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2014年4月12日 (土)

福島の放射線 帰還住民の不安に応えたい

The Yomiuri Shimbun 7:25 pm, April 11, 2014
Ending radiation fears 1st step to Fukushima evacuees’ return home
福島の放射線 帰還住民の不安に応えたい

It is of fundamental importance to expedite the return home of victims of the disaster at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, who have been forced to evacuate for quite a long time. To achieve this goal, support must be provided that can alleviate their anxieties regarding health risks due to the effects of radiation.

An evacuation instruction that was issued for the Miyakojimachi district in the city of Tamura, Fukushima Prefecture, has been lifted. This is the first lifting of an evacuation advisory since the March 2011 TEPCO plant disaster. The official exclusion of the Miyakojimachi community from the evacuation zone designation means that residents are now free to return home. Entrance ceremonies were held earlier this week at the district’s primary and middle schools.

This can safely be called the first step toward the resuscitation of the nuclear crisis-affected area.

Radioactive decontamination work by the central government has already been completed in the Miyakojimachi district.

The lifting of an evacuation instruction is contingent on clearing the condition set by the Nuclear Regulation Authority of background radiation levels falling below 20 millisieverts per year. The levels in the Miyakojimachi district have been confirmed to be one-seventh to one-eighth the NRA limit. The readings in the district are much the same as those in areas such as the city of Fukushima, where no evacuation instructions have ever been issued.

However, there are reportedly many people who are hesitant to return because of fears regarding radiation hazards.

The government plans to lend dosimeters to returnees for personal use so that they can gauge changes in radiation levels. Based on measurement readings, the government will provide them with health counseling.

By measuring radiation exposure levels, which will enable them to confirm that the current readings are far below the 20-millisieverts-a-year threshold, the returned residents will be able to more easily address the task of rebuilding their lives.

Deemed safe by U.N. body

Expert views on the impact of radiation on human health have been virtually unanimous: It has widely been accepted among experts that health risks due to exposure to 100 millisieverts or less per year, even in the event of radiation of that level on a single occasion, are indistinguishable from the risks stemming from such lifestyle habits as smoking and unbalanced eating habits.

The U.N. Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation, an investigative body that studies radiation, published a report earlier this month based on findings from its on-site surveys and related probes in areas affected by the Fukushima crisis.

The report explicitly stated that the committee “finds no discernible changes in future cancer rates [of adults] and hereditary diseases are expected due to exposure to radiation as a result of the Fukushima nuclear accident; and, that no increases in the rates of birth defects are expected” in Fukushima Prefecture.

The government must see that such information is disseminated to the public. Inaccurate information, which has served only to fan public anxiety unnecessarily, must be rectified promptly.

It is worth noting that the activities conducted through “risk communication” programs under the sponsorship of city, town and village governments in Fukushima Prefecture have played a very important role. Under the program, medical doctors and other experts have responded to concerns and questions regarding radiation exposure. The government should boost its support for such activities, including assistance for nurturing radiation risk experts.

The government currently plans to lift evacuation instructions through a step-by-step process for other cities, towns and villages following Tamura’s Miyakojimachi district. There are still strong calls, however, among nuclear crisis-affected residents for thorough decontamination to lower radiation exposure to one millisievert or less a year, which the government has deemed a long-term goal.

The steady rebuilding of the Miyakojimachi community would help deepen their understanding of the significance of practical decontamination methods.

The more protracted the evacuation period becomes, the harder it will be to resuscitate the crisis-stricken areas, which even before the catastrophe had been afflicted by depopulation.

In addition to decontamination, efforts should also be redoubled for job creation and increasing the number of such establishments as retail shops and medical institutions in the areas involved, as ways to encourage the return of disaster-affected residents.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, April 11, 2014)


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