Asia Rights

Journal of Human Rights, Media and Society in Asia and the Pacific

The Fukushima Crisis




Tessa Morris-Suzuki

Australian National University

Not Yet “After”

We call it “3/11”, but it is important to be clear about one thing: Japan’s earthquake, tsunami and nuclear accident were not a triple disaster that happened on 11 March 2011. This was a disaster that began on 11 March 2011, and is still unfolding. No one yet knows when it will end. “After” is still somewhere in the uncertain future.

The official figures tell us that around 15,000 people were killed by the 11 March earthquake and tsunami, and around 8,000 people are still missing. Of those, the great majority will probably never be accounted for. For the families and friends of these people above all, this disaster is still happening. Relatives of the missing still search the rubble for anything to hold on to, or (like one man interviewed a little while ago on Japanese TV) find it impossible to resist the impulse still, day after day, to ring the cell-phone number of a missing daughter, only to hear over and over and over again: “The cell phone you have called is switched off or out of range. You are being connected to an automated voice mail system. Please leave a message…”

Even the official statistics are full of uncertainties. Some people from the tsunami-affected areas say that the figures of missing simply do not add up, and that the real number is higher than 8,000. [i] Conversely, confusion and evacuations mean that figures of missing people from some areas may be exaggerated.[ii] Until the next nationwide census is held, we will probably not even know for sure the number of victims of the quake and tsunami. Meanwhile, 90,000 tsunami displaced people are still living in evacuation centers or makeshift temporary housing – many are elderly, and they are experiencing all the physical and mental health effects that go with such displacement and trauma.[iii] Japan has fewer than 20 experts specializing in the treatment of post-traumatic stress.[iv]

The most pressing human need at present is to address the ongoing sufferings of those who lost homes, families and friends in the earthquake and tsunami. In a broader sense, I believe that the disaster will also have a very significant impact both on the Japanese economy and on national politics. Here, however, I shall focus primarily on the aftermath of the Fukushima nuclear accident, because this has enormously compounded the gravity of the crisis, and because there are steps that should be being taken now to address this aspect of the crisis, but that are being dangerously neglected or delayed.

The Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Plant accident is still happening, and will (according to the relatively optimistic scenario spelled out by the plant’s operators Tokyo Electric Power Co – Tepco) continue at least until January next year – and that’s if all goes to plan. Only then will the plant management have things sufficiently under control to begin to lower the temperature of the fuel rods in the damaged reactors below 100 degrees: a process that is in turn a preliminary step to the immensely expensive, difficult and uncertain process of safely decommissioning the reactors.

The plan, however, depends on the successful operation of a complex and experimental system for purifying and recycling the approximately 110,000 tons of highly radioactive waste water that has accumulated under the reactors. This water contains about the same amount of radioactive material as was released during the initial explosions between 11 and 16 March.[v] After several false starts, operation of the system finally got underway at the end of June, narrowly averting a further disaster: the rapidly accumulating waste water would have started flooding out of the reactors had the start been delayed by a few more days. As a Tepco spokesperson has acknowledged, maintaining the four kilometres of hoses that connect the system involves substantial risks.[vi] Repeated breakdowns have occurred since the system started operating on 27 June.[vii]

The Uncertainty Principle

Meanwhile, so far, nine workers at the Fukushima plant are known to have been exposed to over 250 millisieverts of radiation.[viii] Like most people in Japan, before 11 March 2011 I had never even heard of a millisievert. Now (like many people in Japan) I know enough about them to realize that over 250 millisieverts is a serious matter: more than five times the annual upper exposure limit for nuclear workers imposed by the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and more than 12 times the upper limit for imposed in Germany. Among the nine most severely affected workers, at least two have been exposed to doses more than 30 times the upper annual limit allowed for German workers.[ix] What has happened to the health of these workers, and how they feel about their plight, has not been reported.

In a disaster of this magnitude, the irradiation of nine workers, though sad, might seem a relatively small social cost. But the truly alarming fact is that we know that these workers have been exposed to that level of radiation only because their radiation levels have been properly monitored. As of mid-June there were (according to the Japanese national broadcaster NHK) some 1,400 workers who had been employed at the plant after 11 March and whose radiation levels have not been properly monitored, so no-one knows for sure what levels of radiation they have been exposed to.[x] Even more extraordinarily, more than 60 workers who were brought in to help with the post-3/11 clean-up have apparently since left and can no longer be contacted for follow-up checks, because their addresses were never registered by Tepco nor by the labour contractors who supplied them to the power company.[xi] This reflects the fact that many workers have been recruited through contracting companies which draw their labour from the poorest and most marginalized Japanese communities. They are, in short, the latest generation in a long line of Japan’s “nuclear gypsies” who (as reported in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists more than 25 years ago) “do not have work records and do not qualify for workmen’s benefits… [but] are hired for each job by one contractor or another, dismissed when the job is completed, and then lost track of when they return to the pool of irregularly employed labourers.”[xii]

80,000 people have been evacuated from the 20 kilometre Danger Zone [Keikai Kuiki] around the Fukushima nuclear plant, and have no idea when or if they will be able to return to their homes, jobs and communities. Voluntary evacuations of those living in radiation hot-spots further away from the plant (in an area known as the “Planned Evacuation Zone” – Keikakuteki Hinan Kuiki) are now underway, and some suggest that as many as 70,000 more people will ultimately need to be evacuated. The first detailed survey of radiation levels in Namie-Machi, one of several communities straddling the Danger Zone, was conducted some three months after the accident began. This survey highlighted a fact well-known from other nuclear accidents: that radiation does not spread out in smooth rings from the site of the accident, but spreads unevenly across the landscape, depending on topography, prevailing winds etc. One primary school only 6 kilometres away from Fukushima No. 1 plant showed radiation levels little over normal background radiation (just 0.27 microsieverts per hour), while Tsushima campus of Namie Prefectural High School, 27 kilometres from the plant, showed radiation levels more than sixty times as high (17.2 microsieverts per hour).[xiii]

Another part of Namie-Machi, the mountain village of Akôgi, lies 31 kilometres from the stricken Fukushima plant. Between 23 March and 4 July 2011, residents of the village were exposed to over 48 millisieverts of radiation: more than twice the limit allowed for nuclear power workers in Germany, and a dangerously high level for children. This figure does not include the doses received immediately following the reactor explosions. Japan’s Ministry of Education and Science was aware within days of the accident that radiation doses in the village were at exceptionally high levels, but, although they released statistics of the radiation level, they did not reveal the name of the village where the reading had be taken, so the residents were not aware of the problem until 11 April, almost one month later.[xiv]

What does all this mean for the people who live in places like Namie-Machi?

No-one knows.

That, in a sense, is the most disturbing fact to emerge from this nuclear accident: human beings have the ability to release the enormous power of atomic fission, and use it for many purposes, but do not yet have the scientific capacity to determine the effects on human health or the natural environment of long-term exposure to low-to-medium levels of radiation. The effects of radiation are immensely complex – depending on the nature of the radioactive isotopes, the environment in which they exist, the way in which they are absorbed by the human body, the age, gender and genetic predispositions of the individual exposed to radiation etc. – and because everyone is already exposed to varying low doses of natural background radiation.

Twenty-five years after the Chernobyl disaster, therefore, no-one knows how many people died, or are likely to die in the future, as a result of that accident. Plausible estimates range from a low of around 9,000 people to a high of around 90,000 people, with all kinds of possible gradations in between.[xv] The lower figure comes from the 2005 report of the United Nations’ Chernobyl Forum, established under the auspices of the International Atomic Energy Authority (IAEA) with input from other groups including the World Health Organization (WHO).[xvi] However, serious questions have been raised both about the content of the report and (particularly) about the way in which its findings were reported in the media.[xvii]  Some environmental groups have come up with much higher estimates of almost a million people, though most scientists treat these with skepticism.[xviii]

Of course, the amount of radiation released from the Fukushima plant in the period immediately following the explosion is believed to have been only about 14% of the amount released in the Chernobyl accident.[xix] A very crude extrapolation of the lower Chernobyl estimates would therefore suggest a possible death toll in Japan of about 1,200 people – though a wide range of factors such as population density, the effectiveness of evacuation programs, differences in the nature of the explosions, improvements in cancer treatment etc. would need to be taken into account to produce any genuinely meaningful projection (and, of course, no-one knows whether the 9,000 figure for Chernobyl is realistic or not).

Needless to say, many more people have suffered physical and mental health effects from the Chernobyl disaster, both from radiation and more widely from the social impact of evacuation and disruption to their lives. An equally profound problem, though, is our perception of deaths and health problems caused by a disaster like Chernobyl. With a few exceptions (such as cases of death from thyroid cancer) it is virtually impossible to determine which particular deaths are results of exposure to radiation caused by the disaster, rather than being results of the many other factors which can cause precisely similar cancers. So we can never put names and faces to these deaths. Even if “only” 9,000 people, or “only” half or a quarter of that number, die as a result of the Chernobyl accident, that is a terrible toll that would produce massive and dramatic media coverage if all these people died simultaneously in a fire or explosion. But instead, they die separately, one-by-one, dispersed and un-recordable. They are hypothetical statistics, not human beings. They are the bodiless dead, the invisible dead. They suffer and die just as much as they would if killed by single explosion, but they are very much easier to wipe from public consciousness.

It is true, as many nuclear experts point out, that the levels if ambient radiation being measured in Tokyo are only minimally above background radiation level, and that some of the fears being expressed by Tokyo residents about the dangers of radiation are exaggerated (though serious questions about food and water safety etc. remain). But for people living closer to the stricken plant, it is another matter. To put it in practical terms, if you live in Akôgi (or other similar radiation hot spots outside the official evacuation zone), you may go to the experts and say, “what should I do? Should I abandon my house and my job and the community where I have always lived, and move myself to another town and my children to another school?” (and I won’t, of course, be able to sell my house because there are no buyers; and I may not be able to find another job; and my children may by shunned by classmates if they go to another school because they are feared for being “radioactive”). But the answer you will receive from the experts is “Search us. We really don’t know. It’s up to you.”

Radioactivity does not just disappear or wash away in the rain. It enters into the environment and some cases remains there for hundreds of years. Consider one small example: Sewage plants all over northeastern Japan – from Shizuoka southwest of Tokyo to Aomori Prefecture, have been contaminated by radioactive cesium 137 by the accident. Cesium 137 has a half-life of 30 years. The sewage sludge that is normally used in land reclamation and building is therefore now accumulating at the plants because no-one knows what the effects might be of elevated levels of radioactive cesium in reclamation of building materials, and no-one can work out what else to do with it.[xx]

The Japanese government has not yet even begun systematic checking of food for radiation, though small-scale checks that have been carried out have found radioactive iodine and cesium in food samples from eight prefectures – a wide area of Japan extending as far as Kanagawa and Shizuoka to the southwest of Tokyo.[xxi] Radiation absorbed from food or from contaminated building materials etc is, of course, additional to radiation absorbed from the air and soil.


Institutional Fault-Lines


Meanwhile, two-thirds of Japan’s fifty-five nuclear power reactors, which were either undergoing routine checks at the time of the 3/11 earthquake or were shut down for additional checks thereafter, and still out of operation.[xxii] Reopening them involves the consent of Prefectural as well as national government, and given local concerns, this has not been readily forthcoming. The central government has introduced new requirements for Japanese nuclear reactors to undergo stress tests of the type currently being conducted throughout the European Union countries, a process which will further delay the re-opening of these power stations.[xxiii] Energy shortages, together with the massive costs responding to the disaster, are placing great strains on Japan’s already overblown national debt.

The nationwide, political “stress test” created by the crisis is, indeed, casting a new and harsh light on flaws in Japan’s system of government. When the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ) took the reins of power in 2009, after more than half a century of almost uninterrupted rule by the conservative Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), there were high hopes that this would mark a shift in Japan to a genuine two-party system resembling that of European and North American democracies, in place of the one-and-a-half party system that had for so long prevailed. Since 3/11, though, the vision of an emerging two-party system has taken a battering.

The response to the disasters has revealed both the DPJ government’s inability to gain the trust and cooperation of important sections of the public service, and the LDP’s unwillingness to recognize the right of any party other than itself to govern Japan.  Remarkably, the LDP leadership has repeatedly refused to cooperate in passing the emergency supplementary budgets needed to deal with the crisis, seeking instead to use government problems in handing the disaster as an opportunity to force the Prime Minister to resign. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Kan Naoto’s opponents within the DPJ have become increasingly critical of handling of the natural and nuclear disasters, and long-standing divisions within the party have widened into rifts that are almost certainly beyond repair. Rather than a period of stable two-party rule, Japan is now facing a likely split in the ruling DPJ, a further phase of fissions, fusions and shifts of political forces, and ever-deepening public cynicism about parliamentary politics amongst an electorate who are repelled by the sight of politicians squabbling while disaster victims continue to suffer.

The institutional problems exposed by the crisis go beyond Japan’s shores: they have global ramifications. In the final week of May, the International Atomic Energy Agency, the international body responsible for monitoring the safety of nuclear power plants, somewhat belatedly sent a fact-finding mission to Japan. The resulting report criticized Tepco’s lack of preparedness for a tsunami, though it praised some other aspects of the company’s and the government’s response to the crisis. However, the IEAE’s own response to the crisis has also come under increasing critical scrutiny from (amongst others) the Agency’s former Deputy Director General, Olli Heinonen, who noted that the IAEA’s initial response to the accident was to issue “scant and at times contradictory information from Japanese sources”. Heinonen defined the problem as arising from the Agency’s weakness in relation to national governments, and argued that “Fukushima should be a wake-up call to re-evaluate and strengthen the role of the IAEA in boosting nuclear safety, including its response mechanism.”[xxiv] But the Fukushima crisis draws attention to a further issue at the core of the working of the IAEA itself. The organization’s overarching mission is to promote and expand the peaceful use of nuclear power. Although that brief of course encompasses promoting the safe use of nuclear power, it is not unreasonable to suggest that there may be a potential structural conflict of interest in a system that entrusts the global monitoring of the safety of nuclear power to a body whose central mission is to “accelerate and enlarge” the non-military use of nuclear energy.[xxv]

These global issues are further complicated by the fact that in 1959 the IAEA and World Health Organization entered into an agreement (UN Accord WHA 12-40) under which the two bodies agreed to “act in close co-operation with each other and will consult each other regularly in regard to matters of common interest.”[xxvi] This has raised concerns among some groups that the WHO lacks the independent capacity to research and monitor the effects of radiation on human health. Indeed, since 2006, a group of politicians, health professionals, environmentalists and others (largely based in France) have been energetically lobbying for a review of the 1959 agreement and the creation of a truly independent WHO.[xxvii] The World Health Organization itself, however, has publicly insisted that the 1959 agreement “does not affect the impartial and independent exercise by WHO of its statutory responsibilities, nor does it place WHO in a situation of subordination to IAEA”. As of 2001, the Organization stated that it was “in the process of developing a comprehensive Global Program on Radiation with a clear strategy and priorities to safeguard public health concerns in the use of nuclear techniques”.[xxviii] But ten years on, the program appears to have made limited progress, while the WHO/IAEA relationship has clearly weakened public confidence in the findings of the 2005 Chernobyl Forum report. 


Out of the Zone of Alienation


The evacuation zone around the Chernobyl nuclear plant was known, after the 1986 accident, as Zona Vidchuzhennya, which translates into English as “the Zone of Alienation”.[xxix] The Belarus inhabitants evacuated from that zone are thought to have been exposed on average to about 31 millisieverts of radiation, somewhat less than the exposure to date of residents who have remained in the village of Akôgi and in similar Japanese hot-spots.[xxx]

The term “Zone of Alienation” seems to me an extraordinarily evocative one. People in Japan affected by this disaster have found themselves suddenly transported to a “zone of alienation”, not just in the literal sense that over 80,000 people have been uprooted from their homes and communities around the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, but in a wider and more metaphorical, or even metaphysical, sense. The ground beneath their feet has fallen away. The environment that they took for granted now seems to threaten them, but no-one can tell them exactly what the threats are or where they lie. The scientific and technological experts whom they trusted to come up with answers (and however much they may mistrust their politicians, most Japanese people do trust their scientist) turn out not only to have confusing answers, but to have no answers at all to the most pressing questions.

Many affected individuals and communities are responding to this alienation with remarkable resilience and determination, by falling back on their own resources. While the national political system is failing its own stress test, local governments, community institutions and NGOs have generally held together and continued to battle daily through the enormous challenges of the ongoing crisis. You have only to look at the web-pages of the towns and villages in the affected areas to get some sense of scale of the problem. Often working from temporary premises (having themselves been evacuated from the exclusion or voluntary evacuation zone) local officials deal simultaneously with everything from relocating local morgues and organizing the DNA testing of the remains of tsunami victims, to relieving the psychological stress of evacuee children and disseminating information on local radiation levels, to solving the problems of people who have lost their tax documents and driving licenses in the disaster and evacuation. Their courage and determination contain seeds of hope for recovery – for transition to a true “post-3/11” society.

But where is the national and global support that is needed to help these seeds to grow? An obvious and pressing need is for global bodies like the World Health Organization to conduct large-scale projects which monitor the health of people in the worst affected areas, and collect high quality epidemiological information on the health effects of this crisis. The Japanese government has been making efforts to collect radiation information, as well as information on the movements of people in Fukushima Prefecture, which would help in assessing individual levels of exposure to radiation, but the task is a massive one, and issue is not simply Japan’s problem but a global problem. Prompt action by the global medical and scientific research community would both help to ensure prompt health care for those who need it, and (in the long run) help to resolve some of the scientific uncertainties surrounding the effects of low-to-medium level radiation exposure. Given the controversies that surrounded the Chernobyl Forum report, and to avoid any perceptions of possible conflicts of interest, such studies should be carried out independently from the work of the International Atomic Energy Agency. Surely this is the moment for the WHO to give substance to its promise of “impartiality and independence”, and prove to the world its capacity to help human beings to understand and protect themselves from the negative health effects of radiation. The earlier this work starts, the more complete and reliable the information will be. So far, though, the WHO’s actions seem to have been limited to issuing, jointly with the IAEA, a few bland “Q and A” sheets on radiation effects[xxxi], and to publishing a generalized and uninformative statement about the Organization’s role in nuclear emergencies.[xxxii]

The main finding of the Chernobyl Forum report was that, however uncertain the direct health effects of the disaster may be, the social effects have been profound. Evacuees from around the Chernobyl plant (like those from Fukushima) have experienced loss of homes and jobs, and often developed a sense that “they are without place in society and have little control over their own lives”.[xxxiii] Older people in Chernobyl were particularly severely affected. The area around the Fukushima plant has a disproportionately high proportion of elderly people in its population. The major recommendation of the 2005 Chernobyl report was that governments and NGOs should focus on the “social and economic restoration” of the affected areas to help overcome these effects.[xxxiv] But the debates inspired by the Report have focused more on its controversial predictions of mortality statistics than on ways to take these recommendations forward.

In search of a future for Fukushima, it is important to think not just about the lessons of Chernobyl, but also about the lessons of a disaster nearer home: Minamata. The mass mercury poisoning of residents of the Minamata area in the 1950s by pollution from a local chemicals factory raised a number of issues with powerful resonances for Fukushima: issues of identifying health effects, demanding compensation from the company causing pollution, and addressing the social and economic losses and sense of alienation and powerlessness that affects communities damaged by severe pollution. Like the people of Fukushima, the people of Minamata found that the very name of their place of origin had been turned into a synonym for suffering and disaster. In the case of Minamata, after prolonged and exhausting legal battles with the polluting company, Chisso, some residents increasingly turned their attention to projects that would rebuild their community and help them reclaim a sense of agency in their own lives. The process involved a complex and painful confrontation with “victimhood” and its consequences, and with the powerlessness induced not only by the perpetrators of pollution but also, at times, by the well-intentioned but patronizing efforts of outsiders to “help the victims”. But the result was a wide range of creative skills and projects for overcoming the social and psychological as well as the physical legacies of Minamata Disease.[xxxv]

For many people in the immediate surrounds of the Fukushima nuclear plant, the challenges of dealing with the unfolding accident consume all their energies, and rebuilding remains in the future. But those not directly affected by this disaster can and should already be looking at lessons drawn from the disasters of the past, including Minamata, developing a fund of ideas that Fukushima citizens, and those who want to support them, can draw on as they embark on the long road to a world post 3/11. 


[i] Christopher Johnson, “Japan Death-Toll Numbers Don’t Add Up, Tsunami Survivors Say”, Washington Times, 15 June 2011,

[ii]  Go Terada, Masanori Yamashita and Yasushi Kaneko, “No. of Missing Still Uncertain”, Daily Yomiuri Online, 29 June 2011.

[iii] These effects include a sharp rise in suicide rates in disaster affected areas: “Suicide Rates are Increasing in Japanese Regions Most Affected by the Tsunami and Nuclear Disasters”, The Australian, 17 June 2011, ;

[iv] Mark Willacy, “Stress Takes its Toll on Japan’s Tsunami Survivors”, ABC News Online, 17 June 2011,

[v] New York Times, 17 June 2011.

[vi] Kazuaki Nagata, “Water Treatment, Cooling Systems Finally Working”, Japan Times, 8 July 2011.

[vii] The most recent breakdown at the time of writing was on 10 July 2011; NHK 7pm new 11 July 2011.

[viii] NHK 7pm news, 17 June 2011; NHK 7pm news 20 June 2011.

[ix] “N-Worker’s Mask Left no Room for Glasses”, Daily Yomiuri Online, 19 June 2011. One worker received a dose of 678 millisieverts, and another a dose of 643 millisieverts

[x] NHK 7pm news, 17 June 2011.

[xi] Kevin Krolicki and Chisa Fujioka, “Japan’s ‘Throwaway’ Nuclear Workers”, Reuters / Swissinfo, 24 June 2011, ; NHK 7pm news 2011.

[xii] John W. Powell, “Nuclear Power in Japan, Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, May 1983, pp. 33-39, quotation from p. 37.

[xiii] NHK 7pm news, 17 June 2011.

[xiv] Tokyo Shimbun, 6 July 2011; Tokyo Shimbun, 7 July 2011.

[xv] Jim Green, “Do we know the Chernobyl Death Toll?” New Matilda, 7 April 2011.

[xvi] See The Chernobyl Forum, Chernobyl’s Legacy: Health, Environment and Socio-Economic Impacts, and Recommendations to the Governments of Belarus, the Russian Federation and Ukraine, (2nd revised edition), Geneva, International Atomic Energy Agency, 2005.

[xvii] Mark Peplow, “Counting the Dead”, Nature, vol. 440, 20 April 2006, pp. 982-983. The Forum report predicted that around 4,000 of the 600,000 people most directly exposed to Chernobyl radiation would probably have died or die as a result, and that a further 5,000 people might be expected to die Europe-wide. The initial summary of the report released to the media, however, included only the 4,000 figure, resulting in misleading media reports. 

[xviii] Green, “Do we know the Chernobyl Death Toll?” op. cit.

[xix] On 6 July, the Japanese government’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency  [Genshiryoku Anzen Hoan In], a branch of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry – METI) reported that the total emission of radiation from the Fukushima plant in the first week after March 11 was believed to 770,000 terabecquerels, an estimate revised upward from its earlier estimate of 370,000 terabecquerels, and the Japanese Nuclear Safety Commission’s earlier estimate of 630,000 terabecquerels; see “Higashi Nihon Daishinsai: Hôshasei Busshitsu 77-man Terabekereru, Hoanin Sôhôshutsuryô o Jôhô Shussei”, Mainichi Shimbun, 6 June 2011; see also Hiroko Tabuchi, “Radiation Understated after Quake, Japan Says”, New York Times, 6 June 2011. The Chernobyl accident is widely believed to have released about 5.2 million terabecquerels of radiation.

[xx] NHK 7pm news, 17 June 2011.

[xxi] Aya Takada and Yasumasa Song, “Food Safety Fears Grow in Japan on Skepticism at Food Testing Regime”, Bloomberg, 16 June 2011,

[xxii] 35 nuclear plants were affected as of 16 June. NHK 7pm news 26 June 2011.

[xxiii] “Sutoresu Tesuto no Tôitsu Kenkai, ‘Shûake ni Hôkôsei Kenkai’, Shushô”, Nihon Keizai Shimbun, 9 July 2011.

[xxiv] Olli Heinonen, “The IAEA and the Nuclear Crisis at Fukushima”, Power and Policy (Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard University), 22 March 2011,

[xxvi] For the full text of the accord, see “Agreement Between the International Atomic Energy Agency and the World Health Organization”,

[xxviii] “Interpretation of the World Health Organization’s Agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency”, Statement WHO/6, 21 February 2001.

[xxix] Mary Mycio, Wormwood Forest: A Natural History of Chernobyl, Washington DC, Joseph Henry Press, 2005, p. 28

[xxx] On the exposure of Belarus evacuees, see From Peter Wehrwein, “Radiation Risk in Japan: Understanding Radiation Measurements and Putting them in Perspective”, Harvard Health Blog, 16 March 2011 ( ).

[xxxii] The statement on the WHO’s response to the Japan earthquake reads, in full: “What is WHO’s role in nuclear emergencies? In accordance with its Constitution and the International Health Regulations, WHO is mandated to assess public health risks and provide technical consultation and assistance in association with public health events, including those associated with radiation events. In doing so, WHO is working with independent experts and other UN agencies. WHO’s work is supported by a global network comprising more than 40 specialized institutions in radiation emergency medicine. The network, the Radiation Emergency Medical Preparedness and Assistance Network (REMPAN), provides technical assistance for radiation emergency preparedness and response.”  The statement contains no specific reference to Japan, or to any actions that the WHO intends to take to assist or monitor those in Japan exposed to increased levels of radiation.

[xxxiii] Chernobyl Forum, Chernolbyl’s Legacy, op. cit., p. 35.

[xxxiv] Chernobyl Forum, Chernobyl’s Legacy, op. cit., p. 8.

[xxxv] See Kurihara Akira, “Minamatabyô to iu Shintai: Fûkei no Zawameki no Seijigaku”, in Kurihara Akira, Komori Yôichi, Satô Manabu and Yoshimi Shunya eds., Naiha suru Chi: Shintai, Kotoba: Kenryoku o Aminaosu, Tokyo, Sanyôsha, 2000, pp. 17-81.

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