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Citizens’ forum queries nuclear ‘experts’ via The Japan Times Online

To whom does scientific debate belong?

That was a central question raised by many of the 200-plus people who attended a citizens’ forum in Tokyo on Oct. 12, as they criticized the ways in which the Japanese government and radiation specialists working for it are assessing and monitoring the health effects of the ongoing nuclear disaster at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant.

One of the driving forces for the citizens’ forum was a desire to challenge the conduct and much of the content of a conference held Sept. 11-12 in Fukushima, titled the “International Expert Symposium in Fukushima — Radiation and Health Risk.”

That conference, sponsored by the Nippon Foundation, involved some 30 scientists from major institutions, including the ICRP, the World Health Organization, the International Atomic Energy Agency and the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation. Although the proceedings were broadcast live on U-stream, the event itself was — unlike the Tokyo forum — closed to the public.

Some citizens and citizens’ groups claimed that this exclusion of many interested and involved parties — and the event’s avowed aim of disseminating to the public “authoritative” information on the health effects of radiation exposure — ran counter to the pursuit of facilitating open and free exchanges among and between experts and citizens on the many contentious issues facing the nation and its people at this critical time.

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