With all the talk of new nuclear build, I’m surprised that UK media organisations beyond the Reuters news agency and Nature magazine have yet to pick up this story. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the UN Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR), few of those exposed to radioactive material from the Fukushima Daichi nuclear power plant destroyed in last year’s earthquake will develop cancer as a result of that exposure. And, given the measured doses involved, those who do develop cancer will never know for sure if the disease is attributable to ionising radiation from Fukushima.
The WHO study focuses on public exposure to radioactive material from Fukushima, with dose estimates assessed according to various demographic criteria. UNSCEAR’s work is a little more detailed, but restricted to Fukushima workers. Its results show that 167 of 20,115 workers received radiation doses higher than the 100 millisieverts (mSv) known to significantly increase the risk of cancer, and, of those, six received more than the 250 mSv allowed by Japanese law for frontline emergency workers. Neither of the two workers who ingested more than 600 mSv have shown any ill effects as a result of their exposure.
So far so good, and certainly much better than with the Chernobyl disaster.