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

Scientists and public trust

June 20, 2012

Public trust in scientists, engineers dropped after Fukushima nuke disaster: gov't report



Public confidence in Japanese scientists and engineers declined after the outbreak in March 2011 of the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant, the government said in its 2012 white paper on science and technology.

The white paper endorsed by the Cabinet on June 19 said, "Public confidence in scientists and engineers dropped" due to the accident at the crippled Fukushima nuclear power station.

Citing as an example the fact that robots made in Japan were almost useless to deal with the nuclear crisis, the annual government report pointed out that Japanese technological developments were not prepared for actual operations to respond to such disasters. On the fact that the government failed to provide sufficient information to the public, the report said, "It is important to prepare" a mechanism similar to those adopted by Britain and the United States to facilitate the provision of information from scientists to the government.

Asked whether it is good for experts to decide on the direction of research, only 19 percent of ordinary people polled in the questionnaire survey for the white paper said they thought so, down sharply from the pre-disaster level of 59 percent.

Meanwhile, in a survey on experts, 43 percent of the respondents said they were trusted, while 39 percent said they were not trusted. The white paper, therefore, lashed out at experts for their low sense of responsibility, saying that they did not take the declining public confidence in them seriously. The report, however, stopped short of making in-depth analysis and proposals as to why the gap in perception between the public and experts was created and what experts should correct or improve.

While stressing the need to recognize higher risks accompanied by developments of science and technology, the report said transmission of information in emergency situations should be discussed on a routine basis. It then said, "Japan must become a country capable of minimizing damage and recovering quickly."

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