ICRP, 2021. Proceedings of the International Conference on Recovery after Nuclear Accidents: Radiological Protection Lessons from Fukushima and Beyond. Ann. ICRP 50(S1), 2021.
From the Editorial Perhaps the most important lesson of the accident at Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant is that we were not fully prepared to handle the long-term consequences of a major nuclear accident. This is not entirely surprising as the Chernobyl accident, a quarter of a century earlier, was the only other example of a major, widespread release of radioactive materials from a nuclear power plant.
Coincidentally, the International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP) released Publication 111 ‘Application of the Commission’s recommendations to the protection of people living in long-term contaminated areas after a nuclear accident or a radiation emergency’ (ICRP, 2009), based largely on experience from the Chernobyl accident, just a year before the Fukushima accident occurred. One reason it took so long is that many people felt that the Chernobyl accident was an anomaly. In the decades since Chernobyl, progress had been made to prepare for the immediate emergency response to another large accident, but little consideration had been given to the aftermath.
In March 2011, we learned that the large uncontrolled release from Chernobyl was not a unique event. The spread of radioactive materials from Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant into the environment and populated areas had enormous consequences.
Over the last decade, many experts and organisations have acted to reduce the chance that there will be another accident like Chernobyl and Fukushima. Nonetheless, we must still be prepared. ICRP has focused on learning from the Fukushima and Chernobyl accidents to improve the System of Radiological Protection, the basis of standards, regulations, and practice worldwide. A key result was Publication 146 ‘Radiological protection of people and the environment in the event of a large nuclear accident’, released in late 2020. This work is not just theoretical. It is based solidly on the experience of those faced with the challenges in Japan and Europe following the accidents. Most notably, ICRP organised a series of public dialogue meetings in Japan to help those affected, where we could, and to deeply understand the issues in order to improve our recommendations for the world. In addition, understanding the need for all of us to be better prepared, ICRP organised ‘The International Conference on Recovery After Nuclear Accidents: Radiological Protection Lessons from Fukushima and Beyond’, hosted by Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA), and supported by many organisations: Institute for Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety (France); Radiation Effects Association; PESCO Co., Ltd. (Japan); Ascend Co., Ltd. (Japan); Inspection Development Company Ltd. (Japan); Nuclear Engineering Co., Ltd. (Japan); EX Research Institute Ltd. (Japan); Chiyoda Technol Corporation (Japan); Aoba Science Co., Ltd. (Japan); Takarakaseikiki Co., Ltd. (Japan); and Mirion Technologies (Canberra) KK (Japan). It was a distinct honour to prepare this conference in cooperation with a large group of highly distinguished Japanese and international organisations: Burnasyan Federal Medical Biophysical Centre of Federal Medical Biological Agency (Russia); Centre for the Study of Protection in the Nuclear Field (France); European Commission; European Platform on Preparedness for Nuclear and Radiological Emergency Response and Recovery; Heads of European Radiological Protection Competent Authorities; International Atomic Energy Agency; Nuclear Energy Agency; United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation; World Health Organization; Cabinet Office (Japan); Reconstruction Agency (Japan); Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan (Japan); Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology (Japan); Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry (Japan); Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries (Japan); Ministry of Environment (Japan); Nuclear Regulation Authority (Japan); Fukushima Prefecture (Japan); Minamisoma City (Japan); Iwaki City (Japan); Okuma Town (Japan); Tomioka Town (Japan); Naraha Town (Japan); Kawauchi Village (Japan); National Institutes for Quantum and Radiological Science and Technology (Japan); National Institute for Environmental Studies (Japan); Fukushima University (Japan); Fukushima Medical University (Japan); Nagasaki University (Japan); National Institute of Technology, Fukushima College (Japan); Japan Health Physics Society (Japan); NPO Fukushima Dialogue (Japan); Fukushima Prefectural Union of Agricultural Co-operatives (Japan); Fukushima Prefecture Tourism and Local Products Association (Japan); Japan Nus Co., Ltd. (Japan); and Reprun Fukushima (Japan). The objective was to share experiences and lessons related to radiological protection aspects of recovery from the Fukushima accident, the Chernobyl accident, and other events to improve international understanding of the current state of recovery in Japan, consider strategies that may accelerate recovery, and improve preparedness for recovery from possible future major nuclear accidents. Originally planned to be held in Iwaki City, Fukushima Prefecture, Japan, restrictions imposed by the pandemic meant a rapid shift to a fully virtual event.
Although it was disappointing not to be able to gather in Fukushima, shifting to a virtual conference had the very positive consequence of opening participation to a much broader audience. In addition, thanks to the generosity of JAEA and the supporting organisations listed above, no registration fee was charged. During the first half of December 2020, well over 2500 people from more than 100 countries participated in the conference. One challenge of shifting to a virtual format was that it was not possible for people to come in person to see recovery in action, as planned. So, our partners graciously prepared virtual site tours. Our intention is to keep these available indefinitely at www.icrprecovery.org, allowing you to ‘visit’ Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, the Interim Storage Facility and Reprun Fukushima, Kawauchi Village, Suetsugi Community, Iitate Village, the Great East Japan Earthquake and Nuclear Disaster Tradition Centre, and JAEA Research and Development. We have the same intention to keep the video recordings of the scheduled sessions, complementary presentations, press conference, and Special Lecture of Akira Endo free to view online indefinitely. These proceedings complement this rich visual and audio record of the conference. Reflecting the complexity of recovery after nuclear accidents, you will find papers taking lessons from both the Fukushima and Chernobyl accidents covering a wide variety of topics. Some are highly technical or academic, others more practical, and a few are very personal. All such viewpoints are needed to complete the picture. Facing challenges like these requires not only our minds, but also our hearts. It is sometimes necessary to have an objective and abstract view, especially when dealing with complex consequences of enormous scope that require huge projects to counteract. However, we cannot forget that at the centre of every disaster are individual people in difficult situations trying to do their best for themselves and their community.
CHRISTOPHER H. CLEMENT