Radiation Experts in Japan are Subject to 'Insidious Censorship'
In order to appease the fears of the public and maintain order, leaders of government institutions often restrict valuable and alarming information from broadcast or publication. This censorship
keeps the masses unaware but cooperative, as the truth is picked through and decimated. Such leaders are often timid and tend to uphold the status quo. They will typically refrain from riling
people up so as not to disturb the powers of special interest that could shutter their career and livelihood.
While vital information is picked apart and wrought with censorship, people may suffer from the consequences of not knowing and not being able to take action.
Scientist finds alarming initial Fukushima cesium-137 measurements but is censored
When the Fukushima nuclear crisis began in March 2011, much censorship was placed on scientists and researchers who set out to measure the radioactive fallout that was silently affecting the public.
One scientist, Michio Aoyama, recorded initial findings that were too startling for the Japanese government. As a senior scientist working within the Japanese government's Meteorological Research Institute, Aoyama reported dangerous levels of radioactive cesium-137 in the surface water of the Pacific Ocean. His reports estimated that levels of cesium-137 could be 10,000 times higher than nuclear contamination measurements from Chernobyl, the world's worst nuclear accident.
When Aoyama reported these alarming radiation levels in an article for a publication called Nature, he was met with criticism and publication restrictions. The director general of the institute called Aoyama and asked him to remove his name from the paper. Apparently, he did not want to startle the public with Aoyama's findings. When Aoyma asked to have his name removed, the article was suddenly halted from publication.
Aoyama is not the only one placed under this kind of pressure and censorship. Various university researchers in Japan report that their respective universities will not give them funds or support for the work they conduct involving the Fukushima Daiichi plant. Professors report off the record in many cases that they are either obstructed or told to steer clear of data that might cause public "concern."
The result so far has been three years of downplaying the Fuskushima disaster, leaving people unaware of the dangers of high levels of radiation that adversely affect their health.
Politically dangerous research
Joji Otaki, a biologist from Japan's Ryukyu University, has written several papers on how Fukushima radiation triggers inherited deformities in butterflies, but said, "Getting involved in this sort of research is dangerous politically." Otaki, says the public supports his work through crowdfunding donations.
American professor obstructed from research, cites "insidious censorship"
The Japanese government hopes to persuade 155,000 people to return home as they invest $50 billion in a large decontamination project that involves scraping away millions of tons of radioactive
dirt and placing it in temporary dumps. These dumps make a great real-life research laboratory and are drawing the attention of researchers from around the world.
Timothy A. Mousseau, a professor of biological sciences at the University of South Carolina, has tried to conduct three research projects, but the Japanese government has made his research difficult.
Upon further investigation, one Japanese professor and two postdoctoral students involved in Mousseau's research dropped out, because they could not risk being associated with his findings. "They felt it was too provocative and controversial," Moussea said, "and the postdocs were worried it could hamper their future job prospects."
"It's pretty clear that there is self-censorship or professors have been warned by their superiors that they must be very, very careful," he said. Mousseau referred to the lack of funding at the national level as some of the "more insidious censorship" measures. He added, "They're putting trillions of yen into moving dirt around and almost nothing into environmental assessment."
Japan's government institutions promotes nuclear power and controls academia
As the Fukushima reality is downplayed, nuclear power continues to be promoted by the political elite parties in Japan. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has been trying to sell Japan's nuclear
technology abroad since he came to power in 2012.
With nuclear power as a priority, dissenters are silenced and propaganda is pushed through Japan's government-controlled academia structure. In fact, government funding for academic research in Japan mostly funnels through the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science and the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology. Academic committees and government officials are in charge of screening and reviewing the pro-nuclear energy propaganda.
Mr. Mousseau, eager for solutions, says, "If we [are] ever going to make any headway into the environmental impact of these disasters, statistical power, scientific power, is what counts."