Founding Statement for JMELODI
(Japan Multidisciplinary Effects-of-Low-Doses lnitiative)
The accident at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in March 2011 led to the major release of radioactive materials from the damaged reactors. As a result, a great number of residents including those living around the power plant were forced to evacuate. Even now, over 100,000 of them remain displaced. Although radiation levels have been decreasing since the accident, many people still face long-term dangers of low-dose radiation due to thecontamination of the air, sea, and food. The leakage of contaminated water has been also a matter of intemational concern.
Following the accident, it became immediately clear that the accurate, science-based information regarding risks of radiation exposure was scarce. Government actions were indecisive, whereas sensational medial coverage and opinions of those with extreme views were rampant. Citizens, especially people of Fukushima Prefecture, did not know what to believe anymore and found it inevitable to act on their own in the midst of confusion. At the very moment when citizens needed scientists most, only extreme opinions of some scientists carried headlines. While a small number of scientists tried to take initiative out of a sense of responsibility, a great majority of them remained silent. Public trust in scientists nosedived, and so did the authority of science.
The fundamental cause of this crisis in science, however, lay not only in mass media and extreme views expressed by some people, but also among the scientists themselves. Scientists have been overspecialized and preoccupied with short-term grants and contracts, whereas few have taken initiative for creating a research environment in which scientists can fullfill their social responsibility through comprehensive and long-term studies. There has been thus nochance for scientists from different fields to come together, with no prqjudice held against one another, and thoroughly discuss the fundamental question of whether scientific consensus is possible regarding low-dose radiation exposure. As a result, a serious divergence in views has emerged between physics and biology, medical providers and researchers, which has spilled overto the public sphere and hampered scientists in meeting expectations from citizens.
ln Japan, researchers in various fields such as epidemiology, animal experiments, cell research, and molecular biology have been making much progress with their studies on health effects of ionizing radiation, especially those of low-dose radiation. There has been little budget provided, however, for a well-planned, long-term national project. Research for radiation protectionand safety has been neglected due to the lack of immediate economic profits, and there has been even a danger that some lines of research might be terminated due to the recent deterioration of the research environrnent. Only when we invest in research for radiation protectionand safbty in normal times can we minimize the otherwise enormous loss during a time of crisis as demonstrated by the latest accident.
Looking beyond Japan, scientists in Europe and the united States have been in close collaboration across affiliations and disciplines to conduct basic research on exposures to low-dose radiation for a long period of time. ln Europe, for example, the international joint project MELODI(Multidisciplinary European Low Dose lnitiative) was organized in 2010 to address a ”damaging knowledge gap,” which are: ”doubts about the robustness of the European radiation protection system at low dose exposures”; ”confusion in the public opinions between a precaution-based regulatory System and the actual existence of health risks at low dose/dose rate exposures”; and ’poor judgment outside the professional sphere about the hierarchy, prevalence and prevention of radiological risks,” ln the United States, the House of Representatives passed in January 2015 the Low-Dose Radiation Research Act with the purpose to ”enhance the scientific understanding of and reduce uncertainties associated with the effects of exposure to low dose radiation in order to inform improved risk management methods.”lnresponse the Department of Energy and the National Academy of Sciences have started planning a joint project.
As the nation that experienced the atomic bombings, Japan has been leading the research on the biological emlcts of radiation. Having undergone the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant accident, Japan is more responsible than ever for putting together all studies up to now regarding low-dose radiation and promoting these basic research prqjects for the 丘lture betterment of mankind.
Today, there has been a great debate in progressjn and out of Japan, regarding nuclear power. Considering the existing conditions of low-dose radiation and its persistence for a long period of time, however, we must not ignore the pressing need for studies on low-dose radiation whether or not we continue to use nuclear power. 0f course, there is much uncertainty regarding the effbcts of low-dose radiation, and researchers face enormous problems. lnterpretations of research are also scientifically and socially controversial. These challenges, however, must not impede the effort to scientifically elucidate the biological emlcts of low-dose radiation. The time has come for the Japanese scientists to launch a long-term project cutting through various institutions and disciplines. And the Japanese govemment must bear the responsibility for providing a research environment that is conducive to such a project.
Moreover, the project proposed above must be truly intemational. Dr. Hideki Yukawa, following his winning the Nobel Prize, established Yukawa lnstitute for Theoretical Physics in 1953, which pioneered in the subsequent establishment of the Joint usage / Research Center program in Japan. We Japanese scientists must inherit the spirit of cosmopolitanism espoused by Dr. Yukawa and also that of the Russd-Einstein Manifesto issued 60 years ago, retum to our basic roots as the human race regardless of creed or nation, and confront the problem of low-dose radiation through scientific research which must be open and impartial. A truly intemational, multidisciplinary, and long-term project rooted in the spirit of joint usage is the ultimate responsibility that the scientists, who unlocked atomic energy, must bear for mankind.
We invite all scientists in Japan to subscribe to our call for the creation of the Japanese version of MELODI (JMELODI: Japan Multidisciplinary Effects-of-Low-Doses lnitiative) following the spirit of joint usage.