Lessons from Fukushima: Japanese Red Cross digital archive goes live

Published: 9 October 2013 13:53 CET

By Francis Markus, IFRC

In a significant step towards sharing and building on the lessons of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, the Japanese Red Cross Society has launched an online nuclear disaster digital archive. Available at http://ndrc.jrc.or.jp, it makes available a range of material on its response and future preparedness, and is part of a wider nuclear disaster resource centre.

The platform documents the Japanese Red Cross Society’s experience since the triple meltdown, which followed a magnitude-9 earthquake on 11 March 2011, along with interviews with relief teams, and doctors and nurses from Red Cross hospitals.

Mr Tadateru Konoé, President of both the Japanese Red Cross Society and the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), said he hoped the digital archive “can truly contribute to humanitarian assistance in nuclear disasters by helping us to learn from the past, cope with the problems at present, and prepare for the future”.

New operational manual

The online resource includes a new Japanese Red Cross Society operational manual for responding to nuclear accidents. The National Society’s officials say the new initiative will help to ensure a more effective response in the case of any future nuclear accident, and it will serve as a platform for networking with nuclear experts and authorities, and sharing information through public seminars. It will also contribute to a worldwide drive towards greater nuclear disaster preparedness by the IFRC.

“Nuclear power plant accidents do not respect borders and hence they cannot be resolved by the country of origin alone... Any response to a nuclear power plant accident must always be elaborated in the international context,” said President Konoé.

At its General Assembly in November 2011, the IFRC adopted a resolution on ‘preparedness to respond to the humanitarian consequences of nuclear accidents. Each Red Cross and Red Crescent Society has agreed to collect and disseminate information, and work towards creating international guidelines to assist those affected.

Combining expertise

At a meeting organized by the IFRC and hosted by the Japanese Red Cross Society in Tokyo in May 2012, National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies agreed to combine their expertise on how to respond to nuclear accidents by setting up a reference group. Martin Krottmayer, Senior Officer Nuclear and Radiological Accidents Preparedness at the IFRC’ secretariat in Geneva, has also been appointed to coordinate knowledge sharing.

Krottmayer says, “There is a strong need to better prepare for multi-hazard scenarios and technological disasters. The experience we gained from 25 years of disaster response and recovery work following the Chernobyl accident are now very useful for the Japanese Red Cross Society in shaping their activities. The new Japanese Red Cross digital archive is an important step to capture further knowledge that other National Societies can build on.”

The trend for nuclear power continues

With the continuing worldwide trend towards constructing new nuclear power plants, Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies are clear that their staff and volunteers will be among the first responders on the scene, should anything go wrong. The IFRC has established a reference group of several National Societies and has agreed a strategic operational plan to ensure there is an appropriate level of expertise and knowledge at National Society level

In addition, guidelines are being prepared to help protect first responders, and to ensure staff and volunteers are aware of the potential risks. There will also be a focus on working with at-risk communities so that they are better prepared and have a greater awareness of possible long-term consequences should a nuclear accident occur.