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information about Fukushima published in English in Japanese media info publiée en anglais dans la presse japonaise

Decide in advance what people should say

October 5, 2012




Fukushima Prefecture prepared proceedings for nuke radiation meeting



FUKUSHIMA -- The Fukushima Prefectural Government drew up proceedings for a health research panel prior to a formal July 2011 meeting on nuclear radiation, deciding in advance what members should say, the Mainichi has learned.

The drafted proceedings included concluding remarks about the results of the research on the health of Fukushima Prefecture residents and asked study panel members not to indulge in questions and answers about reproduced data from the System for Prediction of Environmental Emergency Dose Information (SPEEDI). The system was used to predict the spread of radioactive materials following the disaster at the crippled Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant.

When contacted by the Mainichi Shimbun about the choreographed proceedings, a prefectural government official in charge said the Fukushima government "may have produced" a chart of proceedings but declined to make further comment.

Only recently it emerged that the study panel held secret preparatory sessions to compare and adjust opinions about the results of the research, and rehearsed proceedings before a formal meeting in July last year.

During a prefectural assembly session on Sept. 3, Fukushima Vice Gov. Fumio Murata denied that the prefectural government had prearranged the proceedings. But the prepared chart mentioned the need to make arrangements with a particular scholar, whose real name was disclosed.

In its investigations, the Mainichi confirmed that a chart of proceedings had been created for the third meeting of the study panel on health management research. According to sources familiar with the proceedings, prefectural government officials in charge of health and welfare prepared the chart and distributed copies of it to panel members on July 23, 2011, a day before the formal meeting. Members were later found to have held a secret meeting on July 17.

The chart of proceedings runs two pages and lists the content and progress of deliberations. One of the items in the chart referred to test results of whole body counters and urine tests, and ended with the prearranged conclusion that internal exposure to cesium 134 and cesium 137 was less than 1 millisievert in total and extremely low, and that such exposure among residents of other regions was believed to be far lower.

As for progress in the research, the chart referred to SPEEDI, which was not effectively used by the central and prefectural governments. It urged panel members not to delve into questions and answers about SPEEDI's reproduced data due to the possibility that the SPEEDI issue alone might draw attention. If that happened, the chart says, members were advised to tell the meeting that the issue would be discussed by the dose assessment committee after checking in advance with a scholar on the panel.

Fukushima Prefecture says the third meeting was open to the public for the first time and proceeded in accordance with the chart. A prefectural government official said the chart may have been prepared for the panel chairman, Shunichi Yamashita, vice president of Fukushima Medical University.

Former Miyagi Gov. Shiro Asano, now professor of Keio University's Shonan Fujisawa Campus, says the the prearranged proceedings probably reflected the local administration's emphasis on scheduling, but added that getting caught up in high-profile issues ended up undermining prefectural residents' trust. He said that even if there was confusion during the panel's meeting due to the absence of a scenario, people could have evaluated the meeting highly, saying it was not staged.

"What is required foremost over the handling of the nuclear accident is a sense of trust," he said, adding the Fukushima Prefectural Government lacked that and should start all over again by giving top priority to winning the trust of prefectural residents.


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