The Accident at Tokai-Mura Japan (1999): Managing the Psychosocial Impact

Kazuo Neriishi MD
Consultant, Department of Clinical Studies
Radiation Effects Research Foundation (RERF)
Hiroshima Japan


On 11 March 2011, a magnitude 9 earthquake and tsunami cut the supply of off-site power to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. In addition, back-up diesel generators for the plant's cooling system were damaged by the tsunami. Then, radioactive substances were released to the environment. Residents within a 20-kilometre radius of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant were evacuated, and people within a 30-kilometre radius were asked to remain indoors. Even though more than 28,000 people had been killed by the earthquake and tsunami, no one has been killed by the radiation accident. However, the environmental contamination and unsettled nuclear power plants had caused social anxiety and fear not only among the residents but also among people all over the world. It is very likely that the people would suffer from psychosocial problems long after the accident. In 1999, we had a similar experience in Tokai-Mura, Japan. On 30 September 1999, a criticality accident occurred at a uranium processing plant and the criticality persisted for about 20 h. Of the three persons who were heavily exposed to neutrons caused by the criticality, two died. Six hundred of the residents within 350m of the uranium processing plant were evacuated and spent overnight at a nearby community center. Among them, 112 residents were exposed to more than 1 mSv up to 20mSv.In response, the Japanese Government launched a medical surveillance program with physical check-ups to follow their health status, including psychological problems, until 2010. Psychological characteristics will be presented and considered for prevention following the Fukushima incident.