In the aftermath of the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, the Fukushima Prefectural government has been conducting a health monitoring survey for all its residents. It has come to light that the prefectural government had secretly been holding “preparatory meetings” with the experts involved, prior to the committee meetings, in order to review the monitoring results which are open to public. In one preparatory meeting, the review committee members agreed on the analysis of the findings in advance, and signed off on a consensus that “the occurrence of cancer is not related to the nuclear power plant accident”. The handling of the proceedings was determined and agreed upon before the public session. The expert members were also forbidden to reveal the existence of this preparatory meeting to the outside.
[Forbidding the members to talk] secret meeting at a separate location, collecting the meeting materials afterward, strict confidentiality observed!
The prefecture is stating that the preparatory meetings were held so as not to create any confusion during the review committee meeting, and to avoid causing anxiety among its citizens. However, during the interview with Mainichi Newspaper, they admitted that the practice was inappropriate and would be discontinued.
The review committee was set up in May 2011. With Dr. Shunichi Yamashita, vice president of Fukushima Medical University as chairman, it is made up with 19 members, including specialists in radiology from Hiroshima University, professors from Fukushima Medical University, officials of relevant ministries and some observers. Its mandate is to provide expert opinions on the prefecture-wide health monitoring survey, which Fukushima Medical University is contracted by the prefecture to manage. There were 8 review committee meetings held so far, all open to public except for the first one, and their meeting minutes were also made public.
However, the officials at the health and welfare department of the prefectural government and at the secretariat for the health survey had been having preparatory meetings with the expert members a week prior to, or immediately before each review committee meeting. They met in closed sessions elsewhere, the meeting materials were collected afterward, there were no minutes taken, and the existence of the preparatory meeting itself was kept hidden.
On September 11, a preparatory meeting took place in the prefectural government building, immediately before the review committee meeting set up in a community facility in Fukushima City. That day they discussed the very first incidence of thyroid cancer found through the thyroid check for all children, being carried out as part of the prefecture's health monitoring survey. They established amongst themselves that the cancer is not related to the nuclear accident. They even created a pre-emptive scenario for the open session, where a member would ask a question about this specific point, and someone from Fukushima Medical University would respond.
As a matter of fact, one of the members did bring up the question about the causality during the open session. A Fukushima Medical University professor answered by saying that the cancer is not considered a result of the nuclear accident, as in Chernobyl the increase in thyroid cancers was not found until four years after the accident. No other experts argued against this response.
The preparatory meeting for the third review committee meeting was held back in July 2011. It has been revealed that that the committee members at this preparatory meeting were told to keep the existence of the preparatory meeting secret.
During the interview with Mainichi Newspaper, the official in charge at the prefecture's health and welfare department admitted that preparatory meetings indeed had been held, and said, “Our intention was to ensure that the review committee meetings would be conducted smoothly, by consulting the experts in advance. We cannot refute that the meetings were secret. We regret this and we will do away with the preparatory meetings.
The object of the health monitoring survey, carried out by Fukushima Prefecture, is to examine and monitor the health conditions of all residents affected by the nuclear power plant accident. The plans call for the monitoring to continue for the next 30 years. Its costs are to be covered by funds provided by the state and TEPCO.
Mainichi Shimbun Newspaper Oct 3, 2012