Purpose of the Symposium
2011 UOEH International Symposium
The Health of Workers Responding to a Nuclear Crisis
Purpose of the Symposium
On March 11, 2011, a massive earthquake and tsunami struck the Pacific coastal area of northeastern Japan, triggering a nuclear accident at TEPCO’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. The severity level was rated at 7 (a major accident) and this serious nuclear incident, already termed as “Fukushima,” will not be readily forgotten.
The cooling operations by immediate responders attracted widespread attention, and the exceptional efforts made to successfully avert the worst-possible scenario were appreciated worldwide. However, the good news was later tempered by a report indicating that two responders had been hospitalized because of exposure to highly radioactive water. While problems associated with evacuating residents are apparent, many workers at the plant, together with responsible civil servants and municipal workers, have been struggling day in and day out to contain the disaster. These workers are dedicated in the performance of their duties in an environment of crisis, and are faced with an unprecedented level of danger and hazards, including radiation exposure. Because ultimate radiation containment is a long-term challenge, the health of workers who are responding to the disaster is of concern for society.
The University of Occupational and Environmental Health (UOEH), Japan, has been dispatching doctors to the Fukushima Daiichi and Daini nuclear power plants since May 2011, in response to a request from the government of Japan. As the mission of UOEH is to promote occupational health, we acknowledge our responsibility, in a time of crisis, to contribute to the health and safety of all relevant workers. We clearly recognize the need to contribute in both practical and research terms.
Under the evolving situation, UOEH will host an international symposium on post-nuclear crisis safety and health issues. Among the many possible relevant issues, we will specifically focus on the radiation risk to and mental health of responding workers, and on disaster medicine. Our ultimate goal is the establishment of a foundation to promote further research and the first step will be to define the tasks that need to be explored. To this end, international and domestic experts will share their accumulated knowledge through lectures and will engage in discussion sessions and roundtable seminars. In cooperation with international organizations including the WHO and ILO, the outcome of the symposium will be formalized as a Declaration of the UOEH.