Unwelcome Science: Japan Ignores UN Rapporteur’s Call for Better Fukushima Health Measures via Finding the Missing Link

“Why don’t we have a urine analysis, why don’t we have a blood analysis? Let’s err on the side of caution.”

UN Special Rapporteur Anand Grover, who visited Fukushima in 2012, spoke in Tokyo this month about the continued lack of appropriate health research surrounding Fukushima and related health issues.


Information and caution, it turns out, are unwelcome in Japan. The country plans to restart its nuclear reactors and move Fukushima’s refugees back into the former evacuation zones. Any studies pointing to negative effects of radiation exposure will hinder this move toward economic progress.

So, Japan has taken subtle measures to slow any proof that these moves aren’t in its citizens’ best interest. Japan can hamper scientific studies that can lead to new information and evidence in two ways: by cutting funding and by imposing a culture of secrecy and an unwillingness to talk to the press among researchers. A March 16 article by David McNeill in the New York Times chronicled this process. Timothy Mosseau, a researcher from the University of South Carolina, has found his three trips to the Fukushima area “difficult.” He told the Times:

“It’s pretty clear that there is self-censorship or professors have been warned by their superiors that they must be very, very
 careful,” he said.
The “more insidious censorship” is the lack of funding at a national level for these kinds of studies, he added. “They’re 
putting trillions of yen into moving dirt around and almost nothing into environmental assessment.”

Ken Buessler, another American scientist who has made several trips to the water outside Japan, also spoke with the Times:

“Researchers are told not to talk to the press, or they don’t feel comfortable about talking to the press without permission,” 
Mr. Buesseler said. A veteran of three post-earthquake research trips to Japan, he wants the authorities to put more money into
investigating the impact on the food chain of Fukushima’s release of cesium and strontium. “Why isn’t the Japanese government
 paying for this, since they have most to gain?”

If researchers are financially hamstrung and stifled within Japan, another option is another country or institution with enough clout with or power over the Japanese government to order an effective and independent assessment of the country’s health risks from Fukushima.

Tokyo will host the 2020 Summer Olympic Games. A main concern of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the body that organizes and oversees the Olympics, in awarding Tokyo the games was the state of Fukushima and its ongoing issues. Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe personally stepped in and assured IOC’s then-president Jacques Rogge that Fukushima was “in safe hands”.

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