FIM Gives Official Go-Ahead To Motegi MotoGP Round

The Motegi round of MotoGP is now cleared to go ahead as planned. Today, the FIM issued a press release announcing that the official results had come back from ARPA, the independent Italian agency commissioned by Dorna and the FIM to measure radiation levels in and around the Motegi circuit, and that the official report backs up the findings of the preliminary report the FIM and Dorna had received last week, after which they had issued a press release. As a result, there is no reason to cancel, reschedule or relocate the Japanese MotoGP round, and the race is to go ahead as scheduled, on October 2nd, at the Motegi circuit.

The report (which the FIM has made available as a PDF file on their website) states that the amount of radiation that the riders, teams and media are likely to face is "in line with the average natural sources dose" as reported by UNSCEAR. Radiation exposure at Motegi is, in other words, much the same as you might expect if you spent the same amount of time in Italy or Spain. On the basis of this finding, the FIM and Dorna have decided to allow the event to go ahead, with the proviso that no further major incidents occur in the intervening period.

Whether the report will convince the radiation refuseniks - led in public by Casey Stoner and Jorge Lorenzo, but with active support and encouragement from most of the other MotoGP riders, as well as much support from the team members and members of the media - remains to be seen. Their objections are based not so much on the radiation at the Motegi circuit, but more on the situation at the stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. The Fukushima prefecture continues to be rocked by aftershocks, some as high as magnitude 6.4, and there is a broad concern inside the paddock that the situation at the plant is not under control, and that a large earthquake during the MotoGP weekend could cause the plant to suffer further damage and lead to a large-scale release of radiation.

It is hard to say whether such fears are justified. The situation at the Fukushima plant is slowly being brought under control, though problems remain. There has been some breach of containment in one of the reactors, though it is unclear how much danger that poses to the immediate environment. Work on cooling the stricken reactors appears to be making some headway, with recycling of the radioactive cooling water due to start soon. Temperatures in the reactor cores continue to fall, though they remain worryingly high. Aftershocks continue to hit the region, but as Japan is in one of the most seismically active regions in the world (sitting at the point where three tectonic plates meet), earthquakes and aftershocks are commonplace. Whether the Fukushima plant could withstand another major earthquake or earthquake-triggered tsunami is unclear, and science is as yet unable to predict when another earthquake might strike, and just how serious such an event might be. If another 'quake did strike, the immediate danger from the earthquake itself probably poses more of a direct threat than any potential damage to the Fukushima plant, but statements about the risk of earthquakes, the risk of damage to Fukushima Daiichi by earthquakes, and the risks of harm from such an earthquake itself must of necessity be surrounded by uncertainty, making drawing any kind of conclusion about the situation impossible, whether it be that it is safe, or that it is unsafe. The risk of something happening while MotoGP is at Motegi is probably very low indeed, but there are no guarantees. As, indeed, there are no guarantees that the planes carrying the riders and teams to Japan will complete their flights safely. Some risk is inherent in all activity, but whether racing at Motegi is more or less dangerous than racing anywhere else in the world is impossible to say.

Readers interested in the situation may find the following resources useful:

  • the Nuclear Energy Institute's Japan microsite: The NEI is the US organization set up to promote nuclear energy in the US, so are clearly in favor of the technology. However, the NEI does have a website which provides regular updates on the current situation at the Fukushima power plant, including some technical detail on the situation.
  • the Fairewinds Consultancy website: Fairewinds is a company set up by former nuclear engineer Arnie Gundersen which provides analysis and legal services in the field of nuclear power. Gundersen is a regular expert used by the media to discuss the issues of nuclear power, and the Fukushima situation in particular, and posts regular video updates on the ongoing dangers at the Fukushima plant.
  • the Wikipedia page on the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster: As reliable as you might expect Wikipedia to be (which is pretty good nowadays), the Fukushima page provides some background on the events surrounding the disaster, and a chronological timeline of events showing how the disaster unfolded. The page is not updated as regularly as the NEI Japan microsite.

If you have any further resources of your own, please feel free to add them below, along with a description of the site, your estimate of their reliability and - more importantly - their objectivity.

Below is the official FIM press release announcing that Motegi will go ahead as planned:

Grand Prix of Japan: Statement from the FIM

The FIM and Dorna Sports have now received the official detailed and final report provided by ARPA*, recognised body to investigate the current situation in Motegi and its environs. Based on this report the FIM and Dorna Sports confirm today that, subject to there being no further serious incidents, the Grand Prix of Japan will take place on 2 October as planned.

As already indicated in the previous Press Release, ARPA has measured levels of radiation from all sources including the air, environment and food. The final conclusion is that "based on the estimate dose it can be said with no doubt that the radiation risk during the race event is negligible".

This study is intended to complement the information already available from various Governments and the World Health Organisation, which addresses the general situation in Japan following the earthquake and subsequent tsunami that occurred in March. This independent investigation reports specifically on the situation in Motegi and its environs, making it much more relevant to MotoGP participants.

Full report in English (PDF file).


ARPA*, agenzia regionale prevenzione e ambiente dell'emila romagna based in Bologna, Italy.

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Perhaps if Carmelo and Vito issue a press release that they're bringing their entire families with them to Motegi, it may lend some weight to their declaration of it being 'safe'.

I understand that Carmelo Ezpeleta told reporters at either Assen or Sachsenring that he was intending to take his son along with him to attend the Motegi MotoGP round.

For what it's worth, if the finances come together, I will be attending Motegi. I believe I understand the risk I am taking, and I believe it is an acceptable risk. Frankly, I am more worried about the flight to Japan.

Carmelo is not a young man, how old is his son?

Stoner's 25, Adriana is 22.... Perhaps she's pregnant?

Good for you, David. I lived in Japan for a few years and attended the Motegi race in 06,08 and 09. If I were still in Japan, I would definitely be attending too.

this is why I have firmly remained on the side of the riders during this whole situation. Its not the background radiation that's worrisome. That's been debated ad naseum and proved to be a normal intake. However the fact that the reactors are still not anywhere close to a cold shut-down and are "under control" in only the sense that there is a plan of action that is being carried out, yet there is continuing seismic activity, higher Sv's being detected, and more radiation being found in the food, it really makes me wonder the naivety of how people value their health. Every human being should retain the right to decide what is best for their own health. And if it just so happens to be a MotoGP rider refusing to go within 150km of a deteriorating nuclear power plant then so be it. I have background training in the US Marines dealing with respirator protection and hazardous material exposure in relation to aviation maintenance, and more importantly OSHA standards and why they are there. They are rules and regulations written in the blood of workers who have died or been injured due to worker safety deficiencies and I believe this case is no different whether its a motoGP rider or a factory worker, it's still a human being and this is just a sport. entertainment. a puppet show. a distraction. a hobby. a passion. All of which should never be held more important than a human's health and even though these guys are riding 2-wheeled rocket ships risking injury nearly every second they are on the track, they still deserve the right to choose their risks.

To put things in perspective from what I believe to be CS27's argument for not wanting to go, there are still over 5,000 people missing from the tsunami. Lets have a motorcycle race. Is anyone else bothered by this?

But really what does having (or not having) a motorcycle race have to do with the price of radioactive Sushi?
Japan's a country full of race fans gagging for their annual fix I should imagine. Why do you want to deprive them? Dead is dead. Life goes on....

For those who can understand German, here is a report from last nite's news about how extremely high radiation has recently been measured at Fukushima:

TEPCO measures highest radioactivity since the earthquake

I will be bluntly honest here: any talk of the situation being 'brought under control' is just nonsense. As I stated before: the reactor cores have melted. This is a catastrophe. There is no hope of recovery, or of bringing anything (what?) 'under control'. The only solution is to encase these reactors in some kind of sarcophagus, and then declare an uninhabitable 'dead zone' around them. The only questions remaining are: When will this be openly admitted? How large will the 'dead zone' be?

Given the gross irresponsibility on exhibit from TEPCO, the answers are anyone's guess.

I worked 3 blocks from Ground Zero on 9/11 and for 3 years afterwards. We were told all was copacetic with the air quality when we went back to our debris & dust covered building seven days later. I was fortunate, no health ramifications to date, but I'll never trust the "authorities" again. I look back and think, how could I be so gullible?

Granted, there are thousands upon thousands of people that have no choice but live near the reactor in Japan. This is unfortunate and I feel for these people. But it's just a race, and there's no reason for anyone else to go there for anything other then absolutely essential duties, humanitarian or otherwise.

I don't blame the riders in the slightest if they decide to skip it.

So I've been watching the discussion and passionate arguments made for and against this topic over the past month and I myself, am thoroughly convinced that it is not safe. Not too long ago there was a statement letting people know of unsafe beef due to cesium found in the feed given to cattle far away from Fukushima.

""It is true that the nuclear crisis is an unprecedented event. But it can't be denied that the government was slow to act, just like during the outbreak of BSE (bovine spongiform encephalopathy)," Iwama said."

""We've been careful about meat produced within the 30-km radius (from the Fukushima No. 1 power plant). But this time, contaminated beef was shipped from a city quite far from the power plant," he said."

And how about the day that Motegi gets the 'go ahead' officially is the same day the Guardian prints this:

The point isn't specifically about the meat or the cautions that the Guardian article brings to the table either... The point is that headlines, in mainstream news organizations, keep popping up with facts and new information on how this area isn't safe and problems stemming from it keep rearing their head. The idea that this issue is even being debated still is beyond me.

The previous poster summed it up well in his comments of the first responders to the 9-11 event. If anyone else thinks that the move to make Motegi happen isn't solely motivated by contracts and money, just watch the recent HBO documentary Mann vs Ford to give just another example of where corporation's priorities lie. I want to see racing just as bad as the next guy but I'm not an idiot or that selfish. I hope the riders stick to their guns and bypass the Motegi round.

I also think it's pretty disgusting that people are trying to use pride and ego rather than logic and rationale to argue that the riders don't support Japan because they know that the area is unsafe.

If there was no race for MotoGP in Motegi, would you be trying to make the argument that the area is safe?

The ARPA report, when boiled down, says no more and no less than 'by all the objective tests we made, the occurrence of measured radiation at Motegi is no greater (and may in some cases be less) than the occurrence of measured radiation at other sites" [at which motoGp riders may expect to be at some time - my addendum]. While this places a definite framework in favour of the argument that a decision to not go to Motegi on the grounds of an increased and unacceptable risk of exposure to radiation is irrational, it does nothing more than support the case that the decision by FIM/Dorna is reasonable on the grounds of that factor alone.

Any extrapolation that the release of that report means that the riders, teams etc. must therefore immediately abandon their scientifically irrational fear of a certain type of risk is not automatically justified, however. It is a pervasive human trait that we all have personal limits of the acceptance of risk that is NOT based on any scientific rationale: 'superstitions', religious beliefs, phobias, the embracing of certain cultural conditioning, whatever.

The argument that the race should take place because of reasons of 'supporting the local population' seems prima facie to be reasonable - but I have yet to hear of any study that proves that 'the local populace' in fact shares the view that holding the race is what they want, let alone need. Until such evidence is produced, that argument is an assumption that may prove to be correct or entirely specious, and it certainly does not follow from anything that ARPA has stated.

The ARPA report without doubt makes any individual decision not to go to Motegi look thin from a strictly scientific viewpoint but it does not answer all the issues.

I wonder if a boycott of the race went ahead would the locals would be more appreciative of a cash donation from individuals or teams of the equivalent to what they would have spent to go there for the race weekend? I think this would be more practical from their (the locals) point of view and would be a case of everyone putting their money where their mouth is.

Why do you think local people need cash donations? Japan is a first world country and its government is well able to provide for Japanese people in need. Your suggestion seems patronising to me. If you're suggesting that they be compensated for the money they would make if the event went ahead, then effectively you're suggesting that all these non-Japanese first-worlders buy their way out of attending the event. What kind of message would that send to all the people living in and off Motegi?

Why is Dorna so adamant on going to Japan? Having the race there is going to prove exactly what? The reports show extremely high radiation levels at the plant. Motegi is approx 100+ km from Fukushima nuclear power plant & its absolutely ridiculous to be going near the area let alone having a major event with Tens of thousands of people attending. Hopefully commen sense will prevail. ...

Dorna originally left the decision up to the people at Motegi and the Japanese motorcycle racing authorities and the Japanese govt. If they had decided to cancel the race, then Dorna would have fallen in with them. The only thing Dorna is doing is honouring a contract. And why is it ridiculous for them to be holding an event? The town of Motegi has a popuation of 20,000. The prefecture in which it's located has a population of 2 million. All those people are getting on with their lives. The Motegi race is an annual event which I imagine many people from the area depend on economically.

So I have a simple question for the group:

Why is this such a huge issue for MotoGP riders and a total non-issue for Indycar Drivers?

They are going to the same place. The Indycar drivers will be there longer (there will be extra testing because Indycar has never raced on the road course). And there are four women in the Indycar Paddock, who should be more at risk for any Radiation exposure.

They are similar in background and income level. They are both generally of slight build and intensly competitive.

The only thing I can think of is that there are more Europeans among the MotoGP riders, while there are relatively more drivers from South America and Australia/New Zealand in Indycar.

And if the Indycar drivers wanted to make a stink, there are several alternative tracks they could have used. It would have been easier to move the Indycar race to Suzuka, for instance, than to move the MotoGP race there.

So what's the deal with MotoGP? Is there someone we don't know about influencing them all? Or is it this obsession with radiation safety a European thing that we Americans don't understand? There was never an outcry here over genetically modified food, either.

Europeans and Americans do have cultural differences in their way to apprehend global safety issues.

For example see food safety with meat and milk loaded with antibiotics and hormones in the US for decades whereas in Europe marking "no hormones" on a milk bottle would not be a commercial argument, the controversial use of high fructose corn syrup vastly common in the US, very little used in Europe (annual production in the US over 18 million tons, around 300 thousand tons in Europe, 60 times less) or as you mentioned GMO which was and still is a big deal.

Also Tchernobyl (or Chernobyl) was much closer and the cloud got over a large part of Europe still carrying significant radioactivity (at the time the French government stated that the cloud had "stopped at the border between France and Germany", no kidding, the cloud forgot its visa!).
As a result of this catastrophe and governmental lies that ensued, people got more worried and more involved in nuclear issues. The US had 3 miles island but it's a different experience.
This lead to some well informed and vigilante citizens closely monitoring the nuclear industry (sometimes via NGOs), anti-nuclear political parties, frequent demonstrations against trains carrying nuclear waste but also some part of unfounded paranoia for some individuals.

I guess MotoGP riders fall in the latter category.

You have an interesting point about trusting the government. As much as we Americans gripe about the government, Mostly we believe what the government says because there is no reason not to. There is a lot of Cynicism, but not mistrust.

The American Food and Drug Administration studied GM food for decades before they approved it. When they did say there were no real problems, most Americans believed it. Because there is no history of scandal in agencies like that here. Same with High Fructose Corn Syrup. There are activists here who are fighting it, but they are in a real tiny minority.

And when many branches of the government went on a crusade against the Tobacco industry that went on for 50 years, there was no backlash against the government. And Smoking rates among adults went from 80+ percent to about 15%.

So another thing I do not understand about Europe is how upset people get about GM food, but how so many of those same people smoke. The mistrust of government angle kinda makes sense of that for me. So thanks for bringing it up.