My appeal to those who have the authority and credentials to refute some of the idiocy and harmful policies that have followed the incident at the Fukushima Dachi nuclear power plant nearly a year ago.
To the health physicists, radiation safety officers, radiologists, reactor operators and other radiation safety professionals of the world:
In most circumstances professionalism and a desire to remain impartial to political matters dictates that those who art part of highly scientific professions exercise a great deal of restraint while addressing pressing policy concerns. Research scientists especially tend to be very tight lipped about policy matters and are not prone to engaging the media directly. In many circumstances, there is no direct response from professionals, or if there is, it comes in the form of highly moderated and subdued official statements from organizations.
There is certainly good reason for this. Science professionals must remain impartial and not risk having their loyalties called into question. Strong statements about pressing issues of policy can result in criticism which degenerates to mudslinging. Some experts would simply rather not have to engage non-professionals who are likely to respond with a frustrating lack of understanding of their fields and believe their talents are better utilized in the world of scholarly journals and professional research. There is, of course, some risk to ones reputation and to the integrity of ones work that can come from becoming heavily involved in issues of advocacy and direct engagement of the government, media and public.
That said, there exists a humanitarian crisis that is only getting worse due to a combination of unjustified fear of ionizing radiation and pressure to exploit this fear to advance a political or social agenda. The result has been a enormous unnecessary human suffering. Those with professional credentials and credibility in the field of radiation safety are in a unique position to help bring this crisis to an end, and, as such, have an ethical duty to do so.
Since the tragic earthquake and tsunami struck Japan almost a year ago, hundreds of thousands of Japanese remain in limbo due to unnecessary evacuations and continued restrictions on habitation or even visitation to the area around the Fukushima Daiichi power plant. The earthquake and tsunami killed tens of thousands and left whole communities devastated. In such circumstances, the survivors want nothing more than to recover what property they can and begin to rebuild their lives. Yet this has not been allowed to happen. Despite the fact that the radiation exposure in the exclusion zone is well within any reasonable safety limits, many have been bared from even visiting their homes. In the time after the disaster, domestic animals needlessly starved, property that could have been recovered was lost and serious chemical and biological hazards were allowed to fester. This continues to happen even as the reactors have been stabilized and the most worrisome isotopes have long decayed away.
In addition to this tragedy, the Japanese government continues to spend enormous amounts of money in the cleanup of areas where radiation “hot spots” would result in only the most minimal of exposure and in a policy of idling most of the country’s nuclear power plants, resulting in huge economic losses. What the people of Japan sorely need is to have the damaged regions of their nation rebuilt. Every Yen spent on the unnecessary removal of soil is one more Yen that cannot be spent on the necessary rehabilitation of the areas effected by the quake and tsunami. The message being given to citizens is that they are in grave danger, especially their children. Inconsistent information, panic and confusion have resulted in enormous psychological stresses to those who have already suffered from the terrible natural disaster.
I therefore ask all radiation safety professionals of the world to stop biting your tongues and speak out loudly and in no uncertain terms, engaging the public, the media and the Japanese government as directly and candidly as possible. The Japanese people need to be told the truth, without the fear-based spin that politicians often use to try to scare their way into office or special interest groups try to exploit. The Japanese government must be urged to begin a far more measured and scientifically consistent approach to resettlement and repair that is based on the anual exposure from living in a region as compared with normal background in locations around the world. Resources should not be wasted in the removal of small “hot spots” which are no more radioactive than clusters of uranium-bearing rock. All areas should be made accessible to visitation and most to resettlement. Repairs to local infrastructure and economic assets must take precedent over concerns of radioactivity that have little or no basis in science.
As experts in this field, you are the only ones who can challenge these policies and overrule them by virtue of the authority you have gained through education and experience. Doing so may well open you to the mud-slinging of certain groups, who would rather not face the truth. Yet in the face of such suffering, caving to the fear of being attacked by dishonorable interests is the height of cowardice.
In conclusion, I once again ask that all professionals in this field take individual initiative to take a stand against these harmful policies and messages and that groups like the Health Physics Society and others step up to the plate and pull no punches in defense of the well being of the people of Japan. Your field stands for the furtherance of human understanding and for improved human safety and health. These ideals demand that you step up to the plate and fight for the refugees of fear who continue to suffer in Japan.
Stephen M. Packard
This entry was posted on Sunday, March 11th, 2012 at 10:59 pm and is filed under Bad Science, Culture, Enviornment, Good Science, Nuclear, Politics. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.
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