Investigative Report on Fukushima City and Koriyama City
Report on Fukushima and Koriyama Cities
On November 26th and 27th of 2011, Human Rights Now (HRN), sent a fact finding mission to Fukushima and Koriyama cities, to investigate the human rights situation of people affected by the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant accident earlier in the year. This is the first human rights report after the nuclear disaster.
The accident released a huge amount of radioactive material, which is estimated at 168 times of that released by the atomic bomb in Hiroshima. This creates serious risks to the health of the local population, in particular expectant mothers, infants, children and younger generations most vulnerable to harm from radiation. HRN published this report in January 2012.
Summary of the report
1. The findings of HRN’s investigation are as follows:
1. After the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant disaster, a great amount of radioactive materials was released into the atmosphere. The right to the highest attainable standard of health (right to live healthy), especially that of children who are more vulnerable to radiation is now on the verge of a crisis. On November 26 and 27 of 2011, Human Rights Now (HRN,) a specified nonprofit corporation, sent a fact-finding mission to Fukushima city and Koriyama city, in Fukushima Prefecture, and heard complaints from residents living near the nuclear power plant. HRN subsequently published a report based on the Investigation
2. After consideration of the results, HRN has confirmed the following.
1) High levels of radiation
The Japanese government has not designated any part of Fukushima and Koriyama city as a region where the radiation dose is expected to exceed 20 mSv per year, and thus it has not ordered evacuation to residents living in the cities. However, the residents complain that the amount of radioactive material is high, and their concerns are mounting over its effects.
Because the Government did not investigate levels of radiations in detail, citizens themselves are measuring the radiation. Their measurements showed higher amounts of radioactive materials than was present in data published by the government, some of which showed a radiation level of over 20mSv per year. For example, in Watari district, there was a region that had 5 to 10μSv per hour. In Nakagawara, Oyama district, the highest amounts detected were up to 80μSv per hour and there were some areas that were 18 or 20μSv per hour. Citizens also said that in Hourai-cho the radiation level is 6 to 7μSv per hour. HRN heard a number of claims from the residents that the government will not redo investigation despite the results of these measurements.
Decontamination activities to remove radioactive materials are a major issue. However, the government is not taking any action in the area where the radiation level was determined to be under 20mSv per hour. It is passing the whole task on to local municipalities and citizens. In Fukushima, the government has barely conducted any decontamination activities despite the claims from the residents. Although citizens began decontaminating, without a concrete plan and directions from experts, the decontamination has proven ineffective and after a while the radiation returned to high levels.
On the other hand, Koriyama city provided half a million yen of subsidy to a neighborhood association and is encouraging them to decontaminate. Although participation in the activities of a neighborhood association is normally at residents’ discretion, in some neighborhood associations, women were forced to engage in dangerous decontamination work against their will. It is reported that even expectant mothers are involved in decontamination work. Moreover, due to the unorganized decontamination activities, children are forced to live with the risk of being exposed to radiation. For example, contaminated soil and mud is stored in temporary sheds and the locations of the sheds were not publicly known. Sometimes parks where children play are used for burying the contaminated soil.
3) Effect on health
Due to the suspension of the city’s water supply right after the disaster in Fukushima and Koriyama city, many people had to wait outside for water rations with their children or go to the market to buy water. Some people were staying outside for two to three hours in the rain. Also, quite a few people drank water not knowing that it was polluted. They claimed that radiation exposure is a cause of their deteriorating health.
Due to the fact that a sufficient inspection system of internal exposure testing has not been established, and public medical examination is not free of charge, citizens in Fukushima and Koriyama city have not taken public internal exposure examination, urinalysis, blood test or thyroid gland examinations. In May 2011, Fukushima Prefecture decided to carry out “The Fukushima Health Management Survey”, to check the effects of radiation and entrusted it to Fukushima Medical University. The investigation includes a basic survey using a medical interview sheet and the examination of thyroid glands (conducted only for people under the age of 18.) The results are compiled into a database for longtime administration. However, contrary to the stated plan, the university merely sent questionnaires to all the people living in Fukushima and Koriyama city.
4) Safety of food
Since the government has not ordered evacuation despite the residents’ concerns over their health, they are demanding at least for the protection against internal exposure and the safety of food products. However, even the safety of food is in a great danger.
HRN inquired with Fukushima Prefecture whether we could be informed of the specifics of the system of inspection for contamination of food products. The results showed critical problems were present regarding food safety.
Authorities answered that, with regard to rice, in Fukushima city (Kyu- Shokoku-mura and Onami- chiku), they investigated all the farmers in the area by checking one sample out of one bag (30kg). In the “Specific Evacuation Encouraging Area” (three cities and 21 former municipalities), 1 sample for 1 house is the principle, but for other area, there is no clear rule. Regarding vegetables, staff of the local government go to farms and investigate by sampling 600g to 1kg of vegetables. However, there are also no specific standard of selecting samples. For fish, they check about 100 samples in one week, and for river fish the inspection is conducted once a month for each river. But for big rivers, they only investigate whenever they deem that it is necessary. These rough inspections are far from effective to ensure the safety of food and are causing distress, not only for consumers, but also for producers.
Despite the situation, food produced in Fukushima prefecture is used for school lunches in Fukushima and Koriyama city in the name of the “”local production for local consumption” governmental policy. Some schools allow parents concerned about the safety of school lunch to make students bring their rice and milk from home. However, there are many schools did not tell students about this option until pressure was brought to bear by parents of the children. Even after it was made public knowledge, children who bring their lunch from their home are still minority. This causes them to worry about isolation from their friends and hesitate to choose to bring lunch from home. The present system of school lunch provision does not offer safety of health for all children. In order to ensure the safety of school lunches, the government needs to set up radiation meters at all the elementary and middle schools in an area where the level of estimated external radiation dose (excluding background radiation) exceeds 1mSv per year, and establish a system of inspection of all food products.. However, the present situation falls far short of that.
5) Penetration of “Safety Campaign” and isolation of citizens
In Fukushima Prefecture, there were governmental policies designed to, which disseminate the ‘fact’ that the situation in affected areas was under control, and that there were no problems. Citizens were anxious about the effects of radiation, but their doubts about the veracity of such a “Safety Campaign” keep on being ignored. Therefore, they were feeling resigned to their situation and began to despair. Even though they were concerned about safety, they could not express their concerns openly. Those who had the courage speak openly often experienced a feeling of isolation, brought about by the conflict this created with other community members who were willing to believe the government safety campaign.
This conflict made the situation of children worse. At schools in Fukushima and Koriyama city, some lessons, such as PE and club activities are held outside. Although children and their parents can choose to avoid outside activities at their own discretion, the majority of children choose to play outside, do club activities and eat school lunches. In such a circumstance, children who make a different choice may be isolated. Despite their concerns, parents let their children play and do club activities outside. They worry that preventing them from doing so might make them isolated from other children.
There are many people who cannot evacuate even though they worry about radiation exposure. Different from citizens living in designated evacuation areas, citizens living in voluntary evacuation areas are not getting enough support, housing, and compensation. It is hard for people who do not have personal connection or computer literacy to find appropriate places to relocate. Quite a few pregnant women and mothers with newborns live in areas that have a high amount of radiological dosageand were not told of the danger or offered a place for evacuation What often informed the decision not to evacuate was Fukushima prefecture’s “safety campaign.” Terms frequently used, such as “daijoubu”(no problem) and “anzen”(safe,) , reassure residents that it is safe and make the decision to evacuate even more difficult .
These situations in Fukushima and Koriyama city shows that the current measures taken by the government are far from enough to ensure the right to the highest attainable standard of health (right to live healthy). The current situation where the government neither provides support for evacuation, nor conducts decontamination activities, is a serious concern. Also, it is a serious problem that people, especially children, who are already being exposed to radiation, cannot receive medical examination and keep eating food products that have not been through adequate safety inspections. Furthermore, residents’ right to health, their most valuable right, is not protected because they have no way of knowing whether they themselves are contaminated, or if their food is contaminated.
According to these serious situations, HRN made recommendations to the Japanese government, Fukushima prefecture, Fukushima city and Koriyama city to take immediate countermeasures as following.
【To the Japanese government】
1. Take citizens’ demands into consideration and carry out free, precise and exhaustive measuring of radiological dosage.
2. Based on the measurements taken above, reconsider the evacuation area.
3. Take following measures in municipalities that have areas where an estimated external dosimetry (excluding background radiation) exceeds 1mSv per year, and put maximum priority on “Voluntary Evacuation Area” designated by Nuclear Compensation Conflict Examination Board.
(1) Carry on an inspection of internal exposure of the thyroid gland for all residents at no charge within six months. Purchase and distribute necessary medical equipment, such as whole body counters.
(2) Provide citizens with a precise and periodic medical examination at no charge, and establish a monitoring system for their condition in order to prevent the development of diseases related to radiation exposure. Legislate for free medical expenses for costs related to diseases that bear a causal relationship to radiation exposure.
(3) Purchase and distribute radiation counters for food to all supply centers of meals and kitchens of elementary and middle schools in order to conduct inspections of all food products and secure the safety of school lunch, and the budget must be allocated accordingly
(4) Purchase and distribute the latest radiation counters for food to establish a system of one hundred percent inspection to all food products, and the budget must be allocated accordingly.
(5) Carry on effective decontamination activities in areas other than “special decontamination area”.
(6) Recognize citizens’ right to evacuate and provide, separately from compensation from the Nuclear Compensation Conflict Examination Board, compensation for housing and expenses spent related to evacuation to evacuees..
(7) Based on a flexible operation of the Disaster Relief Act, develop administrative services to provide detailed information about municipalities that are accepting so-called “voluntary evacuees” in order to support citizens’ evacuation.
(8) Establish a system of temporary evacuation and recuperation (restoration of health?) over the course of a long vacation such as summer vacation for citizens, especially children under the age of 18.
【To Fukushima Prefecture】
1. “Residents health administrative investigation”
(1) Organize a research committee for “Residents health administrative investigation” in such a way that it is composed of experts who have knowledge and experiences of danger of low-level radiation and who take a stand to recognize the gravity of the health risk rather than promoting “Safety Campaign.”
(2) Ensure a complete disclosure of the investigation’s results and explain the risks in order to restore citizens’ trust in the data distributed by the government.
2. Provision of information and education of radiation protection
Reconsider the way that information related to low-level radiation is provided to citizens by calling on experts who take a stand on recognizing the gravity of the health risk.
3. Acceptance of evacuees in other prefectures
Publicly withdraw the request made to other prefectures to terminate stop accepting new leases from Fukushima residents, and make sure such a request will never be made.
【To Fukushima and Koriyama city】
1. Do not force citizens to engage in dangerous decontamination activities against their will.
2. Ensure that decisions on the installation of temporary sheds for storing waste are made in an open and transparent process with the participation of citizens. Further, put warning signs on the sheds, and declare the area as off-limits.
3. Announce the origin of all food products used in school lunch to students and their parents. Periodically hold a meeting with parents for the purpose of exchanging opinions to ensure the safety of school lunches.
4. Take appropriate measures including wide-area kindergarten admission to help voluntary evacuees to live in comfort at temporary shelters.