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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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  • by crazyjj (2598719) * on Wednesday May 23, 2012 @03:53PM (#40092645)

    You know, I'm really considering selling this damned Y2K bunker.

    • 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.

      • by shiftless (410350)

        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.

        Literally.

    • by peragrin (659227) on Wednesday May 23, 2012 @04:05PM (#40092779)

      why sell it? decorate it and market it to your wife as an mother-in law apartment.

      after she moves in, disconnect the ventilation one night

      Sell tickets to the horror room later.

      That is called win win win.

    • by vlm (69642)

      Take the twinkies and mt dew out, and call it a tornado shelter. Its the trendy new hot topic here in the midwest ... for the last two centuries or so.

    • by antdude (79039)

      No, keep it. Use it as a movie theater, hideout, etc. :)

    • by mellon (7048)

      While you're thinking about selling real estate, consider the resale value of any property within the fallout zone of Fukushima. People will continue to live there, whatever the risks, because they will not be able to leave. Even if this report is correct, which seems unlikely, the long-term fallout from Fukushima will be incredibly costly. These costs need to be insured against; if they were, unsafe reactors would no longer be competitive with renewable sources of energy.

      • by mug funky (910186)

        what about safer reactors? it's not unsafe reactors versus renewables (i don't like those odds btw), it's unsafe reactors versus every other form of power generation... including safer reactors which should bloody well have been built before this mess happened.

  • 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.

    • 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.

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

        by dgatwood (11270) on Wednesday May 23, 2012 @05:14PM (#40093545) Journal

        At the levels of radiation involved at Chernobyl, I suspect that no radiation protection that existed at the time would have helped prevent most of the deaths. Traditional hazmat suits predominantly are intended to prevent inhalation and direct contact with radioactive materials when operating in areas of moderate contamination, and to allow for rapid washing of the person after exposure. When you have people dying from exposure to as much as 16 grays, no thin piece of rubber is going to make much of a difference, and even a lead apron will only go so far.

        To be fair, some of the long-term deaths from cancer might have been avoided with better radiation protection, even with the limited technology available at the time, but it would have still been a disaster, and most of the people who died would probably have died anyway. Newer technologies, such as Demron, might have helped, but that wasn't invented until almost 16 years after the Chernobyl disaster.

        • by khallow (566160)
          We also have to keep in mind the evacuation of civilians and public warning (including other countries affected by the fallout). Here, the USSR was criminally negligent. Some of those deaths could have been prevented merely by not having people there.
    • 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?

      • 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)

      • Masses love shootings, sex scandals and disasters. You've got to educate them before you can inform them.

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

        It remembers me of the 1984 book. The totalitarian government made sure that newspapers contained nothing but astrology, sports and crime...

      • by wrook (134116)

        What's rather bizarre is that when they *did* report that the reactors are currently shut down, they said that there were no plans to restart them. So I went and checked. The Hamaoka nuclear power plant down the road from me is indeed planning on restarting. TEPCO (currently in the process of restructuring) also recently submitted it's plan to the Japanese government for future operations. It hinges on a 10% increase in electricity rates *and* the restarting of several nuclear reactors. Whether or not

    • by mug funky (910186)

      we need more accidents to compare to :)

      otherwise we'll keep using chernobyl and TMI as anchor points (with anything that happens quite likely to be "somewhere between the two").

      TMI was a gassy fart and chernobyl was a complete disaster of unimaginable stupidity, and possibly the catalyst for the fall of the soviet union.

      it would be difficult to do worse than chernobyl without specifically designing a reactor to blow up in the most awful way possible.

  • by MikeMacK (788889) on Wednesday May 23, 2012 @03:59PM (#40092707)
    Jim, I think you'd better get down here.... Better hurry...
  • 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: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by ericloewe (2129490)

      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."

      • anyone remember Cave Story? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E05GxrxJ53A [youtube.com]
      • by AHuxley (892839)
        Epidemiology is not very hard for many cash poor nations to try and set up.
        Some parts of the world, e.g. ex Soviet nations don't seem to like/support the idea very much, but it should be very easy to do in Japan and the areas around Japan.
        So its as easy as selecting a wide pool of people and testing them at set intervals over many years.
        Counties around the world do it all the time with generations of results in known populations e.g. food, cancer, twin studies.
    • if he had really a data point showing that the report is wrong, he would show it and falsify the report instead of spouting politic call to authority "we are local so we know better". No you don't, you have data and can refute or you have not.
  • 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.
    • I am too. There was a lot of radiation released by Fukushima. Don't tell everyone to panic but don't lie and, in effect, tell everyone they are going to be okay either. It is a known fact that gamma radiation destroys DNA. I think one can link some cancers to gamma ray exposure.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Microlith (54737)

        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 hid

        • by AmiMoJo (196126)

          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.

          Well we know that isn't true because of the contaminated seafood coming from that area.

          So they'll need to do some cleanup and keep an eye on things with their doctor.

          "Some" clean up? Very large areas of land need to be decontaminated. Soil replaced, everything (including plants) cleaned off and checked. While protecting the people doing the cleaning.

          Outside the exclusion zone children have to wear dosimeters. Lots of people bought monitoring equipment and find that levels around their new rented accommodation (since they basically lost their homes and possessions, not to mention their

      • by peragrin (659227) on Wednesday May 23, 2012 @04:49PM (#40093303)

        true but if the majority of radiation was alpha it is easily blocked unless ingested.

        Since what got carried away in the explosions and water was alpha and beta, The danger is less. most of that has become heavily diluted in the ocean.

        Radiation has many different effects depending on type. a high dose of one has a different short term, and then long term effect.

        Gamma goes through everything but doesn't stick around as much.
        Alpha can stick around in an environment for decades continuously poisoning and re-poisoning those who come in contact with it.

        • Gamma goes through everything but doesn't stick around as much.
          Alpha can stick around in an environment for decades continuously poisoning and re-poisoning those who come in contact with it.

          Gamma rays go through everything, but doesn't stick around at all.

          Alpha particles are helium ions, and are neither poisonous nor particularly prone to sticking around.

          That said...

          Gamma EMITTERS can be in the environment for extended periods, based entirely on their half-life (long half-life means the emitters are aro

          • by lennier (44736)

            Gamma emitters are moderately dangerous, but alpha emitters can safely be stored under your bed

            Not quite. IANA health physicist, but from my reading of Wikipedia, alpha emitters can be the most dangerous of all if they get into your body, because then they dump all their energetic payload into a tissue-paper-width of actual tissue.

            So: safe to store under your bed only if they are a solid block of metal. Not at all safe if they are breathable aerosol particles, less safe if they are particles which fall out of the sky onto your food crops or fish, even less safe if they are functional analogues of che

      • by treeves (963993)

        "...a lot of radiation released by Fukushima." [nitpick: radioactivity would be a better term than radiation]

        "A lot" is not a useful description. No, really. I don't just mean you need a number. I mean a lot of mercury is released into the environment too.
        And there is a lot of gold in the ocean. So what?
        There are many variables your blanket statement does not begin to address.

        Over what time period?
        In what physical and chemical form?
        With what half-lives?
        Into what medium?
        Over how large an area?
        How does it dif

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      Yeah, it's modern times. Anyway... when I read news I try to get both alternative and mainstream sources covered. I reckon, as the quote goes... truth is usually somewhere in the middle. Having said that, I read a lot recently about fukushima reactor #4. Here's a snippet:

      [quote]
      The troubled Reactor 4 at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant is at the centre of this potential catastrophe.

      Reactor 4 -- and to a lesser extent Reactor 3 -- still hold large quantities of cooling waters surrounding spent nuclear fue

      • Looking at "Fairewinds Energy Education" website, it doesn't look like anything other than an anti-nuke shill, producing reports on demand for the anti-nuke hysterics...
      • by wrook (134116)

        Fairewinds Energy Education is an anti-nuclear lobbyist group. Arnie Gundersen has a masters degree in nuclear engineering, and worked in the 70's (I believe... you may have to check that) for a few years in a non-operational reactor. He then went on to spend roughly 20 years as a high school math teacher. During his tenure as a math teacher, he has worked as a consultant for various anti-nuclear lobbyist groups. The information is public record and you can find it on the internet if you look around. T

    • by EdZ (755139)
      Do you have anything conclusive that proves official sources (i.e. the IAEA and NISA) have reported anything incorrectly (or without later publishing the correction)? Media reporting inside of and outside of Japan swung wildly between "everything is fine" and "next Chernobyl?!?!?" with dizzying rapidity and little provocation. And I mean 'proof' other than dodgy blogs citing the-Geiger-counter-I-built-myself-but-never-had-calibrated.
    • by wrook (134116)

      The thing I invite you to ask yourself is this: "Who lied to you?" I live in Japan and speak Japanese passably (though the vocabulary related to nuclear disasters was not a forte of mine at the beginning of the incident). One of the biggest problems I've had with this whole thing is that the information presented in the west by reputable news outlets was *different* from the information being presented in Japan. What was all the more infuriating was that the lies uncovered by the western media were never

  • 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: (Score:3, Insightful)

      "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 crazyjj (2598719) *

      As opposed to the environmentalist wackos who show up to find and publicize a nuclear disaster, whether it actually exists or not.

    • Everything I've read here has been consistent with previous statements. What is it exactly that you feel they could be lying about?

      The problem they're addressing with this article is that two control room workers didn't take their potassium iodate tablets, which means they received a much higher dose than they otherwise would have. Their dose is high enough that there's a chance that they would experience the effects of radiation poisoning. But they didn't.
      Aside from that, their lifetime chance of deve
  • "Mainchi reported on Monday: The storage pool in the No. 4 reactor building has a total of 1,535 fuel rods, or 460 tons of nuclear fuel, in it. The 7-story building itself has suffered great damage, with the storage pool barely intact on the building’s third and fourth floors. The roof has been blown away. If the storage pool breaks and runs dry, the nuclear fuel inside will overheat and explode, causing a massive amount of radioactive substances to spread over a wide area. Both the U.S. Nuclear Regul
    • by Microlith (54737)

      GJ with no links there bub. Mind following up with some?

    • by vlm (69642)

      The roof has been blown away. If the storage pool breaks and runs dry, the nuclear fuel inside will overheat and explode

      Those two lines don't go together logically. They got savaged because they were not ventilating the overheating pools and reactors, so H2 built up and popped each building like popcorn. There were zerohedge guys (yeah... but where else do we have free media, anyway?) crying to crack the other buildings before they explode, but no, they just kept popping. If they had popped a hole in undamaged roofs, they would not have been able to accumulate H2, leading to an inability to blow up. Management paralysis

    • This is total nonsense. While overheating and fire is a risk with fuel freshly removed from an operating reactor--after it has been sitting this long, nothing catastrophic will happen. The fuel rods will get a bit hotter than usual, though nothing will burn.

      That said, fuel should be moved to dry cask storage or further reprocessed in a timely manner. Stockpiling huge quantities of spent fuel in pools is not a good idea, as every time you add hot fuel, that does introduce a window of danger for about six

      • by jrumney (197329)
        The fuel is not all spent. Some reactors at the plant were offline for routine maintenance at the time of the quake, and their fuel was being temporarily stored in the spent fuel pool of reactor 4. I don't know what effect that has on your "window of danger for about six months", if any. According to a report on NHK a few months back, the crane for moving fuel in and out of the spent fuel pool was damaged in the earthquake, and radioactivity levels are not expected to be low enough for it to be safely rep
  • Japanese officials have been lying through their Orwellian teeth since day one. When I see these guys pulling some stunts like guzzling a pint of well water, having their kids play in the local playground, and building sandcastles on the beach I'll believe them.

  • XKCD (Score:4, Informative)

    by Scarred Intellect (1648867) on Wednesday May 23, 2012 @04:29PM (#40093069) Homepage Journal

    ...already covered this [xkcd.com]

    Nice to see others have finally figured the same thing out.

  • 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 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.

    • 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.

  • If this had happened in the US how long would it have been before we'd have seen lawyers on TV advertising legal action? I'm sure findings from independent agencies would have been completely irrelevant to the case.

  • "Tokyo Electric Power Co. has estimated the total amount of radioactive substances discharged from its Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant measured 760,000 terabecquerels, 1.6 times the estimate released by the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency in February. "
    http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/dy/national/T120523005514.htm
    • by tp1024 (2409684)

      But didn't anybody tell you, that TEPCO is a bunch of lying bastards?

    • by ModelX (182441)

      Note that the claimed total only includes iodine-131 and cesium-137, while they forget about radioactive noble gases and other isotopes. Besides, there are no public images where one could clearly see the cap of reactor 3. If reactor 3 or it's fuel pool has thrown significant amounts of plutonium in the air, the situation is much more dramatic than admitted.

  • I used to be a nuclear energy fan (considering that much of the anti-nuclear sentiment is Luddite hysteria),
    but the Iran situation made me reconsider. I fear that nuclear power generation might advance
    the proliferation of nuclear weapons.

    And according to Wikipedia, solar will start reaching grid parity in 2015 and wind in 2020/2025.
    I think we can get by with hydro, coal (with pollution-reducing technology) and natural gas
    until 2025.

    What do you think?

    • by epyT-R (613989)

      solar will never reach parity with energy demand.. we would need collectors out in space to get close.. The answer to outside threats is to attack them when they get uppity. I realize this is outside the realm of possibility for the gimpwrists who run the federal government. for them, it's easier to do the terrorists work for them by destroying our liberty with life sucking surveillance and censorship...all with corporate blessing.

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