Atsumi Foundation Discussion Meeting: Radiation---Its Effects on the Human Body

The radiation leakage of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant caused by the unprecedented East Japan Great Earthquake is now a global concern that has gone beyond the borders of the Japan. It is amidst all this that the "Atsumi Foundation Discussion Meeting" was held on July 23, 2011. Kataoka Tatsuji sensei of the Japanese Cancer Association gave a talk on the timely topic of "Radiation: Its Effects on the Human Body."

Kataoka sensei first of all shows the result of a survey by the Nihon Keizai Shinbun, and mentions that even if one is exposed to 200 to 500 milliSV, the chances of getting cancer would still be lower than leading a unhealthy lifestyle. Moreover, he warned about having "unnecessary worries" or "Excessive worries." For example, even though the current accident has been assessed to be at the same level as Chernobyl, the scattered amount (of radiation) is just one tenth, so there is no need to be too worried. He also pointed out that the vague expressions of experts and government officials may cause excessive apprehensions.

In the later half of the talk, Tagishi Akinori san, who has been involved for many years with nuclear power, joined in, and the discussion was opened to the floor. There was a frank discussion regarding questions and answers of scholarship recipients ranging from daily living to society, economics, and international relations. For example, Katoaka sensei explained that the eating of contaminated Fukushima beef is mostly excreted from the body, which has the ability to repair damage caused by a certain level of radiation. Moreover, isotopes, which have already passed their half-lives, are too weak to cause damage. There is no need to worry, he reiterated, adding that those who have continuously undergone CT checkups for ten years are exposed to higher risks of getting cancer. The participants were also worried about the biological concentration of radiation due to the food chain. In response, Katoaka sensei pointed out that there is no need to be too worried about such possibility due to the diffusion effect of sea currents.

Indeed, since the accident, the radiation levels in different places are below the critical levels due to atmospheric diffusion. However, radiation hot spots with high radiation levels have sprouted, and the cause is not yet clear. Moreover, the two speakers raised in expert-like fashion their concern about the continuously high level of radiation in the Fukushima City area.

The floor also raised worries about the discrimination of people from Fukushima as in the case of irradiated people of Hiroshima, as well as the possibility of restructuring of profit distributions and internal conflicts in Keidanren about the giving up nuclear power and promoting renewable energy. Furthermore, regarding the concern about the flowing of contaminated waste to other countries, Tagishi san emphasized that Teppco should take responsibility in funding and storing such waste within their own premises.

After the discussion meeting, the scholarship recipients were much more relieved. On the other hand, they were told by the speakers about a dissatisfaction regarding the use of vague words by the government during times of emergency, and the tradition of trusting "The authorities," which is behind the volunteering of workers for containing the accident. It was (for us) also a time to view closely a review and changing of Japanese thinking after the disaster.


(by Sie Huei-zhen, translation by M. Maquito)