NPO launches digital archives on Fukushima nuclear disaster

by

Kyodo

A Tokyo-based nonprofit organization has launched a digital archive of public documents on the 2011 nuclear catastrophe at the Fukushima No. 1 plant, so people can examine whether administrative bodies have pursued appropriate policies since the disaster started.

There are currently over 3,000 documents organized by Access-Info Clearinghouse Japan on file, totaling some 60,000 pages obtained from central government offices and local-level authorities through freedom-of-information requests or from the home pages of each administrative body.

“Some of the official documents may be stored as historical papers in the future, but others may be eventually lost after they’ve been screened,” said Yukiko Miki, who heads the NPO.

“It is necessary to create conditions to allow people to access these documents even 20 or 30 years later to ensure effective follow-up on radioactivity impact, which must have a late onset, and examine policies over the disaster as it will take a long time to put it under control,” she added.

The documents on the archives include summaries of teleconferences involving the government, Tokyo Electric Power Co. and the Fukushima No. 1 complex, which came from the Cabinet Office, as well as those on decontamination and radioactive waste owned by the Environment Ministry.

Papers filed with the Radiation Medical Science Center of Fukushima Medical University, including those on health monitoring, and summaries of joint press conferences of the government and Tepco are also available.

Users of the archives are able to find their target documents through keyword retrievals.

“Information disclosure allows us to examine policy decision processes, and the public examination will push administrative bodies to make better decisions,” Miki said. “This type of scrutiny will lead to better administrative work, particularly on behalf of those affected by the disaster.”

As only portions of some documents were disclosed, the NPO has posted them on the archives as they are.

Hit by a huge earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011, reactors 1, 2 and 3 at the Fukushima plant suffered core meltdowns, while a hydrogen explosion damaged reactor 4, which avoided a meltdown. It is now expected to take 30 to 40 years to complete the decommissioning process of the wrecked plant.

The NPO has worked toward enhancing the information disclosure system to secure people’s right to know. Recently, it filed a lawsuit to seek the disclosure of a government report examining its policymaking process for Japan’s support in the U.S.-led attack on Iraq in 2003, which was based on the belief that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.

“Information disclosure in diplomacy and security fields has not significantly advanced in Japan, but it should not remain as a ‘sanctuary area’ anymore” as Japan’s security policy has reached a critical juncture, Miki said, referring to controversial security bills that would expand the capabilities of the Self-Defense Forces.

Touching on the lawsuit and the launch of the archives on the nuclear disaster, Miki said: “I believe we have to take concrete action to achieve our right to know rather than merely insisting on it.”

She said her organization will continue seeking the disclosure of official documents, such as records of the nuclear disaster dosimetry and policy records on evacuations of those living near the Fukushima complex, to improve and expand the archives in the span of 10 to 15 years.

The URL of the archives, which is available without charge and only in Japanese, is www.archives311.org.