Office of Environment, Health, Safety & Security

The 70th Anniversary of Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission – Radiation Effects Research Foundation Radiation Health Studies

June 21, 2018

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On June 19, 2018, the Radiation Effects Research Foundation (RERF), located in Nagasaki, held its 70th Anniversary event at the Bauduin Hall, Ryojun Auditorium, Nagasaki University School of Medicine.

RERF is one of the major U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Environment, Health, Safety and Security (AU) programs.  AU provides funding to the RERF in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, in partnership with the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare (MHLW).  The RERF program is believed to have the longest duration of any international research program.  The RERF program is not a typical research program since it aims at fostering the health and welfare of these survivors.  Similar to other AU programs, a major concern is the individuals who have been adversely affected by the legacy of nuclear weapons production and use.

At the beginning of the commemorative event, RERF Chairman Dr. Ohtsura Niwa delivered greetings emphasizing that the results from RERF continue to contribute to the health maintenance and welfare of atomic-bomb survivors and their children and are a valuable resource with which to enhance the health of all humanity.  He also expressed his heartfelt gratitude of the cooperation and the long-term participation of the survivors and their children in RERF health studies.

Following Dr. Niwa’s greetings, additional greetings were delivered by representatives of the United States and Japanese governments.  The funding agencies recognized that continuation of the atomic-bomb survivor radiation health studies is essential to provide definitive answers on the health effects of low dose ionizing radiation.

Two commemorative lectures were given.  The first lecture, Survey on Health Effects of Atomic Bomb Radiating on:  its History, Achievements and Issues, was delivered by Dr. Kazunori Kodama; and the second lecture, My Hope for the Future of RERF, was delivered by an atomic-bomb survivor and a participant in the RERF Adult Health Study.

One of the highlights of the commemorative ceremony was a presentation by the Nagasaki atomic-bomb survivor’s peace choir women group.  The average age of the estimated 50 members is 80.  They sang one of their signature pieces, “Mo Nidoto” (“Never Again”).

One of the highlights of the commemorative ceremony was a presentation by the Nagasaki atomic-bomb survivor’s peace choir women group.  The average age of the estimated 50 members is 80.  They sang one of their signature pieces, “Mo Nidoto” (“Never Again”).

Nagasaki atomic-bomb survivor’s peace choir women group sang one of their signature pieces, “Mo Nidoto” (“Never Again”).
Nagasaki atomic-bomb survivor’s peace choir women group. – Photo provided by Isaf Al-Nabulsi, Office of Health and Safety, EHSS.

Dr. Patricia R. Worthington, Director, Office of Health and Safety, and the Japan Program Manager were the DOE representatives at RERF’s 70th Anniversary.

Dr. Patricia Worthington providing DOE greetings at the 70th ABCC-RERF Anniversary
Patricia Worthington providing DOE greetings at the 70th ABCC-RERF Anniversary – Photo provided by Isaf Al-Nabulsi, Office of Health and Safety, EHSS.

In her greetings, Dr. Worthington acknowledged that RERF is an important priority for the Department of Energy and for the United States.  It also represents the strength of the Department’s friendship and international alliance.  Through epidemiological research and clinical screenings of the atomic-bomb survivors, RERF has strived to contribute to the medical care and welfare of the survivors by means of providing the latest scientific information.

She emphasized the scientific and humanitarian work of the Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission that was continued when the RERF was established in 1975 when the United States and Japanese governments solidified their commitment in supporting research that would benefit the atomic-bomb survivors, as well as all mankind.  The RERF represents the longest partnership of the United States and Japanese governments in a scientific program and is a model of worldwide scientific cooperation.

Dr. Worthington extended the U.S. Government’s and especially DOE’s sincere gratitude to the atomic-bomb survivors for their understanding and support of the important work of the RERF. 

She thanked and congratulated all current and past Directors and employees of the RERF who have produced landmark studies of international significance.  Dr. Worthington also thanked DOE’s partners, the Japanese MHLW, who have worked with DOE to jointly fund the RERF.   She also mentioned that she has confidence that DOE and MHLW, together, will succeed in a continuing journey to further understand the health impacts of radiation exposure and how to best protect current and future generations.

At the 8th meeting of the RERF Board of Councilors, Dr. Worthington reminded RERF of its obligation to improve the health and welfare of the atomic-bomb survivors.  In addition, she acknowledged the necessity for future planning as new technology continues to change, and the collection of blood and tissue samples from the atomic-bomb survivors will provide research materials that can be used by succeeding generations to improve understanding the radiation health effects.

The RERF Act of Endowment states its objective “to conduct research and studies, for peaceful purposes, on medical effects of radiation on man and on diseases, which may be affected by radiation, with a view to contributing to the maintenance of the health and welfare of atomic-bomb survivors and to the enhancement of the health of all mankind.”  The results of RERF research are the primary basis for radiation protection standards throughout the world.  Radiation risk estimates rely on an accurate dosimetry system, which has been established through funding to international scientists through DOE and the Japanese MHLW.

The core projects of RERF are the Life Span Study, the Adult Health Study, the F1 (Children of the A-bomb Survivors) Study, and the In-Utero Study.  The Life Span Study consists of a large cohort (120,000 persons) encompassing a wide range of known doses.  Risks are evaluated for cancer incidence, cancer mortality, and non-cancer effects in relation to radiation dose.  About 30 percent of the study population are still living, and about 80 percent of the survivors exposed under the age of ten are still living.  Clinical examinations of atomic-bomb survivors are conducted every 2 years in a smaller population in the Adult Health Study and provide a continuing health profile of an aging population.  In addition, blood samples are collected under informed consent for future analysis.  The F1 Study determines whether genetic effects might be apparent that could be related to parental exposures.  Thus far, no genetic effects have been observed.  The In-Utero Study is a unique evaluation of the lifetime health experience of those who were in-utero at the time of the bombings (about 3,600 persons).  Further information about RERF can be obtained at http://www.rerf.or.jp.