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article imageJapan accused of 'cover-up' in radiation level reports

By Karen Graham     Mar 26, 2014 in World
People in Japan's Fukushima prefecture have been demanding government transparency in reporting radiation data for some time now, and the information has been slow in coming, especially with officials wanting residents to move back to the affected area.
This lack of transparency dates back to 2011, and the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant failure, and has continued right up to today. Some say it is due to Japanese bureaucrats working in a culture where it is important to avoid responsibility and, above all, criticism. But with peoples lives at stake, and the real severity of the radiation accident, now is not the time to avoid taking responsibility.
On Monday, a source spoke with the Mainichi newspaper, saying the a Cabinet Office team has delayed the release of radiation measurements from three Fukushima Prefecture municipalities, planning to release them at a later date with recalculated, lower results.
The three municipalities in question are currently under evacuation orders imposed after the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi disaster, and there are plans to rescind that order in the very near future. Miyakoji district of Tamura is expected to have its evacuation order lifted on April 1, and the eastern part of Kawauchi is supposed to have its evacuation order lifted later this year.
According to one source, the radiation levels were actually higher than those reported immediately after the disaster, and this was enough to prompt the Cabinet Office team, assembled to help victims and their families, to withhold the results, worrying that residents wouldn't want to move back to their homes.
Mainichi has also acquired documents, drawn up last November, that detailed the radiation data, and intended for release, but these figures were never made public. The measurements were taken by the Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA) and the National Institute of Radiological Sciences (NIRS) from the city of Tamura’s Miyakoji district, the village of Kawauchi and the village of Iitate.
Dosimeters were set up inside and outside homes, schools and other buildings. They were also enclosed in plastic boxes on farmlands and in wilderness areas. This information was given to the Cabinet Office team in mid-October. Most radiation data had been taken from the air, and the team wanted to compare the different data to come up with radiation estimates based on job types, such as farmers, salespeople and school children.
The first thing the Cabinet Office team noticed was the difference in readings from the older Fukushima dosimeters used in the ground studies, compared to the much higher aerial readings, using newer technologies. The team had planned to release these figures, thinking they would show how much lower the radiation levels were to the Nuclear Regulation Authority team sometime in September on up to November, of course, putting great emphasis on the lower numbers.
It was expected that the levels would be about 1 to 2 millisieverts a day, but data showed the levels to be at 2.6 to 6.6 millisieverts, much higher than expected. Knowing this information would have a big impact on the residents of the area, the JAEA and NIRS recalculated the results, changing times that farmers spent outdoors to five or six hours a day instead of eight hours a day. These results looked much better, and this altered report was to be released.
Atsuo Tamura, with the Cabinet Office team confirmed the report had been recalculated and the figures have not been released, but denied any cover-up, saying “We did not hold the results back because they were too high. We did so because it was necessary to look into whether the assumptions for residents’ lifestyle patterns matched reality.”
Shinzo Kimura, an associate professor of radiation and hygiene at Dokkyo Medical University told the Mainichi, "The assumption of eight hours a day outside, 16 hours inside is commonly used, and it is strange to change it. I can't see it as anything but them fiddling with the numbers to make them come out as they wanted."
More about Inside sources, Coverup, government transparency, japanese officials, fukushima
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