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Revelations - Urine tests or not?

November 20, 2012


Fukushima releases full expert panel minutes on internal radiation exposure



FUKUSHIMA -- The Fukushima Prefectural Government on Nov. 19 revealed the full minutes of an expert panel meeting on internal radiation exposure following revelations that significant portions of a previous release had been deleted.

The original minutes, released in response to freedom-of-information requests from local residents, excised sections revealing the prefecture was reluctant to accept a central government proposal to conduct urine sample testing as part of a health survey following the March 2011 meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant. When the omission was discovered, experts lashed out at the prefectural government.

"They apparently didn't want to reveal that they wanted to avoid conducting urine tests in an effort to underestimate the damage to residents' health," said Katsuma Yagasaki, professor emeritus at the University of the Ryukyus. Urine sample testing can detect even minor internal radiation exposure.

The urine sample debate is included in the newly released full minutes covering a closed-door exploratory committee meeting held on June 18, 2011. At the meeting, experts and other participants discussed possible examinations of about 28,000 residents of Namie, Iitate and Kawamata's Yamakiya district in Fukushima Prefecture for internal radiation exposure.

According to the full minutes, senior Cabinet Office officials who attended the meeting as observers said urine testing should be used as a main tool to check internal radiation exposure, as opposed to whole body counters (WBCs). The prefectural government, however, was reluctant to do so, saying, "We can't turn around and decide on urine testing because everybody is calling for WBCs."

In the end, the prefecture examined less than 200 local residents using both urine testing and WBCs in late June 2011, and stated that it had not detected levels of radiation that could affect human health. The prefecture has since continued to use WBCs to examine some local residents for internal radiation exposure, but has shown persistent reluctance to take urine samples.

It had already been revealed that proper minutes of the committee's first, second and third panel meetings had not been compiled before residents requested their disclosures under the freedom-of-information act. Instead, minutes were hastily patched together based on notes taken by prefectural government staff and released. In an internal investigation, the results of which were released in October, the prefectural government admitted that part of the minutes had been left out because the process was "handled improperly, and the minutes were drawn up without some staff memos."

According to the prefecture, despite the fact that notes of the proceedings existed, it left out some of those notes when assembling the minutes of the meetings in response to the freedom-of-information requests. Keiichi Sasa, head of the health management research office at the prefectural government, said, "The original minutes were here, but I don't know who omitted the missing sections (from the release version) and for what purposes."

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