Japanese scientists who set radiation exposure limits took utility's money
TOKYO — Influential scientists who help set Japan's radiation exposure limits for years have had trips paid for by the country's nuclear plant operators to attend overseas meetings of the world's top academic group on radiation safety.
The potential conflict of interest is revealed in one sentence buried in a 600-page parliamentary investigation into last year's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant disaster and pointed out by a medical doctor on the 10-person investigation panel.
Some of these same scientists have consistently given optimistic assessments about the health risks of radiation, interviews with the scientists and government documents show. Their pivotal role in setting policy after the March 2011 tsunami and ensuing nuclear meltdowns meant the difference between schoolchildren playing outside or indoors and families staying or evacuating their homes.
One leading scientist, Ohtsura Niwa, acknowledged that the electricity industry pays for flights and hotels to go to meetings of the International Commission on Radiological Protection, and for overseas members visiting Japan.
He denied that the funding influences his science and stressed that he stands behind his view that continuing radiation worries about Fukushima are overblown.
The official stance of the International Commission on Radiological Protection is that the health risks from radiation become zero only with zero exposure. Some of the eight Japanese ICRP members do not subscribe to that view, asserting that low-dose radiation is harmless or the risks are negligible.
The doctor on the parliamentary panel, Hisako Sakiyama, is outraged about utility funding for Japan's ICRP members. She fears that radiation standards are being set leniently to limit costly evacuations.
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments â either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.