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Fukushima and freedom of expression

September 23, 2020
According to Asahi, guides welcoming visitors to the disaster museum, which opened on September 20 in Futaba, have no right to criticize either TEPCo or the government. The 29 guides are victims of the disaster or trained people. Each guided tour lasts one hour and is paid 3,500 yen.


During the trainings that took place this summer, the distributed manual stated that one should avoid “criticizing or defaming certain organizations, people or other facilities”. And if a visitor asks the guide about their feelings about TEPCo’s responsibility, the answer should be evasive and the visitor referred to museum staff. Each guide must also put his words in writing and submit it to the museum management who corrects it. And if they ever criticize an organization, their presentation will be immediately stopped and they will never be able to be a guide in that museum again.


Some guides took offense: as victims, they should be able to criticize TEPCo and the government, which are responsible for the nuclear disaster. Another guide saw their script corrected after mentioning this responsibility. Yet official investigative reports pointed to the responsibility of TEPCo and the government. Not being able to mention it in a museum dedicated to the nuclear disaster is scandalous.


Ironically, Le Canard Enchaîné published an article that same day on the dismissal of an IRSN researcher who was working on the consequences of the Fukushima disaster and who did not agree to have her work censored by his hierarchy. In response, ACRO left the Research Orientation Committee (COR) of this Institute. The resignation letter is on the association’s website and reproduced below.


According to Le Canard Enchaîné, the direct superior of Christine Fassert, the licensed researcher, “wanted to impose changes, even censor words and sentences [of] an article,” in order to “avoid criticism of post-management. accident of the Japanese government, and the civilian nuclear sector in general “, and” to minimize and relativize the risk related to radiation exposure “.


This event is very disturbing because it shows that IRSN is unwilling to accept research results that challenge its prejudices. And when you’re in charge of nuclear safety, it’s particularly serious. He is not the only person to have suffered the rigidity of this institute, but it is the first time that it has led to a dismissal, which is scandalous.


We have already emphasized, twice, in July 2018 and March 2019, the originality of the work of Christine Fassert, socio-anthropologist, risk specialist at IRSN, who worked on trust, as part of the Shinrai project. in partnership with Sciences Po and Tôkyô Tech University. In Japan, as in France, she went, with her Japanese colleagues, to meet all the protagonists and interviewed both officials and independent experts, as can be seen in this presentation (copy).


At IRSN, we prefer to focus on people who show that it is possible to live in contaminated areas. And the dominant paradigm is that we must avoid evacuating and bringing evacuees back as quickly as possible, bypassing the UN directives on internally displaced persons which guarantee them protection, the right to choose between return and resettlement, as well as their full participation in decisions (see our 2016 report: Fukushima, return to abnormal?). It is also obvious in the European research programs in which IRSN participates, where the reduction of uncertainties in the modeling of radioactive fallout should make it possible to avoid unnecessary evacuation of populations (see page 58 of this presentation, for example) , while the faults in the modeling in Fukushima also led to not evacuating people who should have been! This is the case for the contaminated territories which extend up to forty kilometers to the Northwest. The evacuation order did not arrive until April 22, 2011, when the disaster began on March 11, 2011.


In practice, IRSN did not hesitate to work on and highlight an unscrupulous researcher, as we reported in January 2019, but who said what the institute wanted to hear. This is also the object of the Fukushima “dialogues” supported by IRSN shown in the web documentary “Kotoba” (which means “word” and not “dialogue”): no radioactive waste, no sick, no residents who don’t want to come in… Just a few small worries, but in twelve “dialogues”, everything is settled! The results of these dialogues by IRSN are a distressing list of banalities. This is worrying for post-accident management in the event of an accident in France.

Christine Fassert, for her part, also went to meet people who have left and who do not want to return, giving visibility to a category of populations that everyone wants to ignore, although it is the most numerous. The project also examined the pitfalls of an essentially “reassuring” communication on radiological risk, the difficulty of the role of radiation protection experts in direct contact with the public, the tension between a government policy of evacuations and returns devised by Tokoite elites and the implementation of these directives by the mayors in the region of Fukushima… Only subjects which did not fall within the narrow framework of what was expected. So, it was the frame or her!


Resignation message sent on September 18, 2020 to COR members:


Madame President,


Following the dismissal of an IRSN researcher, I would like to resign from COR. If the IRSN is not able to accept unique voices internally, it cannot open up to society.


In its opinion on the post-accident, the COR stressed, for the “populations and governance” section: “The WG thinks that it would be important to conduct research on this subject taking into account the opinions of all categories. population. Self-evacuees escape official monitoring in Japan and most of the studies and research in which IRSN participates. The experience feedback cannot be limited to the population who wish to remain in place or return, which is not very representative of all the populations affected by a serious nuclear accident. IRSN would benefit from broadening the scope of its studies and research or from moving closer to other programs involving all the people affected by the disaster, including those who do not wish to stay or return. “


In the event of a nuclear accident in France, IRSN will not be able to choose from among the affected populations. The participation of all stakeholders will be necessary. The licensed researcher is precisely the only person at the institute who was interested in all categories of the population, the “dialogues” program having selected only people in agreement with the dominant paradigm at IRSN.


I have already had the opportunity several times, within the COR, to question and alert IRSN researchers on the freedom to publish and communicate, to no avail. The COR has never agreed to discuss it.
Since the beginning of COR, I have worked for more openness and to take into account the demands of society. I have participated in almost all GTs and chaired two of them. But I fear that all this work has been in vain and that IRSN is not ready to open up sincerely. Under these conditions, I see no other solution than to resign from COR.


Yours truly,
David Boilley

October 1, 2020 - Posted by | Japan | , ,

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