was due to acute leukemia, but radiation exposure was ruled out because exposure was low the time period was too short for anything to have happened. (Japan Times)
  • Higher-than-normal summer temperatures have been forecast for western Japan, including Osaka. The Japan Meteorological Agency made the forecast for the region where electricity shortages are feared due nuke shutdowns. However, the agency predicts the national average temperature will be near-normal. (Kyodo News)
  • Tepco has released new estimates of the volume of radioisotopes released from the Fukushima accident. Total activity is now estimated to have been nearly a million-million-million Becquerels, or 900,000 Tera-becquerels. This is ~50% greater than previous estimates made by the Tokyo government. However, it is still less than 20% of the release estimates for Chernobyl in 1986. Release estimates for April, 2011, and beyond, are ten times less than for March. Tepco added that most of the radio-isotopic releases were from units #1&3 where the fuel rods melted. They did not mention unit #2 as a significant source. (NHK World)