Speech presented for Hizumi Award

On December 15, 2017, we awarded the Hizumi Prize.
Here is our speech on that day.

 Speech by Hidetake Ishimaru

My name is Hidetake Ishimaru and I'm one of the representatives of Minna no Data Site. I'm greatly honored and thankful that we have received the Grand Prize of the 2017 Kazuo Hizumi Promotion of Information Distribution Award out of all the many outstanding activities. 

Minna no Data Site is a network type organization consisting presently of 34 citizen’s radiation measurement labs all over Japan. The accident at TEPCO’s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant in 2011 drove people to open these labs and start their activities and they spread from Hokkaido up north to Kyushu down south.

We started up Minna no Data Site in September of 2013. Our objective was to gather the radiation measurement data that each lab had accumulated onto the same platform and to provide people with accurate and easy to understand information. Presently, we have registered about 14,000 measured data of food and more than 3,400 measured data of soil samples. Further, this fall, we started a site where you can search and find data for environmental samples, such as ashes and mulch. I would be happy if you look up our site and see for yourselves.

Talking about the standard value for food, at first, the government set the provisional standard as 500Bq per kg and afterwards lower it down to 100Bg/kg. However, there is a cause for concern because the figure is questionable. Even before the accident, the standard value for low-level radioactive wastes, which should be kept in an yellow oil can, was 100Bg, the same as food.  This is the present situation. The many citizens that are living in this unfortunate reality with great concern for their children requested for the radiation measurement data. The datum was gathered and registered here and became a very precious and the only source that people could refer to. One cannot find such information elsewhere and since we started it up, people are using it as one of their references in their daily lives. For example, if you have difficulty deciding what is safe to buy at a supermarket, just look it up with your smart phone, etc.

As you see, Minna no Data Site started out by visualizing the data on food, but we recognized the significance of visualizing the contamination of soil as well, and thus, we launched the “East Japan Soil Becquerel Measurement Project” in the fall of 2014. (4 : projection of soil map) Allow me to briefly explain to you about the “soil project” since it was through the recognition of this project that we received this award.

The “soil project” was executed throughout a vast range of sample collecting area covering 17 prefectures and city of east Japan, from Aomori up north to Nagano and Shizuoka down south. The same method was used to collect soil samples at every collection site and the radiation was measured by becquerel. 
 We started this project by measuring and mapping the average contamination rate of each area as accurately as possible, by eliminating the micro hot spots where the contamination is extremely high and the places that already have been decontaminated or cleaned with low contamination. We conducted our measurement at the height of 5cm above ground so that the results could be compared with the measurements by the Ministry of Education and those by Chernobyl.

In order to maintain the same method of collecting soil, we made a cartoon style manual and held over 100 seminars throughout the area giving instructions on the methods of collection. Cumulative total number of collection volunteers were over 4000 in the 3 years and over 3400 soil samples were collected and measured and mapped.

In the Ukraine and Belarus, national budget was spent respectively for mapping the soil contamination nationwide, where as in Japan, a thorough soil measurement of the whole east Japan area has not yet been conducted by the government, only estimation derived from the air dose radiation rate measured by screening taken from airplanes. “If the government won’t do it, why don’t we?”  And so, the project started with almost no budget.

Before we actually started, many of us felt that it is unrealistic to conduct measurement of such vast area as the whole of east Japan. However, just as many of us felt sure that we could get support from the citizens and that we owe it to them to start it up. We realized and accepted the fact that if the government is incapable or doing anything, who else but us with the biggest network of citizen’s measurement labs are best equipped to do it.

We faced a lot of difficulty until the soil sample collection and measurement went on orbit. At first, we had a blank map before us and little by little, the number of collected samples increased. Along with that, we needed to closely determine the objective number of samples, bearing in mind, the population, the size, and the air dosage rate of each area. We wanted to fill in the blank map of each prefecture and city as evenly as possible. The measurement site extended not only to urban areas, but also to remote rural areas and deep in the mountains. There were places that were very hard to get to by foot. We had a variety of volunteers, those who worked in groups, those who worked on their own and collected many samples, those who were willing to go on a forced march, etc. Each dot on this map is a fruit of all the effort of so many people.

So, as you can see, this map was created through very painstaking sample collection and distribution to measurement labs nationwide and also through laborious and time-consuming work of data input. I do not want to boast, but this map is extremely valuable and I can say with confidence that it is a fruit of an activity to share and distribute “unprejudiced information” by the power of the people, which is in truth the principle of this Hizumi Award. I am honored to receive this award to share with the 34 measurement labs and with the 4,000 people who collected the samples, and to everybody who supported us and helped us finance this activity. Please allow me to use this opportunity to express my gratitude towards them.

In the Ukraine and Belarus contaminated by highly concentrated radiation caused by the Chernobyl accident in 1986, national budget was spent respectively, for mapping the soil contamination nationwide.
The data obtained is utilized as a standard for determining the amount of compensation etc. in the Chernobyl Laws laid down after 5 years from the accident. 

On the other hand, what has our government done?  In March 2017, this year, after 6 years from the accident, the government has not only neglected to lay down laws to acknowledge those subject to compensation, but went on and forced the discontinuation of housing allowances.  The Chernobyl Laws determined the area of compensation both by annual effective dose (Sv) and by soil contamination dose (Bq which at the start was Ci) but here in Japan, the annual dose of 20mSv, which is an outrageous amount, is the standard of tolerance dose. This is 20 times as much as the limit of public exposure dose and 4 times more than the annual 5mSv, the amount that individuals engaged in radiation work are eligible for recognition as having an occupational disease. It deprives people’s rights for compensation of evacuation, etc. and should be considered inhumane.

There are many factors to the contamination status and therefore it is not easy to make a comparison in general, but if we go by the Chernobyl Laws, the orange points on the map are areas that evacuation rights should be granted, and the red points are where evacuation is recommended. In Japan, because only a very high standard annual dose rate of 20mSv is set, there are no residential restrictions even in these contaminated areas. “Moving” or “recuperation” decisions were passed over as “done with self -responsibility” as the minister for reconstruction, Mr. Imamura put in his own words. We needed to conduct a thorough soil measurement and our continuous efforts were to provide a potential solution to this situation where people had to accept the ill-treatment of living in a contaminated area under the name of “self- responsibility.” Please refer to the comparison chart with the Chernobyl standard that we handed out.

Fortunately, the measurement results of food show that the transfer of contamination to crops and farm produce show tendency to be minimal, excluding the contamination caused right after the accident. This is due to the argillaceous characteristic of Japanese soil. On the other side, however, there are many cases where contaminations of wild mushrooms, wild vegetables, wild animals such as boar and fresh water fish rate high. The contamination of soil and the environment extends to widespread area of east Japan Also, the contaminated trees used as firewood and burnt producing ashes are continuous serious causes for concern.

The half-life period of Cs-134 is 2 years and relatively short. At present, it is reduced to 10 % of the original dosage right after the accident. On the other hand, the half-life period of Cs-137 is 30 years and it will be around for quite a long time to come. 

You can see clearly in this map we have made that its amount will not completely attenuate even after several years. It is a type of radiation that cannot be seen, smelled of tasted, but we must not forget that the contamination exists and continue to take measures against it.

It is obvious that we need an outline or a framework to cope with this domestic nuclear-power related severe accident like the Chernobyl Laws laid down by the Ukraine, Chernobyl and Russia. Nevertheless, our country continues to emphasize the notion through new reports and presentations, that this accident is taken care of and that there are no more serious contamination influences.

We feel it is our responsibility to continue and reinforce our efforts to dispatch information of objective data so the “true reality” can be visualized by everybody. We aspire to continue our activities so that we can all learn from the 2011 accident and also be of service to the individuals who still suffer from the aftermath.

The reception of this award has truly given us so much strength. With such encouragement, we are ready to continue moving on forward.

 I’d like to end my speech with a heartfelt “Thank you” from every one of us at Minna no Data Site. Thank you very much.

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