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Japan Medicine Power Science

Little Health Risk Seen From Fukushima's Radioactivity 201

Posted by Soulskill
from the how-do-we-scare-people-with-this-information dept.
gbrumfiel writes "Two independent reports show that the public and most workers received only low doses of radiation following last year's meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan. Nature reports that the risks presented by the doses are small, even though some are above guidelines and limits set by the Japanese government. Few people will develop cancer as a result of the accident, and those that do may never be able to conclusively link their illness to the meltdowns. The greatest risk lies with the workers who struggled in the early days to bring the reactors under control. So far no ill-effects have been detected. At Chernobyl, by contrast, the highest exposed workers died quickly from radiation sickness."
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Little Health Risk Seen From Fukushima's Radioactivity

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  • Chernobyl... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ericloewe (2129490) on Wednesday May 23, 2012 @03:54PM (#40092665)

    The biggest issue in this whole incident was the comparison with Chernobyl. The slightest mention of that name creates panic. Compare something to it, and you'll get a mass of hysterical people.

    Of course, that is the approach taken by most media these days.

  • by ericloewe (2129490) on Wednesday May 23, 2012 @03:58PM (#40092699)

    Who the hell buys a bunker? Assuming it's in your backyard (what better place to make a personal bunker?), how does the buyer access it?

    Or you could just add a coat of spray-paint, throw some fake blood around, add a few torture instruments, sell some tickets, and have your very own tourist trap.

  • Re:Chernobyl... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by K. S. Kyosuke (729550) on Wednesday May 23, 2012 @03:59PM (#40092717)

    The slightest mention of that name creates panic.

    Of course it creates panic, especially if you're big on health and safety regulations. "We want you to clean up the roof of a reactor building that has exploded, with shovels and with no hazmat and radiation protection" has never been high on anyone's list of top job assignments. The Japanese at least use a different approach.

  • one in every crowd (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Eponymous Hero (2090636) on Wednesday May 23, 2012 @04:01PM (#40092735)

    Tatsuhiko Kodama, head of the radioisotope centre at the University of Tokyo and an outspoken critic of the government, questions the reports’ value. “I think international organizations should stop making hasty reports based on very short visits to Japan that don’t allow them to see what is happening locally,” he says.

  • Re:Chernobyl... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by camperslo (704715) on Wednesday May 23, 2012 @04:06PM (#40092789)

    Of course, that is the approach taken by most media these days.

    The media in the U.S. provides so little technical detail, it seems useless. How many have reported that all 50 of Japans remaining reactors are currently shut down, or what's gone on towards phasing out reactors in Germany? Shootings, sex scandals, disasters... we get to see that. But where's the depth? How can Democracy function properly if we're not well informed, and half of what we hear is the voice of money talking?

  • by random coward (527722) on Wednesday May 23, 2012 @04:10PM (#40092839)
    After all the lies during the events I have serious doubts about anything coming from official sources there. Its like listing to Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf [wikipedia.org] and thinking "oh yes he has to be telling the truth this time".


    "There is little health risks from the Fukashima reactor anamoly" [bbc.co.uk]


    This is really disgusting because it damages the viability of nuclear power, and that is a resource we should be expanding and modernizing and not getting rid of.
  • by ericloewe (2129490) on Wednesday May 23, 2012 @04:11PM (#40092847)

    What're they supposed to do? Stay there for 20+ years, asking every person every day: "How do you feel? Got any tumors? I know a guy who'll scoop them out if you agree to be a lab rat. Call this number, ask for Cave, and tell him Bill sent you."

  • by Opportunist (166417) on Wednesday May 23, 2012 @04:13PM (#40092867)

    There's been so much lying going on about the whole incident that I just can't believe anything being said about it anymore. If I lived anywhere close to it I'd demand a real investigation, not the usual "foreign 'experts' come, do a tour about the Tokio night clubs and write what they're supposed to" kind.

  • Re:Chernobyl... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 23, 2012 @04:14PM (#40092883)

    How can Democracy function properly if we're not well informed, and half of what we hear is the voice of money talking?

    The same way it functioned 200 years ago. News sources have always been biased and sensationalist, you just have the misfortune of having grown up after the 3 channel "impartial" news era.

    To nearly quote Thomas Jefferson: "The man who does not read a newspaper is better informed than one who does. In that being uninformed is closer to the truth than being misinformed." (from memory, so expect a few errors)

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 23, 2012 @04:15PM (#40092891)

    This is really really bad. Anyone who has been reading or watching Arnie Gundersen (fairewinds.com) would likely come to the same conclusion.
    1. do not eat seafood
    2. the soil in Tokyo would be considered toxic waste in the US.
    3. if there is large aftershock near unit 4. An extinction event is a possibility.

  • by Sarten-X (1102295) on Wednesday May 23, 2012 @04:18PM (#40092925) Homepage

    That's some tasty FUD right there, yep...

    Not being able to say for sure why one has cancer or some birth defects doesn't make it any less sad or less of a burden on families and healthcare.

    Neither does knowing for certain. Cancer and birth defects are terrible illnesses, but the radiation levels from Fukushima are so low as to get lost in the background noise of, say, radiation from a nearby kumquat. There's no way to say the cancer was caused by Fukushima, and no way to say it wasn't caused by a nice sunny day.

    No doubt many of the cancers we've had in the U.S. that were a result of the nuclear testing era weren't identified either.

    Given that cancer cases have been recorded since before any nuclear tests, and all nuclear tests and fallout have been recorded, it's actually possible to figure out the probable death tolls from testing. Spoiler: they're somewhere between "nobody" and "fewer than have died this year from cholera".

    Maybe the nuclear deterrent saved us, but it wasn't without a price.

    Of course not. The United States dropped a 15-kiloton bomb on Hiroshima, killing 125,000 people. A few days later, a 21-kiloton bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, killing about 45,000. That's around 170,000 people who died for the "deterrent". Does it really matter that those people died from a nuclear bomb, or would it somehow be better if we'd dropped a ton of regular ol' incendiary bombs, then kept fighting the war for a few more years?

    Say, why did the head of the NRC resign? Bad choices with Yucca Mountain? A bit slow to deal with some vulnerability? Someone under his desk? Poor health or another personal issue?

    Maybe it was death threats from anti-nuclear Luddites, or, simply exhaustion from the pressure of being a public figure, or annoyance with the continual ignorance of the masses fighting against one of the most promising technologies of the 20th century.

  • by oh_my_080980980 (773867) on Wednesday May 23, 2012 @04:22PM (#40092979)
    "Tatsuhiko Kodama, head of the radioisotope centre at the University of Tokyo and an outspoken critic of the government, questions the reports’ value. “I think international organizations should stop making hasty reports based on very short visits to Japan that don’t allow them to see what is happening locally,” he says."

    Agree.
  • by tp1024 (2409684) on Wednesday May 23, 2012 @04:32PM (#40093111)

    Just as everywhere else in the developed world. (Although actual figures in US states vary between 35% and 53% of people getting cancer - no evacuations so far, despite hugely increased risk in some states.)

  • by Microlith (54737) on Wednesday May 23, 2012 @04:36PM (#40093149)

    There was a lot of radiation released by Fukushima.

    There was. The vast majority of it vanished over the past year as the iodine decayed. The majority of the remainder is now washed out to sea and will likely be indistinguishable from the normal radioisotope content of the ocean as is.

    Don't tell everyone to panic but don't lie and, in effect, tell everyone they are going to be okay either.

    So they'll need to do some cleanup and keep an eye on things with their doctor. It's not like everyone will have some hideous cancer as a direct result of this. Get back to me in a couple decades when rates of incidence are trackable and we can see what happened, when, and to who.

  • by HangingChad (677530) on Wednesday May 23, 2012 @04:47PM (#40093277) Homepage

    Chernobyl is not exactly a fair comparison. That was a massive release with so much radiation in some places you could actually taste it.

    Like it or not, Fukushima actually demonstrated that in an absolutely worst case nightmare scenario the releases would not be that bad.

    What I think is funny are the people who worry about getting cancer from the minuscule, barely measurable radiation drifting in weather patterns and then sit down to a breakfast of bacon and eggs. Processed meats have a much better statistical correlation for cancer than micro levels of radioactive isotopes, some of which occur naturally.

    I know, I know. I'm going to burn in hell now for ripping on bacon.

  • Re:Chernobyl... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Mindcontrolled (1388007) on Wednesday May 23, 2012 @05:01PM (#40093435)
    On the phasing down of German reactors - so far, we only shut down export capacity. Germany had a massive overcapacity of nukes that were actually not needed for local production. We are still not a net importer. That's the interesting fact for me - what exactly did they have to run the rundown Isar I block in my backyard all these years? I have not seen any data on the importers of that energy. How they compensate now, I have no idea. Anyway, in the words of a professor of reactor engineering who gave a talk at a meeting I attended last months - the shutdown will have no significant consequences on the European energy grid. According to current projections, part of it will be replaced by renewables, most of it by natural gas. The climate consequences are another matter, naturally. I'd say we put up all the wind, solar and geothermal we can and get our asses into gear building a new reactor generation that does not suck as much as those currently being shut down. The research money for that, interestingly, is still there and largely unaffected by the shutdown - still way too small, though.
  • by camperslo (704715) on Wednesday May 23, 2012 @05:10PM (#40093507)

    There's no point in mass fear, the illnesses and deaths are largely spread out over both time and distance and as such pass by mostly without mention. But the deaths are still real.. The people that were alive between 1948 and 1970 (the period of exposure) are/were the primary ones affected. I've known a couple of people that turned out to be from the midwest (one of the harder hit regions from Nevada testing) who had leukemia (they're dead now). Back in the day we didn't know any better. There's a reason we eventually did away with atmospheric testing and have sought to avoid additional contamination.
    The incident in Japan has left much of the nation much like the U.S. is, with "background" levels elevated. (The U.S. "background" levels are about double what is seen in someplace like Australia. Except for the area hit in WWII, Japan was mostly low too.) Although a small percentage of the population is affected, the U.S. certainly has/will see some additional cancer cases from Chernobyl, the Japanese accident in 1981 (accident very well covered up, a sodium reactor leaked for months with hundred of workers exposed beyond normal limits, and was measurable in the U.S.) and later from the events of last year. Beware of "science" saying that low level radiation is good. It seems that the people doing those studies have also "shown" that mice do better with low level doses of all sorts of other nasties too. Who would have known how wonderful toxins are? (call it science concocted for defense attorneys) Absorbed like calcium, baby-boomers to this day have strontium-90 in their teeth and bones.

    Certainly the risk varied considerable, and like fallout from accidents, the hotspots depended on combinations of timing, the wind, rainfall, and what one ate. For Iodine-131 there have been detailed estimates. If you were a female born in the 50's in someplace like Nebraska, and drank a fair amount of goats milk from animals that were pasture fed, the risk was (and for survivors still is) very significant. Risk was less for those drinking less, it wasn't quite as high with cows, and it was lower from animals fed hay indoors. (A lesson from that is to have a couple of months feed hay in reserve to reduce the exposure via milk during the time it takes for I-131 to go through enough half-lives)

    It's only for I-131, and then only for the Nevada tests (other sources not included), but have some fun with the risk calculator if you were around back in the day.

    https://ntsi131.nci.nih.gov/ [nih.gov]

    The rest can laugh it off I suppose. The Japanese fishermen that can back to Japan with serious radiation exposure from the South Pacific tests did inspire the Godzilla and friends monster movies after all, so something good came of it.

  • by Firethorn (177587) on Wednesday May 23, 2012 @05:16PM (#40093575) Homepage Journal

    What I think is funny are the people who worry about getting cancer from the minuscule, barely measurable radiation drifting in weather patterns and then sit down to a breakfast of bacon and eggs.

    Not to mention set up such a racket about running a nuclear plant while ignoring the coal plant down the road that's giving everybody a chance at lung cancer halfway towards being a smoker.

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