A number of events occurred in Washington, D.C., in June 1997 in conjunction with the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the initiation of studies of th e Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission/Radiation Effects Research Foundation (ABBCC/RERF). This is th e longest continuing program supported by DOE and its predecessor agencies. he results of these studies are the primary source of data used to develop radiation protection standards that are used throughout the world.
In 1947, at the request of the U.S. Government, the National Academy of Sciences-National Research Council (NAS-NRC) initiated a long-term investigation of the health effects associated with exposure to radiation from the atomic bombs. In 1975, the RERF was established and assumed the responsibilities of ABCC. Currently, the RERF is co-funded by the Japanese Ministry of Health and Welfare and the DOE Office of Environment, Safety and Health (EH), with the NAS-NRC acting as scientific and administrative liaison for DOE.
A symposium was held at the NAS on June 13-14, 1997, to commemorate the first 50 years and look to the future. The evening before the symposium, a reception hosted by the Japanese Embassy honored a large contingent of Japanese retirees from ABCC or RERF and their American counterparts. In welcoming comments at the reception, Dr. Tara O'Toole thanked these special guests and the many other researchers and support staff who devoted years and lifetimes of work to the ABCC/RERF studies.
The first session of the symposium on Friday morning was a commemorative ceremony at which greetings were presented by Dr. Bruce Alberts, NAS President; Dr. Itsuzo Shigematsu, retiring RERF chairman; Dr. O'Toole, representing the U.S. Government; and Mr. Shotaro Oshima, Minister, Embassy of Japan. In a continuation of her theme from the previous evening, Dr. O'Toole referring to the unique Japanese-American collaboration, said that "there are few forces more powerful than the force of people working together for common goals." Looking toward the future, she also remarked that "it is imperative that radiation effects research remain vital and continuously supplied with fresh talent and enthusiasm." In congratulating the new RERF Chairman, Dr. Shigenobu Nagataki, Dr. O'Toole wished that "the science at RERF prosper and the trust be strengthened ... to come to better understand the effects of radiation in order to better protect, heal, and deal responsibly with the legacy of nuclear weapons production."
The first session of the scientific symposium featured the reminiscences of senior American and Japanese scientists and administrators who had worked at the RERF and ABCC. In a series of sessions on risk estimation, noncancer end points, molecular and genetic basis of cancer, dosimetry, and studies on offspring of the atomic bomb survivors, RERF scientists presented the results of their latest work and discussed their future directions and goals. Panels composed of distinguished scientists contributed ideas and different perspectives to the discussion of these goals. (Further information on the symposium can be obtained from NAS.) The final session considered training possibilities at the RERF and other collaboration initiatives.
The keynote speaker of that session, Dr. Niel Wald, described the newly-funded cooperative agreement between EH and the University of Pittsburgh. The Postdoctoral Fellowship Program provides a first year of comprehensive classroom instruction, laboratory rotations, and other training activities designed to train multidisciplinary radiation scientists. This is followed by a second year at a field site of DOE interest, such as at the RERF, at Chelyabinsk, Russia, for studies on MAYAK nuclear facility workers, or at domestic DOE cleanup projects.
Another highlight of the commemorative activities was an evening reception hosted by the DOE and the NAS at the Decatur House at Lafayette Square. Mr. Frank Hawkins, Director of the Office of International Health Programs, presented a special award to Dr. Shigematsu on his retirement in recognition of 16 years of outstanding service as RERF chairman.