Kodama named as one of worlds top 10 most influential scientists

12/22/2011
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TOKYO (majirox news) — British science magazine Nature named Japanese scientist Tatsuhiko Kodama, 58, one of its most ten influential people in the field of science for 2011.

According to Nature, “Tatsuhiko Kodama damned the Japanese government’s studies of the radioactive fallout from the Fukushima nuclear disaster. Behind every twist and turn in science is a person — perhaps brilliant, selfless and inspirational, or fickle, ambitious and egotistical. Each has their own story to tell. Collectively, those stories are woven into the fascinating fabric of scientific research that this publication probes and reports.”

“I’m very surprised and humbled that I was chosen,” said Kodama, head of the Radioisotope Center at Tokyo University and an expert on internal radiation exposure. “I was only trying to assist the residents of Fukushima as a scientist.”

Kodama appeared before the Committee on Welfare and Labor in Japan’s Diet Lower House on July 27 to give expert testimony on the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant and the nuclear crisis.

“At a time when 70,000 people have left their homes and have no idea where to go, what is the Diet doing?” Kodama asked the politicians, with his voice shaking in anger. He was referring to the government’s slow response in dealing with the nuclear crisis, particularly when it came to protecting children.

The video footage of Kodama’s testimony was soon posted on YouTube, and within a few days, the video had been viewed more than 200,000 times. The majority of the responses were favorable and he became a hero to many on the Internet.

In his testimony, Kodama noted that the radiation released from the March 11 Fukushima nuclear power plant reactor accident extended far beyond, even to the teas in Kanagawa and Shizuoka prefectures.

“So, instead of a small amount of highly radioactive materials in a confined area, what we have is a huge amount of radioactive materials spread wide,” he said. “Using our knowledge base at the Radioisotope Center, we calculated, based on the thermal output, that there was 29.6 times the amount of radiation released than by the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima. In terms of uranium, the equivalent is 20 Hiroshima bombs.”

Kodama said that even more frightening was the fact that whereas the level of radiation from a nuclear bomb will decrease to one-thousandth in one year, the radiation from a nuclear power plant will only decrease to one-tenth.

“In other words, we should recognize from the start that just like Chernobyl, Fukushima plant has released radioactive materials equivalent in amount to tens of nuclear bombs, and the resulting contamination is far worse than the contamination by a nuclear bomb,” he said. “So what’s the implication of the huge amount of radioactive materials released and dispersed wide? It’s much harder to predict the behavior of the particles, as they behave in a non-linear manner.”

He noted the incidence of problems such as the contamination of rice straw. “The pattern of contamination does not follow concentric circles. It depends on the weather. It also depends on where the particles landed – on a material that absorbs water, for example.”

However, Kodama’s biggest concern was for thorough measurements of radiation levels to be taken in the contaminated areas.

“Why does the central government not spend the money needed for comprehensive measures? I want to express an anger from my entire body,” he said.

Meanwhile, the journal concluded, “We have chosen to tell the stories of ten people who made a major difference to our — and, we hope, your — world this year.”

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