FUKUSHIMA — Radiation decontamination at the community level requires the input and participation of the citizenry, close communication with authorities, and a clear understanding of safety, nuclear experts said at a recent symposium in Fukushima.
Expert opinion: Yasuo Onishi, chief scientist at the U.S.-based Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (center), speaks at a panel discussion with Nataliya Shandala, senior official of the Federal Medical and Biophysical Center in Russia (left), and Tarja Ikaheimonen, director of the Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority in Finland, at a symposium on decontamination in the city of Fukushima on Oct. 16. KAZUAKI NAGATA PHOTOS
When dealing with decontamination, "it's absolutely necessary to involve stakeholders," Ann McGarry, chair of the Committee on Radiation Protection and Public Health, part of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, told the Oct. 16 symposium.
Nuclear experts from overseas and members of the Japanese decontamination team shared their experiences with decontamination at the government-sponsored symposium, which was held to find ways to improve the cleanup process for areas tainted by fallout from the crippled Fukushima No. 1 power plant.
"Radiation protection is a science, but it's a science that takes place in a society. It incorporates individuals, so it means that there is more than just science that needs to be taken into account when making decisions that affect people, and we do that by stakeholder involvement," McGarry said.
With public distrust in government growing from its opaque handling of the crisis, officials are facing stronger pressure to maintain clear lines of communication with the affected communities. This challenge is growing more acute because the government has yet to find even temporary storage sites, let alone permanent ones, for the contaminated waste in Fukushima, due to strong public and local government opposition.
With the publics general distrust and anger with the government and TEPCO giving out no clear information or scientific data on the nuclear radiation crises around and in the no go exclusion zone, symposia like these will only feul the fire of distrust and disbelief in the validity of the authorities statements on the radiation levels. This PR strategy could well backfire on the government and lead to further development of protests and demonstrations against using nuclear power generation to meet the country's long term needs. Japan may well end up as being the first developed nation on Earth to decommission nuclear power plants and replace them with alternative sources of renewable and environment safe.