Radiation-protection specialist Shunichi Yamashita, 59, has made significant contributions to what is known about the effects of radioactive radiation. He has studied the survivors of the World War II atomic bombing of Nagasaki as well as the consequences of the 1986 reactor accident at Chernobyl, which he has visited nearly 100 times as part of a Japanese scientific envoy. He is currently researching the effects of the Fukushima catastrophe — though his efforts are meeting with much resistance from local residents.
SPIEGEL interviewed Yamashita about the expected effects of exposure in Fukushima and his plans to conduct one of the largest scientific studies even undertaken in the region. As part of the study, he hopes to examine the health effects of the nuclear disaster on some 2 million people.
SPIEGEL: The government of the Fukushima prefecture has invited you to inform people in the affected region about radiation risks. Right at the beginning, you said: “The effects of radiation do not come to people who are happy and laughing, they come to people who are weak-spirited.” What did you mean by that?
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