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Decisions made in advance at "secret meetings"

November 14, 2012


Fukushima held 'secret meetings' on format of health surveys



The Fukushima Prefectural Government held "secret meetings" to make key decisions on how to conduct health surveys on local residents in the wake of the outbreak of the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant, prior to exploratory panel meetings on the issue, it has been learned.

The Fukushima Prefectural Government released the minutes of the "secret meetings," which it called "preparatory meetings," under a freedom-of-information request filed by the Mainichi Shimbun. When the Fukushima Prefectural Government conducted an internal investigation in October, it said the meetings were "forums for advance briefings on materials." But the minutes of the meetings confirm that important policies and even the scope of subsequent discussions at exploratory panel meetings were decided in advance at the meetings.

The Fukushima Prefectural Government told the Mainichi Shimbun in September that it "did not draw up the minutes of preparatory meetings." But the minutes were released after the Mainichi Shimbun demanded under a freedom-of-information request in October that the prefectural government release all minutes of its preparatory meetings.

A Fukushima Prefectural Government representative said the minutes had been regarded as "memos."

"They were compiled as memos, and they were not drawn up as minutes based on confirmed remarks by attendees," the representative said. The prefectural government said minutes of the second and eighth preparatory meetings held on June 12, 2011 and Sept. 11, 2012, respectively, did not exist.

According to the minutes released by the prefectural government, the meeting held on July 17, 2011 in preparation for the third exploratory panel meeting on July 24, 2011 lasted for about 3 1/2 hours -- roughly 1 1/2 hours longer than the exploratory meeting itself. Regarding the age at which people could qualify for thyroid gland examinations, Fukushima Medical University Vice President Shunichi Yamashita, who chairs the exploratory panel, told the secret meeting, "We will make a decision at this meeting." After hearing the opinions of other panel members, Yamashita said, "We will set it at age 18, as the committee has recommended."

There was no objection from other panel members, and at the subsequent full-fledged exploratory panel meeting, another professor from Fukushima Medical University explained, "We will set the qualifying age at 18 or younger." The prefectural government started to conduct thyroid gland examinations in October 2011.

The fifth secret meeting, held on Jan. 25, 2012, dealt with the issue of conducting a survey on local residents' estimated external radiation exposure. The prefectural government had planned to set a certain criterion for subjecting people to health checks by the end of fiscal 2011. Some panel members objected to the idea, with one of them saying, "It is difficult to draw the line." To this, Yamashita responded, "It's better for us to arm ourselves with a theoretical backing. We won't discuss the issue this time. A final decision will be made after the end of this fiscal year."

At the exploratory panel meeting held on the same day, no one made a reference to a criterion for

health checks on external radiation exposure. The criterion has not been decided yet.

The prefectural government described the preparatory meetings as forums for briefings on topics of discussion. The results of its internal investigation, released on Oct. 9, stated, "There were no coordination of views and induction of discussions, but there was conduct that could provoke suspicion."




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