Japanese government misleading UN on impact of Fukushima fallout on children, decontamination workers

8 March 2019 — Greenpeace International

Tokyo, Japan – The Japanese government is deliberately misleading United Nations human rights bodies and experts over the ongoing nuclear crisis in areas of Fukushima, according to a new investigation released by Greenpeace Japan today.[1]

The report, “On the Frontline of the Fukushima Nuclear Accident: Workers and Children,” reveals high levels of radiation in both exclusion zones and open areas still exist even after huge decontamination efforts, and documents the extent of the government’s violation of international human rights conventions and guidelines, in particular those for workers and children.

“In areas where some of these decontamination workers are operating, the radiation levels would be considered an emergency if they were inside a nuclear facility,” said Shaun Burnie, Senior Nuclear Specialist of Greenpeace Germany. “These workers have received almost no training in radiation protection, are poorly paid, exposed to high radiation, and risk losing their jobs if they speak out. UN human rights Special Rapporteurs are absolutely right to warn the Japanese government over these risks and violations.”[2]

The main findings of the Greenpeace Japan investigation include:

  • Radiation levels in the exclusion zone and lifted evacuation areas of Namie and Iitate are a significant risk for the public including children. Levels range from five to over 100 times higher than the internationally recommended maximum and will remain so for many decades and into next century.[3]
  • In the exclusion zone in Obori in Namie, average radiation levels were 4.0 μSv per hour. These levels are so high that if a worker would operate there for eight hours per day during a full year, they could receive a dose equivalent to more than a hundred chest X-rays.
  • At a forest across the street from a kindergarten and school in Namie town where evacuation orders have been lifted, the average radiation level was 1.8 μSv per hour. All 1,584 points measured exceeded the Japanese government’s long-term decontamination target of 0.23 μSv per hour. In 28% of this area, the children’s annual dose could be 10-20 times higher than the internationally recommended maximum.
  • Worker exploitation is widespread, including recruitment from the disadvantaged  and homeless, no effective training in radiation protection, falsification of identification and health certificates, and unreliable official records.

A former decontamination worker Mr. Minoru Ikeda who is featured in the Greenpeace Japan report says his experience made him feel like they were treated inhumanely.

“One person compared it to slavery. As someone who has been there at the scene, I want to let the world know what is happening. I want to call on the Japanese government to respect the health of workers and stop sending people to do these dangerous jobs, and also to provide proper support for the workers,” says Mr. Ikeda.

The report comes one month after the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child issued a damning series of recommendations to the Japanese government which, if implemented, would terminate current policies in Fukushima, including a halt to lifting evacuation orders, full compensation to evacuees, and the full application of all relevant human rights obligations to evacuees and workers.[4]

“In its reporting to the United Nations, the Japanese government deliberately misrepresents the scale, complexity, and radiation risks in areas of Fukushima, the working practice and conditions for workers, and its disregard for children’s health and wellbeing. This reality should shame the government to radically change its failing policies,” said Kazue Suzuki, Energy Campaigner of Greenpeace Japan.

“At the root of the Fukushima nuclear disaster and resulting human rights violations is the dangerous energy policy of the Japanese government. What the majority of Japanese people are demanding is a transition to renewable energy. Yet, the government is seeking to restart nuclear reactors and at the same time dramatically increase the number of coal power plants, which leads to extreme climate change,” Suzuki added.[5]

Testimony will be made later today at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on the violation of children rights due to the Fukushima nuclear disaster and Japanese government policies. It will be given by a representative from the International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL) and on behalf of Greenpeace.

ENDS

Photos and videos

Notes:

[1] Greenpeace Japan new report: On the Frontline of the Fukushima Nuclear Accident: Workers and Children

[2] UN News, “UN experts cite ‘possible exploitation’ of workers hired to clean up toxic Japanese nuclear plant” (16 August 2018)

[3]  International recommended maximum of exposure is 1 mSv per year which is equivalent to the Japanese government’s long-term decontamination target of 0.23 μSv per hour. In 2018, UN Special Rapporteurs recommended to the Japanese government that the maximum radiation exposure be set at 1mSv per year including for children, not 20 mSv per year, as well as calling for urgent attention to the exploitation of decontamination workers. See news from United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner (16 August 2018 and 25 October 2018).

[4]  Committee on the Rights of the Child Consideration of Japan (1 February 2019)

[5] Public survey result on climate change by Ministry of Foreign Affairs (23 March 2017)

Contacts:

Shaun Burnie, Senior Nuclear Specialist, Greenpeace Germany, email: shaun.burnie@greenpeace.org, mob: +81 (0) 80-3694-2843  (Japan)
Chisato Jono, Communications Officer, Greenpeace Japan, email: chisato.jono@greenpeace.org, mob: +81 (0) 80-6558-4446
Greenpeace International Press Desk, pressdesk.int@greenpeace.org, phone: +31 (0) 20 718 2470 (available 24 hours)

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