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Interview: Japan should learn lessons from Chernobyl — Russian expert

MOSCOW, May 24 (Xinhua) — The improper handling of the Fukushima aftermath by the Japanese government has had grave consequences and that’s partly attributed to the fact that Japan didn’t learn lessons from the Chernobyl tragedy, a Russian radiation expert has said.

For starters, Japan followed the suit of the former Soviet Union in playing down the disastrous consequences, said Valery Stepanenko, a leading specialist in medical and environmental dosimetry and radiation safety, said in a recent interview with Xinhua.

In stead of timely reporting complete information to the public, the Japanese government attempted to hide the truth in the beginning, wasting precious time for evacuation of more people from the polluted area, the expert said.

After the disaster, lies and contradictive information emerged, making it impossible to decide the level of exposure to radioactive iodine of pregnant women and children using tap water.

“There have been many reports about the necessity to develop international standards for providing timely information during such accidents, but there has been no progress so far, probably, due to the complexity of elaboration of such standards,” said Stepanenko.

He also called for immediate data of radiation levels after the accident, especially the internal exposure of residents who drunk polluted water in the affected area, because such exposure poses threat to the thyroid gland.

At the first stage of the Fukushima accident, “a very limited number of practical estimates of radiation levels in the population was made,” said Stepanenko.

“Subsequently, Japan started carrying out very detailed checks of children and adolescents who had radiation exposure, but data of internal exposure were still left out,” he said.

“Radiation suffered by children at that time remain unknown, but they are very important for proper follow-up treatment,” the Russian expert said.

The consequence is dire. Till now, more than 160 teenagers in Fukushima Prefecture have been diagnosed with thyroid cancer, including suspect cases, according to a report by the local healthy authority.

However, the Fukushima government rebutted the link between the disease and the nuclear accident in March, 2011. Some Japanese experts claimed that no evidence can prove the relationship between thyroid cancer and radiation.

Stepanenko said he has tried to pursue why there was no retrospective analysis of the radiation levels received by the population, but he has come empty handed after all these years.

The Fukushima crisis suggested that, according to Stepanenko, nuclear plants should not be built in areas of high seismic activity and those built in such areas should be shut down.

A number of nuclear plants in Japan are built on the coast, where an earthquake and tsunami, or a combination of both, is expected at any moment.

“Indeed, you can build a wall to resist a tsunami. The Fukushima had a six-meter wall to protect the nuclear plant, but the waves reaching a height of 12-13 meters destroyed the plant after all,” said Stepanenko.

After Fukushima accident, the Japanese started to realize their mistakes and started to revive their nuclear power network, taking into account the new, post-Fukushima safety requirements, the expert said.

But perhaps Japan should be the last region to build any nuclear plants under the current technological basis given its location in risky earthquake zone, he added.

The leaking radiation is still polluting the underground water of Fukushima which flows to the Pacific in uncountable amounts. Consumers in Japan’s neighboring countries are widely cautious about consuming the imported food from near Fukushima.

Three decades ago, the radiation dust threatened a considerable area of Europe after the Chernobyl accident. Likewise, the affected population of the Fukushima crisis is not only the Japanese people.

Given the fact that the United Stated registered elevated levels of radiation on the Pacific coast, Japan’s neighbors should be thankful to the wind blowing eastwards following the Fukushima disaster, said Stepanenko.

“Who knows how the wind will blow next time when another nuclear accident happens in such a country with high earthquake risks?” asked Stepanenko.



May 24, 2016 - Posted by | Fukushima 2016 | , ,

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