FUKUSHIMA Lives on the Line

131chap.IIIStruggle Against RadioactivityFUKUSHIMA: Lives on the Lineslow-speed blood purification equipment, etc.During the Fukushima disaster, the first step was temporary radiation screening and decontamination tents set up around the hospital's decontamination wing by Self-Defense Forces members and members of the Japan Atomic Energy Agency. Patients that did not have a critical level of exposure were first given a simple contamination examination at these tents. Those that registered significant contamination were given outdoor full-body showers, etc. before being admitted to the hospital wing. Inside the hospital's decontamination wing was the triage room and beyond that were the decontamination and treatment rooms. Priority was given to decontamination for patients in stable condition. For those whose vital signs were unstable, the priority was to bring them back to a stable condition. The next step was to examine internal radiation exposure in the adjoining examination rooms. On the basis of these results, patients were either sent home, hospitalized, or led to a third radiation treatment facility. In the case of the Fukushima disaster, 12 patients were given high-level radiation decontamination, three of whom were hospitalized. In addition, approximately 500 other disaster victims were examined, one portion of which received decontamination treatment.Currently, full-body Geiger counters are still being used to assess the ongoing internal condition of radiation levels of Self-Defense Forces members, fire department officers, local municipality officials, and others who were actively involved in the evacuation area during the critical phase of the disaster.Moving toward RecoverySix months after the earthquake, a long-awaited announcement was made on concrete steps toward cold shutdown of the nuclear reactor, and the path toward recovery began in earnest. At 6:11 pm on September 30, 2011, the "emergency evacuation preparation zone" declaration officially ended. Currently, the area is split into the three classifications of cautionary zone, planned evacuation area, and recommended evacuation zone (Figure 2b), and the residents of Minami Soma city and other districts are slowly beginning to return to their home. At present, the radiation levels in Fukushima City and Koriyama city are still relatively high, though far below the annual 20 mSv level that is thought to pose any sort of health risk. However, expectant mothers, infants, elementary school children, and their parents are still understandably concerned over the risks toward children from radiation exposure, and a portion of them continue to live as refugees outside the prefecture. In addition, a large number of residents use their own Geiger counters to continuously monitor radiation levels as they go about their daily lives.For its part, FMU is tasked with correctly surveying and recording the health effects of this unprecedented nuclear incident, as well as looking after the protection of the mental and physical health of our prefecture's residents while we fulfill the historic duty of reaffirming the infrastructure to build a new future. In concrete terms, we have established a Radiation Medical Science Center. This center will work to assist with a wide variety of activities, from decontamination efforts after nuclear power plant accidents, to the long-term protection, reassurance, and care of Fukushima's residents. In addition, we have partnered with the Fukushima prefectural government to conduct the Fukushima Health Management Survey targeting approximately two million local residents. On November 1, a special ceremony was held with FMU President Shin-ichi Kikuchi and Vice President Shun-ichi Yamashita for unveiling the plaque of the Radiation Medical Science Center (Figure 6). Although there are still serious issues surrounding staffing and budgetary constraints, we have begun a direct survey starting with the residents of the planned evacuation area, and have mailed survey forms to all residents of Fukushima Prefecture, to estimate the levels of radiation exposure. In addition, we have begun ultrasound examinations targeting infants, students, etc. from 0–18 years of age to monitor and assess the present state of thyroid tumor occurrence in approximately Figure 6: Plaque Unveiling Ceremony at the Radiation Medical Science Center