Professor Tatsuhiko Kodama of Tokyo University, whose fiery remark at the Health and Labor committee in the Lower House of Japan's Diet has inspired many people in Japan and in the world, spoke with independent journalist Daisuke Tsuda in his office at the university on August 5. The interview was set up by Shukan Gendai, a popular weekly magazine in Japan with extensive coverage of the Fukushima nuclear accident and the resultant radiation contamination throughout Japan.
Professor Kodama, in person, is very much relaxed and soft-spoken, as you can see in the video at the end of the post. Self-deprecating, and a patient teacher, from the way he describes the radiation issues as he sees them.
Part 1 of the summary below covers the first 10 minutes or so of the highly informational interview, which lasted for 66 minutes. It is is not the literal translation. I will post the rest as I finish. The first quick pass, and subject to later revision (when I notice egregious mistakes).
About people's reaction to his speech in the Diet committee:
"I was surprised at the strong reaction people seem to have had to my speech. I'm called as witness to the committee often, usually about food safety or children's playground safety. I didn't think much of it on that day. But then my son told me "Something strange is happening." Many people sent me emails, twitter, facebook messages, with encouragements, concerns and criticisms. I am very grateful for the feedback.
"In an academic world, we make progress when different people contribute from different angles. But suddenly it feels like I'm caught up in a big turbulence. Some of you may have mistaken me as a "good person" (laugh) but I'm just a regular person. My friends say my "freshness date" is about 2 weeks (laugh). They say I have about a week left to say what I want."
How scientists communicate with the lay public regarding radiation:
USTREAM archive: http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/16442790
"Scientists talk based on certain assumptions. But when the assumptions are wrong, then everything based on those assumptions is wrong.
"A good example is the standard for radiation safety. To assess the radiation safety we use "microsieverts". Such and such microsieverts/hr is detected, so it's safe/dangerous, and the argument goes on for ever over the number. But what we have now cannot be understood by this number alone. The 5 microsieverts/hour radiation detected [on March 15 in Ibaraki]. What's more significant than this high number is that it was detected 100 kilometers from the plant. An enormous amount of radiation was released. The average may be 5 microsieverts/hr, but in one spot it could be 500 microsieverts/hr, in another 0.5 microsievert/hr. That's how I see the problem.
"Ministry of Education and Science decided on the radiation level for children based on the time they spend in schools. But children are exposed to radiation in their homes. The radiation level for food was decided, as if there were a few food items that were radioactive. But we may have radioactive materials in almost all food. Unexpected concentration of radioactive materials may happen. The fundamental nature of the problem has changed. But mainstream scientists and the government don't seem to notice the change, and continue to apply the old standard of radiation protection, which is to take care of a radiation "spot". Now, what we have is two dimensional or three dimensional space filled with radiation.
"Also, at our Radioisotope Center, we treat different isotopes differently. But when you talk radiation in "microsieverts", you bundle everything together, as if different radionuclides were the same. As I said in the committee, thorotrast goes to liver. Iodine goes to thyroid, and cesium goes to urinary bladder. There is no point in considering them together."
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