Japan’s WHO Radiation Expert Admits Giving Bad Information, “Oops”

yamashitaMany following the Fukushima disaster are familiar with Dr. Shunichi Yamashita (aka: Dr. 100 mSv). He headed the Fukushima Health Survey for the first years and dispensed advice right after the disaster that has been repeatedly found to be wrong.

In the latest problem Asahi Shimbun (translated by Ex-SKF) found that Dr. Yamashita didn’t even understand the basics of the ongoing disaster and did nothing to seek out information so he could give informed opinions about what people should do.

According to Asahi Shinbun’s still on-going “Trap of Prometheus”, Dr. Yamashita was caught off guard when the SPEEDI simulation maps were finally made public. He had confidently persuaded the officials of Fukushima Medical University in the preceding days that there was absolutely no need to distribute potassium iodide pills because the spread of radioactive materials from the accident, compared to the Chernobyl accident, would be so miniscule.”

Yamashita also made this claim to Yomiuri Shimbun, one of Japan’s largest newspapers, who repeated Yamashita’s claims as expert opinion. Making matters worse, he told the staff of Fukushima Medical University this bad information that they then put into practice after March 18th. Yamashita made his case to the medical staff of the university with some of these statements.

(1) Many believe that potassium iodide pills will prevent thyroid cancer, but it is nothing but “iodine religion”. For the Japanese, the intake of radioactive iodine would be 15 to 25%, unlike 40 to 50% for people in Belarus.” (emphasis ours)

“(2) The amount of radiation exposure west of the twenty, thirty kilometer radius [from the plant] will probably be less than 1 millisievert. [Not clear whether he meant effective dose for the whole body or thyroid equivalent dose.] Compared to Chernobyl, the amount of radiation exposure will be so small that the Japanese government will not issue instruction to take potassium iodide pills.”

“I beg that you do not escape [desert your post]. Radiation exposure due to a nuclear accident is a fate of the quake-prone Japan that has nonetheless been promoting nuclear power plants.” (emphasis Ex-SKF)

Yamashita later rejected the university’s plan to distribute protective iodine to the residents citing these reasons:

“(1) The procedure was not in the manual by the Nuclear Safety Commission; (2) There was a danger that people would take a wrong dosage, and it would be hard to respond to the side effect; (3) there was no knowing if it was effective if mixed with drink.”

This is from a June 2013 interview between Asahi Shimbun and Yamashita.

What surprised Yamashita was the SPEEDI simulation maps that the national government disclosed on March 23, 2011. At that time, the standard for taking potassium iodide pills was when the equivalent dose at thyroid was expected to reach 100 millisieverts. In the simulation maps, the areas where the equivalent dose would exceed 100 millisieverts extended far outside the 30-kilometer radius from the plant.

「ありゃー、と思いました」

“I thought, ‘Oops…'”

放射能汚染は山下の予想を大きく上回っていた。

Radiation contamination far exceeded Yamashita’s expectation. 

「日本の原発にはヨウ素とかを取り除くフィルターとかがきちんと付いているものだと思っていた。まさかこんなに広範囲に汚染されているとは思わなかった」

“I had thought a nuclear power plant in Japan was properly equipped with filter or something to remove iodine and other nuclides. I never imagined such wide areas were contaminated.”

Or something? The health of a large population in Japan hung in the balance. A guy who clearly had no information was making these professional declarations to Japan. Yamashita is supposed to be a radiation expert, medical doctor and member of the WHO’s radiation health team. He was largely calling the shots when it came to how those in the area were being treated. No reactors in Japan have vent filters. By the 18th of March three reactors had exploded releasing large amounts of radiation. Unit 2 had been direct vented from the drywell in a desperate attempt to prevent pressure from ripping the containment structure apart.

As Ex-SKF points out, the central government does shoulder some blame for not getting iodine distributed right away. But whose advice was the central government taking in delaying or denying access to protective iodine? The SPEEDI maps show that protective iodine should have been distributed. This iodine 131 plume modeling done by a Japanese university and published in an NHK documentary shows the extent and the long duration of iodine 131 release not just in Fukushima prefecture near the plant but all over the east side of Japan. A 5 year old child in the highest areas would have received a 200 mSv thyroid dose.

Please also go read the entire translation and comments over at Ex-SKF. He does some great work helping everyone understand the disaster between languages.

 

 

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