1.  >
  2. The Third Reference Group Meeting>
  3. Opening Speech by Tadateru Konoe, President of the JRCS
Opening Speech

Opening Speech by Tadateru Konoe, President of the JRCS

At the beginning of the Reference Group Meeting, Mr. Tadateru Konoe, President of the IFRC and the JRCS and Mr. Elhadj As Sy, Secretary General of the IFRC, gave opening speeches.
Mr. Konoe made remarks that he was glad to have participants in the meeting from 16 countries, and hoped that they would have useful discussions to carry forward the General Assembly’s resolution in more concrete terms.

  1. |
  2. President |
  3. Secretry General|

Mr. Chairman, Distinguished guests and Red Cross Red Crescent colleagues,
 
Today I am very pleased to have you all here in Fukushima to discuss nuclear disaster preparedness for following up the General Assembly’s resolution of the IFRC in 2011. It is a source of satisfaction and encouragement for me that 10 National Societies are newly joining this 3rd Reference Group Meeting, bringing the total number of participating National Societies to 16. While thanking all the NSs who have accepted our initiative, I do hope that the network of NSs sharing common concern will continue to grow in the years to come.
 
As you may remember, a huge earthquake and ensuing tsunami hit the northeastern coast of Japan on March 11, 2011, causing heavy casualties and damages of all sorts. A serious accident at the nuclear power plant in Fukushima, just 60 kilometers from here and 200 kilometers from Tokyo, was then triggered and a large number of the nearby communities had to be evacuated amongst chaos.
I want to take advantage of this opportunity to express my heartfelt gratitude to you, your people and National Societies, for all the support provided underpinning our efforts for relieving the sufferings of the victims.
 
It has been three and a half years since then and now the disabled nuclear power reactors are more or less under control and the possibility of a recurrence of a major accident has been minimized. Nonetheless; the large radiation contaminated areas are yet to be cleared allowing the inhabitants to return home safely and without anxiety. Besides that, the disposal of contaminated soils, plants etc. and the dismantlement of the damaged reactors are expected to take decades. From the outset of this accident the Japanese Red Cross Society was engaged in emergency relief efforts for evacuees for five months and has been conducting health checks and providing psychosocial counselling to evacuees until now. These services need to be continued as long as the current situation continues.
 
Until the very moment of the accident, the majority of Japanese people believed in the safety of nuclear power plants. They along with those living in the surrounding neighborhoods, had not been given adequate information that the possibility of such a severe accident could happen and how extensively the impacts would have on their lives and what to do if this kind of disaster occurred. With limited and often conflicting information on the effects of radiation on health, food, drinking water and the environment, unscientific and sensational messages spread widely not only locally and nationally but also internationally. Even my National Society which runs two hospitals specialized in treating atomic-bomb associated diseases, one in Hiroshima another one in Nagasaki, had practically no expertise nor preparedness to cope with such an unexpected nuclear disaster. So, we quickly produced an operational manual for our medical and relief staff and gave them an orientation before being deployed into the radiation affected areas.
 
In Japan there are 54 nuclear power plants, but after the accident in Fukushima, their safety has been under scrutiny and their operations suspended until the people in the vicinity and the local governments are convinced of their safety. Now looking around the world, there exists about 430 nuclear power plants in 30 countries and that number is quickly rising. Unfortunately like in Japan, preparedness measures against nuclear disaster are often hidden in those countries and not shared at least in my knowledge.
 
Reflecting upon the recent trends such as the growing frequency and intensifying impact of major natural disasters and the widening risks of terrorist attacks on nuclear power plants, it is crystal clear that the myth of their infallible safety does not hold true anymore anywhere. Hence we, the Red Cross and the Red Crescent, are obliged to be concerned about the serious consequences of nuclear disaster and to examine realistically what National Societies can do individually or collectively with all other parties concerned to prepare for nuclear disasters as well as to respond to consequences of any eventuality.
 
With absolutely no intention of entering into political debate on the pros and cons of the peaceful use of nuclear energy, I am convinced that we are best placed by promoting correctly the public awareness of the potential damages of nuclear power plants and to spread their mindset for “fearing radiation risks correctly”. Our message is very simple: as long as we rely on nuclear energy, we need to be prepared for accidents, however, unlikely may happen. It is up to each National Society to decide on its own context what they can do. Whatever the future role of National societies may be, we have gained experiences through the tragedies in Chernobyl and now Fukushima. Based on that, we are compelled to take an initiative both nationally and globally for collecting and sharing information on the existing preparedness measures in different countries and developing them into common standard guidelines applicable in all countries with nuclear power plants.
 
I will end here speaking about my ambition and hope that we will have useful discussions at this Reference Group Meeting and carry forward the General Assembly’s resolution in more concrete terms in the years to come.
 
Thank you.