The accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant led to the dispersion of radioactivity in the environment, which has become an unwanted component of residents' daily life. This colorless, odorless and tasteless radioactivity is not something most people normally think of. Inevitably, it raised concerns about its possible health effects.
As a result, people were faced with a potential threat which is intangible and against which they were not at all prepared to fight. For many, this very difficult situation has created confusion and a lack of confidence. Their living place, which they once cherished and were proud of, has transformed into something different, even threatening. Daily life has deteriorated and ties between individuals and with the community have been altered or severed. Under these conditions, for many, the only answer was to escape the radioactivity as much as possible, without escaping the injunctions on what to do and where to go.
In this context, the Dialogues played a key role in ensuring that the participants gradually better understood the situation, regain decision-making capacity over their lives and reconnect with the experts and the authorities. The Dialogues enabled participants to identify leeway in their daily life, while respecting individual choices, particularly on the decision to stay, leave or come back. On several occasions they have made it possible to establish links between stakeholders, especially between producers and consumers, between neighboring villages, between citizens and experts, and even between Belarusian, Norwegian and Japanese citizens.
In all, around 1,000 people have taken part directly in the various dialogues since the Fukushima Daiichi accident: many were local residents, but several others came from elsewhere, from Japan or the rest of the world. Many have gained access to the dialogues through social media, local media reports and information available on the ICRP and Ethos websites in Fukushima.
The involvement of the ICRP was widely recognized by the participants as a great advantage for both series of dialogues. The role of the ICRP has been crucial, as a neutral third party providing sound advice, as a witness encouraging healthy discussion, in connecting with experts in Japan and beyond, in giving substance to the results and to ensure that the voices reach beyond the prefecture.
Among the main lessons for post-nuclear accident management, the dialogues highlighted that the implementation of radiation protection is essential but that it is not enough to resolve the problems encountered on a daily basis. Radiation protection is a discipline serving the well-being of individuals and the common good of communities. It is particularly important to develop a surveillance strategy based on individual data and the distribution of exposures within the community in order to help those concerned to know their own local radiological situation and to act accordingly. The dialogues also stressed the importance of involving local professionals in education, health and administration in the development of a practical radiation protection culture.
Finally, the dialogue meetings have shown, as in Belarus, the key role of cooperation mechanisms between all the actors concerned (authorities, experts, professionals and the population) at local, regional and national levels, and the dissemination of good practices between communities, as well as the difficulty in setting up such mechanisms.