Recommendation 2: Residents of Fukushima Prefecture should take their time in coming to a conclusion about the risks of low-level radiation
(May 12, 2011)
I would like to make an appeal to those facing exposure to low-level radiation caused by the accident at TEPCO's Fukushima nuclear plant (particularly to those living in areas where the projected exposure is under 20 mSv per year, where residents have not been provided with an official "justification" for evacuation). It is difficult to bring this subject up when everyone is trying to stay positive and hoping for speedy reconstruction of our prefecture. However, I urge you to read and consider the following message.
(1) Please do not assume that low-level radiation exposure is nothing to worry about.
As stated in my previous recommendation, there are different opinions even among experts about the impact on health of low-level radiation. Before deciding your own stance on this issue, please carefully take into account the various standpoints of different experts.
(2) Please take protective measures in the interim.
To be honest, I myself cannot judge which of the different theories about the risk of low-level radiation is correct.
In future, after careful consideration of the issue, I may reach the conclusion that a certain level of exposure is nothing to worry about. Conversely, I may decide that it is dangerous for my health.
At the moment, I am not sure what conclusion I will draw in the future.
However, until I draw a definite conclusion, I believe it is more rational to assume that low-level radiation is dangerous and take protective measures as much as possible in daily life.
(3) Please do not try to avoid thinking about this issue.
It is hard to endure the current situation, in which it is difficult to come to a definite conclusion about which theory is correct. It is natural to want to stop worrying and just go back to normal life.
I also want to escape from the painful situation of having to think about the possible risks of low-level radiation exposure. Nevertheless, I insist that we must face up to this issue to the end, because we must not underestimate the "cost" the nuclear plant accident has imposed upon humanity.
Continuing to think about this issue imposes a great deal of psychological stress. This psychological stress is also a part of the "cost" in its broader sense.
We should not forget how great the cost of nuclear accidents is. If we forget this, one day we will succumb to temptation and accept nuclear plants again.
We should not repeat the same mistake again.
(4) Please respect the different conclusions drawn by different people after careful consideration.
If, after careful thought, a person comes to the conclusion that low-level exposure is safe, their decision should be respected. If another person comes to the opposite conclusion, that low-level exposure is dangerous, this should also be respected.
Those who think that low-level exposure is safe may sneer at the heavy protective measures taken by those who think that it is dangerous.
However, those who conclude that low-level exposure is dangerous are bound to have some grounds for drawing this conclusion. As fellow human beings, we should not sneer at people who come to this conclusion.
(5) The ideal and the real are different, but that doesn't mean we should give up on the ideal.
Say, for instance, after careful thought you reached the conclusion that areas affected by the nuclear disaster should be decontaminated to reduce the levels of radiation to what they were before the accident (in the case of Fukushima City, this would be 0.04 uSv/h). A situation that was normal and regarded as a matter of course before the disaster now sounds like an ultimate ideal.
Even if this kind of ideal is proposed, it may be extremely difficult to realize it immediately, for various physical, economic and political reasons. Some people will probably argue that it is an impossibly unrealistic demand.
However, we do not need to worry about such criticism.
A peaceful world without war is an idealistic goal, but taking action to realize this goal is a valuable undertaking.
Thinking that one can reach the same heights as Aristotle may be idealistic, but striving to approach his achievements is certainly a worthwhile endeavor.
In the same way, taking action in our own way, step by step, to return the environment to the state it was in before the accident is a meaningful thing.
Of course, returning Fukushima Prefecture to its original condition will be extremely costly, and there is a limit to the money that is available. Completely decontaminating the prefecture will require a huge amount of labor and resources, and there is a limit to these things as well. Demanding that all or some of these costs be shouldered by Japanese society in general may make residents of the prefecture uncomfortable.
It is not possible to say right away how much of a burden Japanese society in general should be asked to shoulder, in face of the fact that there are limits to government finances. However, discussion of what is fair needs to be carried out on a nationwide level.
If all citizens of Japan were faced with the choice of either staying in their home and being contaminated with radiation, or leaving their prefecture, we could say that the situation was fair. However, the current situation, in which only residents of Fukushima Prefecture are forced to make this decision, is unreasonable and unfair.
It is clear that if the residents of Fukushima Prefecture do not raise their voices, they will continue to be forced to bear an unreasonable and unfair burden, and awareness of just how high the costs of the nuclear accident are will not be shared among the people of Japan in general.
The Fukushima nuclear disaster must serve as a lesson to this country, which underestimated the costs of nuclear power and promoted it at the national level. Only if Japanese society as a whole shares the burden of the huge costs of the disaster will all citizens be forced to confront the reality and the risks of nuclear power.
I do not know when we will see the Fukushima Prefecture that we used to know again. However, I am sure that there is much to be gained as, with that as our goal, we travel along the long road to recovery.
(Author: Hazuki Ishida)
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