The Fukushima dialogues initiative initiated by the ICRP officially concluded in December 2015 with an international seminar organized in Date (Japan). On the theme "Rehabilitation of living conditions after the nuclear accident", it aimed to share the experiences and the main lessons of this initiative (more information on the ICRP website).
But the end of this action did not mean the end of the dialogues. A group of local actors took over and organized, between 2016 and 2018, eight new meetings entitled “The Fukushima Dialogues”. This second initiative was financially supported by the Nippon Foundation, ICRP keeping an advisory role and ensuring the organization of local logistics and participation of its members and foreign guests.
Frequented by the inhabitants of the communities for which the evacuation order had been or was about to be lifted, the main objectives of these new dialogues were to share the problems that these communities would have to face in the medium term to restore decent living conditions for the inhabitants. They were also an opportunity for many experts and students from Japanese universities to better understand the issues facing these communities and for the Fukushima participants to develop and strengthen a network of citizens and local and national experts in the Prefecture.
The format of the two-day meetings was generally as follows:the first day was dedicated to visiting the host community in order to see first-hand of the difficulties encountered by residents;the second day included presentations in the morning and a panel discussion in the afternoon.
Many issues raised during these new dialogues were in line with the first initiative. Among these, the difficulties of daily living conditions in towns and villages for which evacuation orders had been lifted were often addressed, because of infrastructure problems (slow reconstruction, lack of medical services, difficulties of daily life in temporary housing, difficulties of restoration or reconstruction of houses, etc.), economic difficulties (slow recovery, in particular for the agricultural sector facing many problems: soil contamination, lack of labor, rumors of contamination of products, consumer mistrust of production, etc.) or social concerns (worry about the reconstitution of the local community, lack of young people, importance of local events and festivals for communities to come together...).
New questions have also emerged regarding:the psychological effects of long evacuation periods, and the difficulties for residents to share a common vision of the future due to the variety of situations experienced;the complexity of the rehabilitation process and the uncertainties about the future of "difficult to return zones";the difficulties in accessing information related to environmental contamination, the level of human exposure, the effectiveness of decontamination, etc.the decontamination and the management of waste produced: fears about the impact of burial of radioactive waste on the quality of water resources, the long-term management of storage facilities…the contamination of forests and mountains, with fears about the efficiency of decontamination processes and the risks of radionuclide migration due to rains.Detailed reports of the 8 dialogue meetings held between 2016 and 2018.
Towards the end of this new series of dialogues, in February 2018, a strategic meeting organized in Fukushima City brought together around thirty participants representing the various parties involved in the organization of the dialogues: Ethos in Fukushima (EiF) and other local actors, foreign experts (ICPR, OECD-NEA, IRSN, NRPA and CEPN), as well as a representative of the Japanese Ministry of the Environment (MoE). The objectives of this meeting were to:learn from the dialogues held and show what influence they had on the rehabilitation process in Japan and abroad;explore how the main results of the dialogue meetings could be disseminated;express their point of view on the possible continuation of the dialogues and the themes to be addressed.
All the participants confirmed the importance of the dialogues to foster exchanges and discussions and more generally to establish links between communities that did not speak or know each other, at the local, national and international levels. In particular, the participation of foreign organizations and experts has been identified as an essential factor for confidence in the information provided on radiological risks and an effective means of dispelling mistrust of scientists, experts and authorities.
In conclusion, meeting participants expressed a strong desire to continue the dialogues until all evacuees wishing to return home can do so. Thus a group of local residents created the Committee for the dialogues in Fukushima (FDC) in order to organize the dialogue scheduled for December 2018 in Iwaki, and in parallel to create a non-profit organization to ensure the continuation of the dialogues and dissemination of lessons learned from previous meetings. This action materialized in 2019 with the creation of the NPO Fukushima Dialogue which organized two new meetings that same year and continues its work to this day.