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The Human Consequences of the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant Accidents

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... If the resulting food causes thyroid cancer, is it likely to also trigger other diseases, disorders or physical dysfunctions? Amazing numbers of health disorder after 3/11 not only in the vicinity of Fukushima, but also all over Japan is reported in a scientific paper by E. Ochiai (2015). Would you eat this food or give to your children and family members? ...
This commentary is inspired by my participation in the conference on post normal science: New Currents in Science: The Challenges of Quality, 2016, Ispra. First, I will describe Japanese commitment to PNS, which consists of a part of the long history of the Japanese response to European citizens' science/technology movement, in the framework of the introduction of Post-Normal Science in East Asia. Then I will re-examine the relationship between techno-science and democracy after 3/11 Japan, where triple disaster has radically changed the relationship between science/technology and society, and hence the very nature of Japan as a democratic society. Japan had been returning to an authoritarian state and technocratic nation in the aftermath of 3/11. As for the citizens' sphere, since 3/11, Japanese society has been badly divided; in fact, the current division of Japanese society is as bad as that of the Trumpian US. I have applied several conceptual tools to analyze this post-3/11 situation of Japan, that it was created by a combination of 'disaster capitalism' (a concept described by Naomi Klein (2008)), and 'normalcy bias'. The new political climate in post-3/11 Japan results in part from the politics of emergency, and partly from the manipulation and distortion of democracy. From the viewpoint of democracy and science, cases of thyroid cancer in Fukushima and its surroundings are a serious and even pathetically painful issue. One hundred seventy two children in and around Fukushima have already had their thyroids removed in surgical operations. But any suggestion of causality between the Fukushima incident and thyroid cancer is officially rejected. It is announced by the authority's voice that "radioactivity risk is safe, take it, because risk creates chance", like the proclamation given in the novel 1984 by George Orwell. Behind this is another historical psychology, that Japan has overcome Hiroshima and Nagasaki and made a great success in economic development. Post 3/11 Japan is judged as not a good place to discuss science and technology in a deliberate manner supported by a reasonable democracy with mutual understanding and value-free examination of techno-science in action. But, in this time of serious social divide and political populism, can PNS and a citizens' science approach now lead the way to fill in the gap? Are there any lessons from PNS that can be applied to post3/11 Japan? The question is still open.
It has been more than ten years since the Fukushima nuclear accident, and the discourse of Fukushima has been polarised on its health consequences. The United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation has concluded that no discernible health effect directly related to radiation exposure due to the accident was likely to be found in future, and most scientific evaluations seem to have agreed on this conclusion. However, such discourse often disregards the human agency of people in the construction of their scientific knowledge. This short article sheds light on the human agency in the risk perception of people who lived in the Fukushima accident aftermath by reviewing a few examples of ethnographic accounts. It briefly discusses how the self-determination of their own fate could override their fear and uncertainty after the accident.
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