Lessons learned on the transdisciplinary approach implemented for managing the Fukushima accident: A European perspective


The 7th International Symposium Phoenix Leader Education Program (Hiroshima Initiative) for Renaissance from Radiation Disaster.
Hiroshima, Japan - 27 January 2018.


In November 2017, the European NERIS research platform has published its roadmap to fill the gaps in research and development in the field of emergency response and recovery, taking into account the preliminary lessons learned from the management of the Fukushima accident. One of the three main challenges identified for the NERIS roadmap is to set-up a trans-disciplinary and inclusive framework for preparedness for emergency response and recovery. For this purpose, it is expected to further develop emergency response and recovery frameworks, to better address stakeholder engagement processes, to integrate non radiological aspects into the management strategies (including health surveillance, ethical issues, socio-economic aspects...) and to cope with uncertainty and incomplete information regarding environmental and health impacts of the accident.

The review of the management during the recovery phase of the Fukushima accident points out the need to partly update the framework established on the basis of the Chernobyl feedback experience. The main features of this framework are the following:

  • Accompany the people who have decided to stay
  • Ensure the monitoring the radiological situation
  • Set-up the radiological, medical and epidemiological monitoring of people • Improve the radiological quality of products
  • Maintain and redeploy the economic activity of the territories

Although these features remain valid and clearly point out the importance of the transdisciplinary approach to address long-term issues, the management of the Fukushima accident highlights specific issues to be further investigated.

Among these issues, one can notice the challenges associated with the strategy of return of evacuees which has not been addressed similarly following the Chernobyl accident. In this perspective, the process developed to accompany the people to take their own decision is critical, including the questions on:

  • The role of local and national authorities for preparing the infrastructures and the conditions and means for the return of evacuees,
  • Ethical considerations ensuring the respect of autonomy of decision and ensuring dignity of people,
  • The dynamics of the lifting of countermeasures.

For the monitoring of the radiological situation, the main issues at stake are the evolution of the radiological perimeter and the definition of zones, the identification of the radiological criteria used within the decision making processes and their evolution in time. In addition, the large development of individual devices and self measurements after the Fukushima accident have induced a need for coordinating the production of measurements and sharing this information together with a specific role for radiation protection experts in accompanying the people for the interpretation of the results.

Radiological monitoring and health surveillance are also still main issues at stake after the Fukushima accident. The characteristics of exposure are really dependant on the local and individual situation. In this context, organising the surveillance to help the people to improve their living conditions is a challenge especially in the areas where the social and economic activities and the structure of the population have been largely disturbed after the accident. For this purpose, the role of the radiation protection experts and the support mechanisms have to be reconsidered, with a specific emphasis on the transdisciplinary approach and the provision of adequate education and training support.

The situation of the agricultural production remains a sensitive issue even more than 6 years after the Fukushima accident. Although the large majority of the food products present radiological measurements below the detection level, the confidence from the consumers is still missing for many products. Initiatives from producers and different organisations have to be considered to cope with this situation. The case of fish products is largely different from the rest of agricultural production. There is a need to consider the management of the discharges from the nuclear site as well as the interaction with local stakeholders. The recent lifting of order of evacuation also creates a sensitive context for the future of agriculture in these areas. It would be useful to follow the evolution of the situation and to address the sustainability of the development including the improvement of the radiological quality of the food products.

Finally, one of the main challenges in the affected areas after the Fukushima accident concerns the ability to set up a new dynamics for the economic and social development of the territories taking into account radiological protection issues. Currently, compensation and economic mechanisms have been set up and several projects are proposed to the affected municipalities, but their sustainability remains critical. The success of the recovery will clearly depend on the maintenance and redeployment of the economic and social activities and the inclusiveness of the decision process. In this context, the role of radiation protection experts is to contribute to the design, evaluation and follow-up of these projects ensuring the vigilance of the radiological protection of the people living in these areas.

All these issues will be discussed and put into perspective with the following research topics identified in the NERIS roadmap for improving the long-term recovery strategy. Notably, for improving the efficiency and the sustainability of the protective actions, developing guidance framework for engaging stakeholders in the decision-making processes and empowering them to contribute to the assessment of the situation has been acknowledged as crucial although quite demanding for the experts who have therefore to learn how to dialogue with the local stakeholders. In addition, the need to further consider societal, ethical and economic aspects in emergency and recovery management has been pointed out. Taking into account the major concern of the population on health issues, it is also essential to reinforce preparedness and response on health surveillance programme with the general objective of improving the living conditions of affected populations. For all these issues, developing adequate Education & Training programmes for various actors is essential.


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