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October 3, 2012



Secret meetings held on Fukushima nuclear crisis's impact on human health




FUKUSHIMA -- The prefectural government here held secret meetings among a panel of experts on the nuclear crisis's impact on human health to work out scenarios for official deliberation sessions based on the view that there is no causal relationship between the disaster and the outbreak of cancer, sources close to the case said.

Fukushima Prefectural Government officials also told the attendees not to reveal to outsiders that such secret meetings took place.

A prefectural government official has told the Mainichi that it convened the preparatory meetings of an expert panel in an effort to prevent any confusion at the official meetings and avoid causing anxiety to prefectural residents. However, the official admitted in an interview with the Mainichi Shimbun that the secret meetings were inappropriate and said they would not take place again.

"We wanted to facilitate the official sessions by listening to the panel members' opinions in advance. We can't argue if we are blamed for holding secret meetings. We regret having such gatherings. We'll not hold such meetings anymore," said the official, who belongs to the prefectural government's health and welfare department.

Fukushima Medical University Vice President Shunichi Yamashita, who chairs the experts' panel, said he did not think attendees were making any secret arrangements in the meetings.

"I understand that preparatory meetings were held for the panel to listen to explanations of the results of health surveys. No decisions were made at these gatherings, and I didn't consider them secret meetings," he said. "If they stir a sense of distrust among members of the public, I don't mind discontinuing such gatherings."

The expert panel was set up in May last year after the March 11 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami triggered the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant. The panel offers advice on the results of health surveys that Fukushima Medical University is commissioned by the prefectural government to conduct on local residents. Currently, it consists of 19 members, including experts in radiology and medical professors as well as national government officials.

The panel has so far held eight sessions, and the details of what was discussed at most of the meetings as well as their minutes have been disclosed.

However, it has come to light that members of the panel secretly held preparatory meetings shortly before each of the sessions at the proposal of an official of the prefectural government's health and welfare department, which serves as the secretariat of the panel.

All materials distributed to the members at such secret meetings were later recovered and no minutes were compiled in order to cover up the existence of the gatherings.

Before the eighth official session in the city of Fukushima on Sept. 11 this year, a health survey had confirmed for the first time that a child living in the prefecture was suffering from thyroid cancer.

During the preparatory meeting for that session, the members shared the view that there is no causal relationship between the nuclear disaster and the outbreak of the cancer. They then worked out a scenario under which one of the members would ask a question about whether there was a causal relationship between the crisis and the cancer and the university would answer the question.

At the official session, one panel member actually asked whether there was a causal relationship. In response, a Fukushima Medical University professor denied the suspicion, pointing out that it took at least four years after the Chernobyl nuclear accident in 1986 before the number of thyroid cancer patients increased.

In a preparatory meeting prior to the third session in July last year, prefectural government officials asked members of the panel not to reveal such secret sessions to outsiders.

The health and welfare department official admitted that officials had asked members of the panel to keep secret what they discussed at preparatory meetings and recovered all materials after such gatherings partially to prevent the results of the health survey from leaking to the media before being officially announced.

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