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UN Special Investigator In Japan Releases Initial Statement On Fukushima Human Rights

The  UN special investigator Anand Grover has issued some initial comments on his visit to Japan. The statement is more of a preliminary review of his findings, a full report will be issued at a later date. A draft report has been submitted to the Japanese government but is not currently available on the UN Human Rights Council website. The issues and criticisms mentioned in the statement include these:

  • Local residents were not aware of nuclear disaster management plans. He makes this specific mention “local residents of Futaba city in Fukushima were led to believe by the Safety Agreement signed in 1991 that the TEPCO plant was safe and there would be no occasion for a nuclear accident.”
  • The NRA, Japan’s new nuclear regulatory agency should adopt a policy to disclose any conflicts of interest of members or potential members.
  • The government neither gave instructions nor distributed stable iodine to the affected population. Nonetheless, some municipalities distributed stable iodine tablets in an ad-hoc manner.
  • The government did not make public the data from SPEEDI and that it is crucial that the government provide this information so people may safely evacuate.
  • The government used a radiation dose of 20 mSv/year to determine evacuation areas, the level is too high.
  • The government’s released a number of publications, including school booklets, informing the public that there was no clear evidence of direct risk of cancer if a person was exposed to radiation dose up to 100 mSv/year. This is not supported by medical research.
  • The 20 mSv/year threshold actually violates Japan’s 1972 law on exposures to nuclear workers and the public. The law dictates 2 mSv/year maximum for pregnant women.
  • The mandatory evacuation level at Chernobyl was 5 mSv/year, Japan is not following this historical safety level.
  • That cancer and other diseases could occur in low dose radiation below 100 mSv/year. According to studies, there is no low threshold limit for the occurrence of diseases.
  • That government radiation monitoring stations are inaccurate and show artificially low. Validated independent radiation readings including those taken by the public should be included and made public.
  • The government should monitor the impact of radiation on people’s health in radiation-affected zones through holistic and comprehensive screening and provide appropriate treatment. The special investigator does not specifically state that the Fukushima Health Survey should be the one to do it.
  • Health checks should be expanded to all areas that were affected by radiation.
  • The current health survey is too narrow and relies on a narrow set of Chernobyl data and ignores a large body of evidence that shows cancer as well as other diseases happen in low-dosage radiation situations, even in areas of exposure below 100 mSv/year.
  • The government should conduct a study that would entail examining and monitoring of internal radiation exposure for a considerable length of time.
  • Children who have thyroid abnormalities are being denied access to second opinions and access to their medical records.
  • The government needs to provide health monitoring to all nuclear workers, the current system and subcontractor system is failing to do this
  • Evacuation centers failed to provide for the needs of the disabled and women with small children
  • The government needs to better enforce food safety standards in relation to radiation contamination of food.
  • The investigator applauded efforts to decontaminate soil but condemned the various government efforts to make residents do decontamination work and also in not providing them with proper safety equipment or information about the harmful effects of radiation exposure.
  • The investigator encourage the Government to continue and/or restore financial support and subsidies to all evacuees so that they can make a voluntary decision to evacuate or return to their homes, if they wish to do so.
  • The human rights framework calls for accountability for those who created the situation. The investigator specifically stated that TEPCO should be held accountable and that the public should not end up shouldering the liability.
  • The people impacted by the disaster currently do not have a say in what is being decided and what happens to them. The investigator stated this must change.

One issue that seemed to be confused by some of the Japanese media. Kyodo News made this statement:

A United Nations human rights expert said Monday that Japan should expand the scope of a health survey it is conducting following the nuclear crisis last year.”

The UN investigator does not actually say this. He states that health checks and surveys in general should be expanded but does not give specific support to the current health survey going on. In fact the investigator criticizes the current health survey for using inaccurate standards of exposure and that it is denying people’s human rights in some of the processes it is using.

The criticisms in the initial statement are a good start. It recognizes the many wrongs done to people in Japan and specifically the denial of access to medical care by the Fukushima Health Survey.    How Japan chooses to proceed is not currently known.

 

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