I'd like to begin this press conference. My name is Ian Thomas Ash, and I'm a documentary film maker and a member here at the club.
this is my honor to introduce today's guest.
Dr. Timothy Mousseau is a professor of biological science at the University of South Carolina, and in addition to his work examining birds and other wildlife living around de___ power plants at Chernobyl and Fukushima.
He has also recently served on the National Academy of Science committee to examine the incidents of cancer near nuclear power plants.
I first have a honor of meeting professor Mousseau in March of this year in Germany, at congress called Effects of Nuclear Disasters on Natural Environment and Human Beings, that is organized by the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War(IPPNW). And yesterday also had the honor of attending professor Mousseau's presentation, Chernobyl, Fukushima and other hot places: biological consequences of nuclear accidents for avifauna at the 26th International Ornithological Congress at St. Paul's University (立教) here in Tokyo.
I'm not going taking any more time to introduce our guest and I like to turn over the floor to him. Please.
Ladies and gentlemen, really is a pleasure to be here, I'd like to thank you all taking some timeout this Friday afternoon, I'd also especially like to recognize Ambassador Murata for coming out this afternoon. Thank you very much, Ambassador.
I'd like should also acknowledge a few other folks but I'll get you that later.
I'd, of course, like to thank foreign correspondence club of Japan for hosting this event.
It really is a great privilege to spend a few minutes this afternoon with you to discuss some of the recent scientific findings related to the Fukushima radiological disaster.
You know, to be honest, as a simple scientist, it's not very often that we come and give a formal press conference, really, ** to ah, you know these kinds of findings, and so, ah, but has been some developments in the last year or two, really, ah, especially recent months that ... that really I think bring some sense of urgency to sharing some of these latest findings, and today hopefully I have a chance to share a few key results from our recent work, not just our work, but mostly our work.
And hopefully this will be of some relevance, I think, to certainly the people of Japan as well as people that might be visiting Japan in the coming years.
So, my concerns of the past few months, really, have stem from the fact that not(?) growing number of scientific studies, that, concerning radiation effects on plants and animals from Chernobyl, but also from Fukushima, and that these have clearly demonstrated impacts, injuries to individuals, populations, communities, and even whole ecosystems.
These findings, I think, have significant implications for the recovery of contaminated regions of Japan, and I __ discuss some of these recent finding in a few minutes, in some detail.
Second reason for my concern stems from the fact that, it's apparent that, some government, governmental and inter-governmental organizations are ignoring scientific studies and, ah, you can't help but think that this must be deliberate attempt to minimize some of these consequences for the environment related to nuclear accidents.
You know, I think, ... Let me just go into a couple of the recent, ah, reports.
Ah, let me first get...going into the work in Chernobyl, this report was released by the International Atomic Energy Agency's Chernobyl Forum, and ah, this, kind of motivated lot of, ah, recent work. They suggested that populations of many plants and animals have expanded, and that the present environmental conditions have had a positive impact on the biota in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone.
(UN Chernobyl Forum Report, IAEA, 2006, p137)
We've been to Chernobyl a few times prior to this report and could see no evidence that this was the case, so this really motivated much of our recent work as a test of this.
More recently, and more relevance for today's presentation, is the recent UNSCAR report to the UN General Assembly, where they suggested, with a complete absence of any ___ sort of supporting documentation, that exposures of both marine and terrestrial non-human biota following Fukushima accident were, in general, too low for acute effects to be observed.
(UNSCEAR 2013, Report to the UN General Assembly - April 2014,
4. Radiation exposures and effects on non-human biota)
Exposures of both marine and terrestrial non-human biota following the accident were, in general, too low for acute effects to be observed...
And then they, ... kind of contradict themselves in the second part of this statement, suggesting that,
any radiation effect will be restricted to limited areas where deposition of radioactive material was greatest beyond that areas potential for effects on biota is insignificant.
Any radiation effects would be restricted to a limited area where the deposition density of radioactive material was greatest; beyond that area, the potential for effects on biota is insignificant."
And, this, this particularly troubled us given that, there had been, perhaps half a dozen publications related Fukushima that had been released prior to the release of this report, and many more related to Chernobyl effects which are quite similar, in terms of radiation and __ consequences.
So, again, this is the primary motivation for speaking out today.
You know, I guess it's really ... probably important to mention that, ah, unmentionable, ** __ what was often unmentioned, ah, is that, you know it's been suggested, informally, perhaps, that defensible reason for making such statements, even in the absence of rigorous scientific data, is to minimize panic and hence human stress, which is, of course, are very significant cause of disease in humans.
And that certainly conceivable that human health consequences such stress could be larger than the direct health consequences of exposure to radionucleides in the environment.
But to be sure, no one will ever know the answer to that particular question if, you know, if you don't actually do the research related to the radiation exposure per se.
And certainly any attempts to minimize human health effects because of desire to minimize stress will certainly lead to violations to near-universal governmental- and inter-governmental mandates to also protect the environment.
Ah, you know, it's not just the people we need to protect but also broader environmental situation.
And of course, the mission of one of... another related UN organization, United Nations Environmental Program, you know, specificly to protect the environment for future generations.
So, with that as a sort of preamble, I'd like to just present very, very quickly, so that we lots of time for questions, some of the key results that have been generated in the last few years.
And at the very end I present some results that we presented yesterday at the International Ornithological Congress here in Tokyo concerning our latest findings following four years of surveys of birds and insects in Fukushima area.
First, I just wanna start by saying that there have been now, since the Chernobyl Forum Report, many, many studies relating radiation exposure that sort(?) seen in Chernobyl and Fukushima to genetic damage.
First sort of summary of these kinds of effects was presented in a review paper that my colleague and I published in 2006 in direct response to the Chernobyl Forum report using literature from Eastern Europe as well as the western scientific literature. This is a list of the studies have been know prior to the Chernobyl Forum Report, most of which show very clear genetic consequences of exposure to the low dose radiation seen in Chernobyl.
We've since conducted meta analysis, this was just published last year in the Biological Reviews of Cambridge Philosophical Society.
You know, the nuclear industry will often suggest that the levels of radiation found in Chernobyl and Fukushima are, in many parts of this areas, lower than the natural radioactive areas of the world, where, it suggested there're no consequences of the radiation.
We tested this directly by surveying the literature for hundreds of scientific papers and did a very rigorous statistical analysis, meta analysis of these findings.
And what we find, again published in this paper, was that there were small but significant consequences to humans and plants and animals living in these naturally radioactive areas which by definition __ low doses as well.
So, even in the other areas, there are consequences.
You've all probably heard of the studies done by a group of Japanese scientists in Okinawa concerning the pale-bluegrass butterfly, wonderful study, demonstrating, again, some significant consequences. Again this is the first study, needs to be replicated, needs to be added to, but it's certainly an important point of reference that should have been made in the UNSCEAR report.
So, genetic damage is pretty much universally seen, even under conditions of low dose radiation.
What it's mean to organisms?
Living in these environments, well, ah, you know, we just published a paper a few months ago, showing, for instance, that in Chernobyl, when we look at birds, when we look at sperm, gametes(配偶子), next generation of birds as they(?) were, in 9 out of 10 species of these birds, the Chernobyl population show dramatically increased genetic damage, morphological damage, to the sperm.
And this, of course, has consequence to the fertility of these organisms.
We just published a paper a few months ago, in the journal PLOS ONE, looking at, again, the male fertility, what we found was, again in areas of higher contamination, up to 40 percent of the males were completely sterile, had no sperm or just a few dead sperm in samples.
Again, very high rates. This is not particularly surprising giving what we know from the medical literature, but it's the first time it had been observed.
Can you imagine that, Chernobyl happened how long ago? twenty years ago? and nobody ever looked for this kinds of effects before?
In any case, ah, the findings are overwhelming, nice dose-response relationship, in clean areas, the males are all perfectly fine.
You've all, probably, ** even interested in this topic, have heard about the white feathers on birds have been reported for Chernobyl, the partial albinos.
This was the first thing observed, it's very easy to see, you can use a pair of binoculars to observe it. We published a paper last year, again, showing all sorts of different birds in Chernobyl show this effect, and shows dose-response relationship with many higher, much higher frequencies in the more radioactive areas.
Two years ago, at Fukushima, we found our first swallow with patches of white feathers, again, rarely seen outside of Chernobyl, radioactive areas of Chernobyl, we since have been documenting in collaboration with Wild Bird Society of Japan, many more additional cases of these partial albinos.
Again, it's probably not particular ..., it's not particularly damaging kind of mutation, but it is a biomarker for the effects of radiation.
You've all, probably heard **, Fukushima cows with the white spots on ... I apologize for showing you the rear end of a cow here, ah, but this is just one of many, many cows in the area that showing this phenotype.
It's ... you know, we don't know if these white spots are the direct consequences of the radiation exposure, because nobody is studying this question, ah, in ...so, but it is probably not a coincidence that are only found in Fukushima zone. There are no cows in Chernobyl at the moment, so, we don't know.
Many of the other signs are, ... various exposures are, though, less benign, so for instance last year we published the paper showing that in more contaminated regions of Chernobyl, many the birds have tumors and other strange growth abnormalities that are not seen in any kind of frequency in other places.
We haven't been able to check for this in, ah, Fukushima birds yet. We hope that will be given the chance to do this and has time goes on.
Another paper recently published relates the fact that individuals living in... humans living in more radioactive situations often experience higher frequencies of cataracts. We discovered, ah, last published, ah, two years ago that the birds of Chernobyl also show higher frequencies of cataracts in eyes. The frequencies of cataracts are much more... ah, much more likely to see a cataract in a bird in more radioactive areas.
Ah, again the...we ** ... we, couple of years ago we published a paper showing that the birds of Chernobyl have smaller brains. And, ... of course I, I, .. since ask myself whether maybe my brain's getting a little smaller if all(?) the time we're spending in these areas, ah, someday I feel that's(?) probably the case.
And ah, but, ah, the... um, this was very striking result and important result, ah, simply because ... ah, there's also some consequence to this effect of radiation in neurological development which is also been observed, reported for children living in Chernobyl affected regions.
It has cognitive... it likely has cognitive effects. Birds of smaller brains much less likely survive to the following(?) year. And so, and this is what this graph shows in.. published PLOS ONE again, two years ago.
Um. This picture right here is simply... it's a photo of a common bug, ah, that's a firebug(ホシカメムシ), I like to call it a facemask bug because ah, the, ah, my...thing's not working...anyway if you can, if you look at it carefully, I'll just mask out the legs and antennae, can you all see the face mask? There's with eyes?
Well, I ...I use this as an example of how it is that every rock we turn over, sometimes literally, we see evidence of the effects of radiation. Ah, these bugs, where, we, we first noticed in Chernobyl when __ turned over a rock(?) , and noticed that many of the bugs showed, ah, very strange abnormalities, very obvious because of this, you know, facemask kind of motif, ah, making it really easy to spot.
Ah, but again, frequency of these abnormality directly proportional to background radiation level.
Ah, but it's not just birds and bees and bugs, it's the trees again show very strange growth abnormalities of... these are scots pines(ヨーロッパアカマツ), ah, that are affected by the radiation, affecting growth form(?) normally tell and straight.
Now they look really kind of bizarre, ah, but you also see effects on the growth of trees, growth is depressed, and quality of the wood of these trees are also affected as a result.
We recently published this paper in Journal Trees, appropriately enough, showing, again, that in areas of radia..., high radiation, you know, significant radiation, ah, tree growth is dramatically depressed, so that, could be significant economic consequences of ah, of the radiation in these areas, where timbers, as well as logged a lot(?).
Again, we just published the paper, ah, few months ago, showing ah, describing how it is, that in Chernobyl, and we see evidence of this Fukushima now as well, ah, let me first start __ walking through the old forest of Chernobyl where the dead trees were still lying twenty years later, pretty much intact, ah, hadn't decomposed, sort of dawned on us, maybe bacterial and fungal communities(?) microbial community was influenced by radiation and slow down microbial decomposition.
And so we actually did an experiment, we put out ah, dead leaf(?) material of six hundred bugs and these dead leaves across the zones of various levels of radiation.
And the findings were pretty, pretty conclusive. Ah, the rate of decomposition of this dead plant material was dramatically reduced in the areas of significant contamination. And this could in part, of course, explain why tree growth is also reduced in these areas because the nutrient cycling that normally goes on in the ecosystem is obviously impeded in these areas.
So, strong ecosystem-level effects as well.
Ah, almost done.
Ah, the last set of results that I wanted to present concerns, again, this, this more general question of, "Are animal, Is animal abundance in biodiversity affected?"
The Chernobyl Forum report suggested "that wasn't." And so, and, as well as UNSCEAR report. And so, what we've done is to actually go out and test this idea. and we published quite a number of papers in the last few years, especially related the Chernobyl effects, all available on my website if anyone who wants to see them.
Ah, I'm almost on the mark.
And we published a couple of papers now on Fukushima related.
The basic approach is very simple. Any biologist can do this. And, ah, but as far as I know, ** we are the only one done it with any significant number.
The basic ideas you go to very contaminated and very clean areas within the same general area. Both Chernobyl and Fukushima are highly heterogeneous with respect to the radiation levels, you can find hot spot here and, you know, a kilometer away it will be ten times or even hundred times less contaminated. And so this gives a lot of, it gives the ability to strong statistical comparisons in many different parts of these zones. Ah, so replicated scientific comparisons of these hot and cold areas that are very similar with respect the other environmental parameters except for radiation.
So it's very strong approach. Again, I don't think anybody is doing this other than us.
Ah, here in Japan we're doing this in the Fukushima areas these squiggle show the general areas that we worked again hot and cold areas. 400 discrete locations, 1500 of these biotic inventories in total, we call this a massively replicated biotic inventory design and, again, this, I think lots of people do bird counts but I don't think anybody put them together quite this way.
We have, ah, bird counts, or insect counts, or spider counts, we measure all of the other environmental variables of potential significance concerning abundance and distribution of an organism, we also do, of course, the measurements of radiation at those level(?) we use geographic information systems-kind of approaches and some fancy multivariate statistics.
And this allows us to predict what radiation effects are on this population. In effect, gets around the problem that of... the fact that don't actually know, of course, exactly what was in these places before the accidents nobody was there studying animals there.
This allows us to use the broader geo- .. landscape-scale patterns that we see now to predict what should be there. And from that, look at the deviations from what should be there.
And this gives us our measures of what radiation effects are on various groups.
Very powerful approach, seems to be working, gives us a lot of insights.
These are the results from Chernobyl, of the first results of Chernobyl, when we look at the high radiation areas, numbers of birds, for instance, are depressed by two-thirds in more radioactive areas. Particular, notice that there's really no indication of any kind of threshold effect, it just continues down to the lower levels.
When we look at, ah, the total biodiversity, numbers of species, we see the same basic pattern with depressed numbers. We looked at many different groups of organisms we find the same basic patterns for dragonflies, butterflies, spiders, and etc.
Here are the results from Fukushima. And these are quite interesting.
Ah, I guess, ... can't get the pointer to work...**....all right.
So, here we have this...this side of the graph is from 2011, July 2011, a few months after the disaster, what you can tell from this graph is that, some of the species already here, are negatively impacted, even July 2011.
But, quite a few species, each one of these points is a species of bird, quite a few these species were not affected that first year, and .. these even one over here that was positively impacted for whatever reason.
But by 2012, oops, wrong way, by 2012, looking on this axis, many more species were negatively affected, and in fact, the strength of the negative effect on these species actually increase for most of these. Even those one was positive in 2011 was much, much closer to now(?) being affected heading downward.
These next figures are really, really important, and this really was the motivation for speaking today.
These are the results from four years of data. Starting July 2011, and we just did the last count last month here in Fukushima.
And what this graph shows, very, very strikingly, is that the total number of birds drops off with radiation in Fukushima in very consistent pattern. Again there's no evidence of any kind of threshold, ah, radiation level below which there's no effect.
And again, very consistent from over the years with effect increase through time I just mentioned.
That's(?) the total number of birds.
Effects on species richness, biodiversity ___ again, more striking, again, dropping off with increasing radiation, again these are each on of these, it's, ah, point, one of the 400 points we looked at four times over the last few years. So very, very striking patterns of results.
Ah, these, these, are, again, these were presented yesterday at international ornithological congress.
And this just more detail...ah, analysis of species effects, the distribution of species effects, you probably, ** not much interest __ this.
So, what all this mean?
I seem to be on time.
Ah, I would suggest that, what I mean is, contrary to governmental reports, there's now abundance of information demonstrating consequences, in other words, injury to individuals, populations, species, ecosystem function stemming from low dose radiation due to Chernobyl and Fukushima disasters.
What should be done about it?
And again, I'm speaking, **, from my personal perspective, really, I, I, you know, I didn't start... I usually start off these kinds of presentations with the disclaimer, ah, I'm not anti-nuclear activist, I wanna make that clear, at all. What I am is an activist for evidence-based policy related to the environment, ah, I found it's necessary to step up in this way because the message wasn't getting out otherwise.
What I'm calling for is, ah, funding of some international scientific effort to fully document range of biological consequence related to low dose radiation in the environment.
And I, ... key point here, I think, again, ah, especially as that(?) relates to some of these other reports that were generated presumably with some scientific input. Ah, this effort must be lead by independent scientists who committed to rigorous, unbiased analysis of the present situation with the goal of predicting long-term impacts.
This really, obviously hasn't been done to this point.
In the question always follows, of course, is how we gonna pay for this?
And, ah, you know, ** all the time. and I, I, I can__ that not my job but what I would like to, just briefly mention is(?) the fact that, as you probably most of you already know, it's predicted that the cost of decommissioning that the Fukushima-daiichi nuclear power plant will be at least fifteen billion dollars, multiply that by a hundred for yen, and we all know that a way low-ball estimate, what true cost is going to be, if we...from based on what we know about the Hanford site in the United States, of course, which would(?) cost more than hundred billion dollars to cleanup, it seems likely that there will be... ah, added costs.
The predicted cost of cleanup and compensation of the contaminated areas of Fukushima, we know, will exceed 80 billion dollars.
If we allocated point one percent towards environmental research related to this disaster that would come to 90 billion(million?) dollars which would be plenty of funds to get things going, ah, I frankly happy with point zero-one percent, but, that just me.
So, I think with that, I just wanted to thank you again, for coming out this afternoon, ah, if you are interested in any of these publications, photos, some of the other press covers we had, please visit our website, and I'll be delighted to answer any questions.
Thank you very much.
OK, __open up the floor for questions, we take questions from working press, first. please no speeches. Thank you.
Thank you. Richard Roy Ta___ of Times.
couple of questions.
To go back to the slides at the very beginning when you are coaching statements by UNSCEAR, um, can you, perhaps restate or spell(?) out what it represents? Is it fair to say that UN body is downplaying, um, the dangers or damage to the environment, can you call it coverup? How would you, how would you characterize it?
and second, shall I?
The second question was about research in Chernobyl and research in Fukushima, most of the studies you were pointing to, seem to be from Chernobyl because ___ see longer ago. Am I right in saying that there in terms of published studies or studies that've been made public, ah, in(?) from Fukushima we(?) are looking at the butterfly, gross butterfly and the, um, ah, biggest(?) birds which you presented to the congress yesterday, all others?
We, I start with the second question. We actually published two papers on birds and any insects related Fukushima, in the last two years. that was not mentioned in the UNSCEAR report, they were (?) actually was a paper on a___ published recently, ah, by some Japanese scientists and, another paper came up recently concerning the effects on macaques(?), in ... there have been other studies, not, not a whole lot, you're right, the most of work related to this topic, of course, comes from studies in Chernobyl, ah, not just because that happened longer ago, but because it's been a lot easier to do research in Chernobyl, ah, you know, the, ah, that certainly is one element, does take some time to publish scientific reports, often a year or two, at least. So...
But there's, you know, again, part of what, part of the point today is that, as far as we can tell so far, that does not seem to be ah, any, ah, any dramatic difference between the effects of radiation in Chernobyl versus the effects of radiation in Fukushima. Ah, and I think that is, ah, one of the take-home messages that the lessons learned from Chernobyl seem to, we certainly __ prudent course would be to take these in consideration, when considering potential long-term impacts for Fukushima region.
Let me back to your first question related UNSCEAR report, ah, all I'm saying, all I'm trying to say is that, they very clearly not considered broader literature related to this topic. This particular committee is not concerned specifically with Fukushima, although that report, of course, was directed towards the consequences of Fukushima, but this committee is concern with the effects of radiation in the environment more broadly speaking, and they have clearly, ah, ignored. And I can only considered to be, ah, deliberate ignorance, because, ah, of the fact that for the last really three years we have made every possible efforts to communicate the finding of our research and others as broadly as we possibly can.
And ah, we've been, we had some, some success in that regard. So there's no excuse for not knowing about this literature.
And given that their task is(?) to protect the international community, not just Japan, they should be, ah, held accountable to the very highest standards of objectivity.
Martin ___ New York Times.
You just made very, ...what I think is a remarkable statement which is you are saying was more difficult to do research in Fukushima than in Chernobyl?
You wanna(?) elaborate on that? And I wonder do you think __ too little research being done in Japan on Fukushima and, Japanese scientists not paying attention I wonder(?) __ structural issues, government funding issues, I just wanna if you could explore that idea a bit more? Thank you.
Certainly, thank you very much.
Ah, so, these are all related questions, of course. and the, um, so that the simple answer is that ah, in Chernobyl, it is(?) difficult to ___ to work there, there are mechanisms in place to promote som... collaboration with international community to provide some level of support for scientific investigations in that region of all sorts.
And, there's centralized governing organization that provides for permissions and permits and even accommodations for scientists wanting to conduct research in that area.
In Japan and Fukushima, because of the instability, I suppose, not sure that's the right word, because of the complexity I ___ probably the better way to put it, ah, there's no one entry for the research, in fact, no entry at all for formal research activities in the zone.
Each municipality in the area, Futaba, Namie, Iidate, they all have their own responsibilities and maintain control of(?) access to the zone, ah, individually. So, we..., so for instance, first year that we visited it was just simply because there was no, **, there was no control at all of the area, really except for the most contaminated areas that we managed to gain access to.
The second year, we, ah, we had some help, with partial access to the more contaminated areas. The third year we actually found collaborators with the Japanese press primarily, who have helped us considerably to get through some of these, ah, these barriers.
So one reason that there is not whole lot of research been done in the area is that it's extremely difficult, ah, to gain entry. The other reason is that there's almost no funding available directly for this kind of research for Japanese scientists or international scientists.
One reason for this is that because of the complexities, that I've just outlined, I can't promise a granting agency that I'm gonna be able to do anything, ah, in this, this area. We come, we opportunistically take advantage of the option that __ arise, we hope that things will work out, and we've been doing this particular study for 4 years.
We have another study on the coast(?) looking at barn swallows, that we've been doing for three years now, and ah we just started our study on the rodents in the area as well, ah, that should have mentioned but I didn't have time to mention ah earlier.
So that, true constraints of complexities of gaining access and doing research and lack of funding, directly related to this research.
Chernobyl, access issues have been worked out and ah, funding is much more readily available although still not particularly abundance sources of funds for Chernobyl.
There many Japanese scientists who are interested in doing research in Chernobyl q... in Fukushima question, they have not, they've also had same barriers to overcome. and perhaps have been a little more difficult for them because of the cultural differences or cultural issues they know, ha,ha,ha, when they not allowed to them we don't ___ so, sometimes we can get through these issues of... we can find a path of least resistance that might not be available to Japanese scientists. But there's also no funding available for them.
So, what efforts have been made are very limited in scope, and ah, certainly will not serve to address the larger issues that we need to get out in rigorous way, you know, this kind of... this question is serious, it's, it's an important issue, and, we need to do serious rigorous science.
Ah, and, you know, half-baked scientific studies are going to more harm than good. Ah, in that, really is part of the issue.
It's hard to say without ah, potentially insulting somebody but it is ah, important that the resources be made available, access be made available, so that rigorous science can be conducted. Is that __?
Elene ___ of Associated Press, nice to meet you.
Couple of questions. One is is about, to what effect this international body can have any impact on Japanese policy making potentially, and the other question is just about cause and effect you mentioned about trees not deteriorating in Chernobyl area. Ok, so I'm assuming this has ecosystem-wide impacts and implications. And looking at Fukushima where they're trying to cleanup, and gather a lot of biological matter that radiated... contaminated, I mean, it seems to me that there's implications both for how you handle that cleanup, and also for the species, I mean, are you extrapolating from what you seen to to think that perhaps part of the reason why numbers of animals is decreasing because the entire ecosystem is affected by the radiation from the likens(?) or up, bacteria and up?
Okay, ah, yeah, um. Start with the Japanese policy question.
I think ah, I think that most governmental agencies, funding agencies ah, do respond to these kind of general policy or these kinds of policy-related statements and so of course they set stage. You know, I think, I bring up the example on occasion that fifteen years ago, we knew nothing or very little about climate change. Very few people studying climate change, there's almost no money to do research in climate change, but you know, there was growing awareness in scientific community that this is important, and ah, through, ha,ha, and following shifts in some of these kinds of agencies, ah, IPCC in particular, have been dramatic changes in access and funding ah, a lot(?) of research being done in that particular topic.
So yes, I think these kinds of governmental pronouncements are incredibly important in setting stage. Providing leadership that provides excuse for funding __ initiatives.
You know, that National Science Foundation in U.S. now, provides billions of dollars for climate change research, that's the one of top-priorities.
Getting to the global, the issue of global ecosystem effects, yes, I think that what, you know, the only conclusion we can come to from the increasing body of evidence from Chernobyl, is that the all components of the ecosystem seems to be affected from bacteria in the soil, fungi in the soil, all way up to the top predators, the raptors birds they prey, and the um, they are all connected, of course, ah, but you know, as we pick away various components of the ecosystem, we, we have not found any particular components that don't seem to be affected in some way.
And so, again, we know too little, ah, you know, there's too few of us doing this kind of work, there's many other aspects of ecosystem we haven't got at.
We love to be able to do more fundamental genetics ah, in these systems. Again that's expensive research in(?) that has not really been addressed at this point for any of the systems, as just as an example.
Suto ___ (?)
First, ah, the government, Japanese government obviously, if I understand you correctly, is actively not interested in your research. Japanese government tries to decontaminate those co.. ah, ____, yes, and tries to... because tries(?) to kind of recreate something like normality. I believe, what they believe is normality.
Do you believe that, by this this decontamination efforts that actually make the thing.. you, you ____ by ___ re-pumping radiation to the environment?
Thank you very much, ah, good question.
You know, ah, the short answer is 'we don't know,' what the consequences of this shifting of contaminated dirt will be in a long run. Should have brought some photos we're... you know, we spent a lot of time last months in those areas. The amount of dirt that's been piled up into these mountains is just overwhelming.
Every... because there's no concerted policy related to the whole decontaminated.. decontamination problem, ah, there's all these piles in every municipality. I don't know how many they are now but there are a lot.
Certainly these piles of dirt not going to last forever, they are in plastic bags. and so, there is...is longer-term issue that needs to be addressed.
I...I..., you know, again, the broader question now is really will this de__ decontamination effort do more than reduce the external dose rates in areas where people are expected to comeback to.
And, that seems to be, ah, debatable question perhaps but it...it seems very unlikely that it's going to result in anything other than very localized reduction in external dose rate in these highly localized areas where the dirt being scraped off the ground.
And so, the rest of Fukushima, which is a very large area, of course will be unaffected, and of course, this kind of cleaning effort is not being attempted in areas of higher contamination, that, again, has been proven to be ineffective.
So that's really focused in areas that's whether(?) there's some chance that people might return and it's very, very expensive.
Again, it's probably..., it seems unlikely that will be long-term broader ecological consequence of the moving of the dirt from highly localized area simply because it is relatively small area that being scraped off. And so, ah, it seems unlikely that will be a long-term consequences for the broader ecosystem, because of that localization.
__more questions working press, yes.
John Boyd, freelance writer.
I wonder are there any scientific links you can make from animals and plants being affected by radiation to, ah, human health? Can you generalize, perhaps, and may even be specific Chernobyl and ah, Fukushima?
Absolutely. Thank you very much.
Let me just start by asking you all, well, I don't have to ask you, most medical research in the world is conducted on animal model systems of one sort including plants, ** and birds, fish, cell lines, and the reason is, of course, that these model systems have attractive features make them usable workable in a laboratory setting or some other way, but they also share fundamental biological properties with humans, we're after all just an animal. ah, we are, ...I think I watched recent movie, **, the you know, share 99% of DNA sequence with the chimps. of course, we share 100 % of our fundamental biochemical machinery with other primates and mammals, you know, we all work the same way.
So, of course, what we see in plants and animals has relevance for humans. Now what's the major differences that in human populations in Fukushima, ah, luckily are not facing the same level of exposures that animal systems we're working with are seeing, you know, we're deliberately working in areas of highest contamination and cleaner areas, so that we have maximum range of radiation to work with, so that,ah, research is ... as as sensitive as can possibly be with the least amount of time ** least amount of money, ah, because to work at level that humans are experiencing would require much, much larger sample size and much larger study designs ___ we're just not able to do that, but it ___ certainly worth pursuing, but ah, yes, fundamentally anything we see with these animals has relevance for the(?) humans in the area just that humans ___ have lower dose rate and so are likely to be affected... to require much longer for any kind of consequences to show up.
Regarding the questions that ____ ah, my name is ___ kokumin shinbun(?).
All the series(?) of radiation, originate from fruit fly, ___, and I heard that fruit fly doesn't have capability to sort of restore DNA damage immunity(?).
I don't think that's correct. I think there're certain chromosomes on a fruit fly... is that your question?
My question is that that also experience ___ high dose of radiation, not low dose. So the concept ALARA, as low as reasonably achievable, was that ___ so, the lower the radiation the better is the idea. but recent ___ a lot of scientist l__ contact(?) who says that's wrong. For example, W___ alison, the professor emeritus of ___ university, ___ also __ reason ___ radiation, she says that low-dose radiation is not just harmful for human body but __ help, but even better for health because of the, you know DNA recovery system. What your comment along this __?
Thank you very much.
I start with fruit flies **. Ah, yeah, it's funny I, I,.. I actually spent some time on Chernobyl looking for fruit flies because I, my training is actually genetics and entomology, so, I figured, as an entomologist, you know, and geneticist, I should be doing work on fruit flies. And you can bring'em to a lab and do all these things.
And we got to Chernobyl, I went Chernobyl one for looking for them, and I couldn't find any fruit flies. And, I was, kind of baffled, because there's fruit trees all over Chernobyl. And __ should been lots of __ and weren't being pecked, of course, the fruit ___ should been just falling to the ground and rotting. But then looked at fruit trees, there no fruit, very little fruit on the ground. And I looked around and realized, there weren't any bees, weren't any butterflies or very few.
That's really what instigated the start of many of these census studies. So it took us a while to get going fruit flies. We're happy doing some work on fruit flies. and as far as I know, they do have repair on certain of their chromosomes but, but the sex chromosome were there's only one copy.. is has less repair, but I'm sure there's some repair capability.
The more important question concerns, whether or not is there any evidence of, one, threshold below which there's no negative effects of radiation, and two, you bring up the words that I don't like to use because there's really little evidence for it, but this since I've use it recently, I, I..will mention it hormesis, that a notion that a little bit of radiation is actually, potentially good for you because turns on DNA repair.
You know, there are few folks out there who will bring this up and suggest that this is what's happening. The truth is there no good scientific, experimental scientific data to demonstrate that this is indeed the case.
From evolutionary point of view, from fundamental genetics point of view, it makes no sense. And reason is that, ah, there have been billions of years of evolution on this planet, our genetic systems have been refined and optimized over these billions of years.
And the truth is, most mutations that occur in all organisms either have no effect, because of the redundancy in the basic genetic code, or they have slightly deleterious effect. Any mutation of large effect is usually deleterious and kills the carrier and so they disappear very quickly.
And so, all... most of the machinery in our cells, in fact, is associated with repairing the damage that occurs every day, all the time, just by being alive. Basic fundamental metabolic processes(?) generate oxidative stress. This oxidative stress is primary cause of genetic damage, and so much of our biochemical machinery, there in place to repair the damage caused by day-to-day living.
Radiation simply adds to that. In fact, ionizing radiation, one of the effects of ionizing radiation is to increase oxidative stress. and much of our recent studies, I __n't going into the details here, many of our recent studies are related to the fact that this oxidative stress actually, probably one of the underline causes, universal under __ causes deleterious effect that we're seeing in many of these organisms.
The radiation raises oxidative stress that the organisms can't cope with it, genetic mutations result, and phenotypic consequences and fitness consequences, survival, reproduction, consequences of this genetic damage.
So, so the notion that a little bit radiation is helpful is silly because actually this little bit of extra radiation is simply adding to the same kinds of mutagens that are already in our bodies that we're doing our very best, every day, to repair, and ultimately cause of aging and death and most organisms, anyway.
So, again, hormesis is ... is very unlikely hypothesis for which there's no support.
A quick f___ question?
Ah, maybe a silly question. but ah, if so, the result that you show us is there possibility not(?) because of radiation because of stress. For example, evacuation or earthquake, or whatever.
Ah, thank you for raising that issue.
And that is precisely why we're working with barn swallows and butterflies and grasshoppers and mice, as far as I know, they...you know, they don't smoke, they don't drink vodka, and I don't think they get stressed, psychologically stressed. Now of course they do experience all sorts of other kinds of stress, like avoiding being eaten by other animals, or finding food to eat, and so, so, yes I agree that life in the wild, the nature is probably much more stressful from that of perspective than life in a laboratory where many of these past studies being conducted, for instance, and this is one of the reasons why, for instance, works that we've been doing in Chernobyl and another people in Chernobyl, ah, recently analyzed by some of the industry, nuclear industry folks, ah, it shows, that the animals and plants there seem to be about 8 times, on average, 8 times more sensitive to radioactive contaminants than they are in a laboratory setting.
Again that's just a rule of thumb from one little survey. but certainly are (our) results indicate that there's higher level of sensitivity or susceptibility to these contaminants than one might predicted based on laboratory studies.
But there's no evidence of thresholds, there's no evidence of anything but something approaching linear-no-threshold dose-response.
Murata, former Japanese ambassador to Switzerland.
You're making efforts against, ah, efforts of minimization of the dangers of radiation and in this connection, don't you think member states of IAEA should try to reform the IAEA ___ contradictory mission to prevent proliferation and spread pacific use of nuclear energy. In this connection, I'd like to inform you that there is a joint statement signed by former Japanese prime minister Hosokawa, and former president of Swiss confederation Morris Lo___berger, in which, the statement propose reform of the IAEA and strengthening of control of existing nuclear reactors.
This have(?) prepared statement so you can see at my web site, and I think it is shameful member states not fully aware that this international organization represents the interests of electric companies.
Thank you very much. Um...ah,
Since I'm just thankful that there're others out there who are interested in the broader questions related to policy and intergovernmental issues. It's not an area of my ... not my specialty of mine of this point ** but ah, I'm certainly thankful for any attempts to raise awareness of the broader issues.
And again, it's not, ... again, I can't make any claims, concerning, you know, larger attempts to minimize danger. I'm simply raising the issues that the scientific evidence is not been clearly presented, properly presented in objective and rigorous manner, that's really only my mission.
___ time for more question. Anybody __ now ask question __ please?
__ kozuka, freelance.
I have a question that might be a little bit out of your ___ ___ **, but mostly what you shown us today has to do with insects and birds and kind of smaller animals, and I've read, in regard to Chernobyl and___ Fukushima as well but, there's been kind of explosion of larger animals? because normally they would be pushed out by human habitat encroachment?
I'm wondering what you witnessed those populations in terms of changes to the radiation, and to what extent you feel like, things like ah, the, population drops you talked about, might also related to explosions in predator populations? Thank you.
Thank you very much, ah, I really didn't have time to present that aspect of our findings. We actually published a few papers related to that topic including a peeper on the birds of pray in Chernobyl, raptors, again, showing significant declines in the areas of high contamination, although we do see some increases in the areas of outside of the exclusion zones for raptors in cleaner areas.
We've also done ah, written in a published paper, ah, two years ago, one year ago, ** I'm losing track, my brain's getting smaller, ** but the, the, showing again, we went to Chernobyl couldn't figure out how the quick easiest way to look at mammals. Mammals are so much harder to work with, especially the large ones, they are often nocturnal and smart and avoid people.
And so, we went in a winter time, and tracked them in the snow. We waited fresh snowfall, and counted the tracks not so many that you can't actually identify them from footprints, we repeated the basic same procedure that we view that the birds and mammals in the winter, and found the same basic pattern for all of the mammals we looked at except for wolves, ah, the wolves are actually ... didn't show any pattern of variations with, ah, with radiation.
We presumed simply because that much larger territory that encompass hot and cold areas, but again that's need to be fully tested.
But in terms of number of deers, ah, there's no evidence that they've exploded, again any of you who living in semi-wild areas know that if that .. hunting stops on deers the populations explode. you know, you can't avoid them. We don't see any evidence of that.
There are few more(?) wild boar, obvious that ...that you wouldn't see outside the zone, but they tend to be found in the cleaner parts of the zone. I think I mention this earlier in the map on the first slide, that Chernobyl zone is very heterogeneous, there vast areas that are very clean, and areas of very hot.
The animals, larger mammals in particular, ch__ and birds, are more likely to be seen in these areas of clean areas within the zone than the contaminated areas.
So to suggest that populations are exploding, ah, is really kind of a, it's a bit of red herring in terms of the, the broader issue whether or not the radioactivity is having any direct effects on these populations. Is that answer your question?
OK, unfortunately that all we have time today, __ I correct? __time to one more question? I'm not getting any response. ___ one more question, perhaps, OK?
I will be around for a little bit later for anybody interested having...
Thanks, um, yeah, this is another way of asking question about the relationship you find in conclusions you might draw for humans. Ah, from what I've read about number of studies, including foreign ones, which have __ looked possible long-term effect on human health __ Fukushima disaster.
Unless I missed something, the general tentative conclusion seems to be that, the reasonable(?) reason(?) to expect, an big spike for example in cancers, and if there is a long-term effect it's likely to be so small in percentage term that you won't really able to identify people in the general population who have got sick or Fukushima a__ might got sick anyway, um, I'm trying to struggling to remember now the details but I think ___ from California University that, you know, the figures of a few dozen or maybe 200 over lifetime have been sighted(?) which for population at large ___ significant.
Based on what you've, you see in effects on wildlife animals, etc, do you think that's credible?
You know, so the short answer is, I don't think we really know with any level of certainty the... likely, ah, the outcome, the potential outcome, of the levels of exposure received by people living in Japan at that time and currently living in those areas of significant contamination in some areas.
The reason I say that is because much of what we know about cancer epidemiology stems from the studies of atomic bomb survivors which have some significant flaws and differences with respect to the kinds of exposures we're seeing as the result of nuclear accidents.
The atomic bomb survivors were dealing with primarily with a single acute exposure, and ah, survivors of Fukushima and Chernobyl disasters are dealing with chronic low-dose exposure *in addition* to the initial higher doses that were received.
Most of epidemiology based on dose estimates that are... based on "where were you at this time," so personal recollection of events rather than direct measurements of exposures or doses. so there's a lot of uncertainty in that aspect of the studies.
Life span studies didn't start until five years after the war ended, so there's many shortcomings to those studies in terms of application to this kind of event.
The studies in Chernobyl, again, deeply flawed in many regards, with respect to epidemiology, and certainly many questions being raised especially now with respect to the other kinds of morbidities that appeared to associated this kind of exposure.
So, all I'm saying is that there's many uncertainties in terms of how these models are applied, ah, in about how human populations respond to this kind of exposure which is quite different from atomic bomb survivors.
And I think that that really is the main point, there're growing number of studies of Chernobyl victims that are certainly pointing to, again variety of outcomes, morbidities that really suggest more research is needed.
That's probably all I should say.
OK, I would like to ask you to please join me and warm thank you for professor mousseau and his presentation today.
Thank you very much.
As is customary, FCCJ is ... would like to offer you a one-year honorary membership to the club **, and so we know that you go back and forth between different countries including Australia and other places in Japan, and look for to having here ___ again. So thank you so much.
Thanks __. Great. I'll use this, thank you very much.
Fukushima Catastrophe and its Effects on Wildlife
Timothy A. Mousseau
Professor of Biological Science, University of South Carolina
15:00 – 16:00, August 22, 2014
The Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan