You raise a key issue in your message: the role of science in the rehabilitation process or in other terms the relationship between science and action This is a delicate issue which raises a lot of ethical questions.
First we have to recognized that, although we know quite a lot about the effects of radiation on humans and the biota, this knowledge is also far to be complete and there are still uncertainties. I do not want to enter into the details at this stage (we can discuss the issue later if you are interested) but just to underline that because of these uncertainties there is a large spectrum of "scientific positions" on the issue and of course debates and controversies are inevitable. As you are well aware, the debate on the effects of low level of radiation on human health which started in the late 50s when scientist identified the existence of the so-called stochastic effects of radiation is still going on. We have a much better knowledge now than 50 years ago but nevertheless the remaining uncertainties are feeding the scientific debate and very sharp controversies as soon as an event is directly concerning the public. The diverse voices that have sprung up in the name of science just after the Fukushima accident are a typical illustration.
When we started the Ethos project, we rapidly realize that what was important in the eyes of the people in the villages was not our position vis-à-vis the risk (we were all sharing the prudent assumption of linear non-threshold risk at low doses and the ALARA principle to drive action) but what we could bring to the villagers to improve their daily life. In this perspective the problem was not to decide about which theory was right or wrong but what was working or not to reduce the exposure of people and to improve their quality of life using the best knowledge and techniques. Having this in mind, the position we adopted all along the Ethos and Core projects was to focus our efforts on actions that could improve the situation of the population who was allowed by the authorities to stay in the contaminated areas and who wished to stay in these places.
You are mentioning Belrad. This is a good example to illustrate the above position. We knew perfectly well the view of the Belrad team concerning the risk of radiation. We nevertheless worked for year with this team because first, we were fully convinced that its main objective was to improve the situation in the contaminated territories of Belarus and secondly, Belrad was doing good quality measurements of food stuffs in villages and of internal contamination of kids in schools and this was a key support to the projects. (We made comparisons for the measurements of foodstuffs and they were quite in line with results of other organizations in Belarus and in France. For the estimation of internal doses Belrad was using the standard dose coefficients of ICRP and the results of their whole body measurements were also fully in line with the measurements made in hospitals). Belrad was also advocating the use of pectine to reduce the exposure of children. We reviewed carefully all the scientific literature on the issue, we developed a model to evaluate the effectiveness of protection strategies including intake of pectine and we gathered and analyzed carefully measurements data on various groups of children having received pectine. Finally, we concluded that there was no clear evidence on the effectiveness of administrating pectine to children and we refused to follow the Belrad Institute on this activity. We constantly advocated that it was much better to prevent contamination to enter into the body rather than trying to accelerate its elimination after intake. We had not to convince the villagers because as soon as they realized that it was possible to reduce significantly the internal contamination of children by controlling the food and adapting their diet the question of pectine disappeared by itself.
The objective of empowering people is not to transform them into experts or to make them adhere to a scientific theory. The objective is to develop a practical radiation protection culture among the population. What does it means concretely? It means that people progressively learn where, when and how they are exposed and what they can do to protect themselves. The aim of the empowerment process is for people to regain control on the situation and to become actors of their own protection = self help protection. You will find attached a presentation made at the Ethos seminar in 2001 concerning radiation protection culture (In French). This was how we were understanding it at that time. In between we have a better view but the key points where already there. Furthermore I also give you the link to a video film that was
shot in 2000 during the Ethos project. It will give you an idea of the context at that time as well as an idea about the actions we developed together with the population and the local authorities and professionals (The file is 335 Mo and takes some time to be downloaded).
Finally, I inform you that a Second Dialogue Meeting will be organized by the end of February in the Fukushima Prefecture. We work on it and I will give you more precise information when available. It would be good that your group be present at the meeting. This February mission to Japan will certainly be also the occasion for both of us to meet and discuss further all the issues we have discussed so far.
All the best.