14 Mars 2016
March 14, 2016
LONDON – The costs of evacuating residents from near the Fukushima No. 1 plant and the dislocation the people experienced were greater than their expected gain in longevity, a British study has found.
The researchers found that at best evacuees could expect to live eight months longer, but that some might gain only one extra day of life. They said this does not warrant ripping people from their homes and communities.
The team of experts from four British universities developed a series of tests to examine the relocations after the Fukushima crisis and earlier Chernobyl disaster in 1986.
After a three-year study, the academics have concluded that Japan “overreacted” by relocating 160,000 residents of Fukushima Prefecture, even though radioactive material fell on more than 30,000 sq. km of territory.
“We judged that no one should have been relocated in Fukushima, and it could be argued this was a knee-jerk reaction,” said Philip Thomas, a professor of risk management at Bristol University. “It did more harm than good. An awful lot of disruption has been caused However, this is with hindsight and we are not blaming the authorities.”
The team used a wide range of economic and actuarial data, as well as information from the United Nations and the Japanese government.
In one test, an assessment of judgment value, the researchers calculated how many days of life expectancy were saved by relocating residents away from areas affected by radiation.
They compared this with the cost of relocation and how much this expenditure would impact the quality of people’s lives in the future.
From this information, they were able to work out the optimal or rational level of spending and make a judgment on the best measures to mitigate the effects of a nuclear accident.
Depending on how close people were to the radiation, the team calculated that the relocations added a period of between one day to 21 days to the evacuees’ lives.
But when this was compared with the vast amounts of money spent, the academics came to the conclusion that it was unjustified in all cases.
In some areas, they calculated that 150 times more money was being spent than was judged rational.
Thomas adds, the tests do not take into account the physical and psychological effects of relocating, which have been shown to have led to more than 1,000 deaths among elderly evacuees.
Other studies have also found that once people have lived away for a certain period of time it can become increasingly difficult to persuade them to return.
After Chernobyl, the world’s worst nuclear disaster, around 116,000 people were initially relocated away from the disaster zone.
Looking back on the incident, the team judged it was only worthwhile to relocate 31,000 people because they would have lost in excess of 8.7 months in life expectancy had they remained.
However, for the rest of the 116,000 people, it would have been a more rational decision to keep them where they were, given that their average loss of life was put at three months.
Four years later, a further 220,000 people were relocated from areas close to Chernobyl. Researchers found this unjustified.
Thomas says the loss in life expectancy following a nuclear accident has to be put into context alongside other threats all people face.
For example, it has been claimed that the average Londoner will lose about 4½ months in life expectancy due to high pollution levels.
Thomas concludes governments should carry out a more careful assessment before mounting a relocation operation of at least a year. A temporary evacuation could be a good idea while authorities work out the risk from radiation, he said.
In the future, Thomas would like to see more real-time information made available to the public on radiation levels in order to avoid hysteria and bad planning.
On a plus note, the team found that other remedial measures — decontaminating homes, deep ploughing of soil and bans on the sales of certain food products — were far more effective.
Thomas has already discussed his findings with colleagues at the University of Tokyo and he is keen that his findings can help better quantify the risks from radioactive leaks.
The project was sponsored by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, Britain’s main agency for funding research in engineering and the physical sciences. It was intended to give advice for nuclear planners both in Britain and India.
The research team comprised specialists from City University in London, Manchester University, the Open University and Warwick University.
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Compare with recent report :
March 9, 2016
WASHINGTON, D.C. & BERLIN – March 9, 2016 – Residents of the Fukushima area and the rest of Japan will experience more than 10,000 excess cancers as a result of radiation exposure from the triple-reactor meltdown that took place on March 11, 2011, according to a new report from Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) and International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW).
Titled "5 Years Living With Fukushima" and available online at www.psr.org/FukushimaReport2016, the PSR/IPPNW report laments that the full impact of Fukushima may never be known, due to Japan's failure to immediately and fully track radiation exposures, as well as a "disturbing" lack of testing of the general population for radiation-related diseases and other impacts (miscarriages, fetal malformations, leukemia, lymphomas, solid tumors or non-cancerous diseases). The massive initial radioactive emissions were not recorded at the time of the triple-reactor meltdown and some radioactive isotopes (including strontium-90) have not been measured at all.
The PSR/IPPNW report uses the best available science and data to gauge the excess cancer rates among children, rescue and clean-up workers, and the general population of Japan. In addition to the 200,000 Fukushima residents relocated nearby into makeshift camps, the exposed include millions of others in Japan as a result of fallout-contaminated food, soil and water. Fukushima is often incorrectly seen as a "past" event; the reality is that radioactive emissions from the wrecked reactors continue to this day both into the atmosphere and in the form of 300 tons of leakage each day into the Pacific Ocean.
Key findings of the PSR/IPPNW report include the following:
Catherine Thomasson, MD, report co-editor, and executive director, Physicians for Social Responsibility, said: "The health legacy of Fukushima will haunt Japan for years to come and it cannot be wished out of existence by cheerleaders for nuclear power. Unfortunately, the pro-nuclear Japanese government and the country's influential nuclear lobby are doing everything in their power to play down and conceal the effects of the disaster. The high numbers of thyroid cancers already verified with 50 additional waiting for surgery in the children of Fukushima prefecture is astounding. The aim seems to be to ensure the Fukushima file is closed as soon as possible and the Japanese public returns to a positive view of nuclear power. This rush to re-embrace nuclear power is dangerous to the extent that it sweeps major and very real medical concerns under the rug."
Dr. Alex Rosen, pediatrician and vice-chair, International Physicians for Prevention of Nuclear War, said: "One is of course reminded of the tobacco lobby disputing the notion that the horrific effects of its products have no adverse health impacts. This self-serving falsehood echoed for decades was made possible simply because the long-term health effects of smoking were not immediately observable. The 10,000 to 66,000 people who will develop cancer solely as a result of the "manmade disaster" are neither 'negligible' nor 'insufficient,' as Japanese authorities, the nation's nuclear lobby, and various industry-dominated international bodies, would have you believe."
Tim Mousseau, PhD, professor of Biological Sciences, University of South Carolina, said: "It is unfortunate that, in some regards, we have better and more complete data about the impacts of Fukushima radiation on trees, plants and animals than we do on humans. We are seeing higher mortality rates, reduction in successful reproduction and significant deformities. A great deal of this research has been done to date and it has troubling implications. The research findings should be heeded to direct human studies, particularly regarding the question of genetic and transgenerational effects of radiation."
Robert Alvarez, senior scholar specializing in nuclear disarmament, environmental, and energy policies, Institute for Public Studies, and former senior policy advisor, US Department of Energy, said: "Radioactive fallout from the reactors has created de faco 'sacrifice zones' where human habitation will no longer be possible well into the future. In November 2011, the Japanese Science Ministry reported that long-lived radioactive cesium had contaminated 11,580 square miles (30,000 sq km) of the land surface of Japan. Some 4,500 square miles – an area almost the size of Connecticut – was found to have radiation levels that exceeded Japan's allowable exposure rate of 1 mSV(millisievert) per year. Fourteen of the nation's 54 reactors are permanently shut down as they are on fault lines and only four have been restarted."
The PSR/IPPNW report also cautions that Fukushima was far from a one-time radiation incident: "The wrecked reactors have been leaking radioactive discharge since March 2011, despite assurances by the nuclear industry and institutions of the nuclear lobby such as the International Atomic Energy Organization that a singular incident occurred in spring 2011, which is now under control. This statement ignores the continuous emission of long-lived radionuclides such as cesium-137 or strontium-90 into the atmosphere, the groundwater and the ocean. It also ignores frequent recontamination of affected areas due to storms, flooding, forest fires, pollination, precipitation and even clean-up operations, which cause radioactive isotopes to be whirled into the air and spread by the wind. Thus, several incidents of new contamination with cesium-137 and strontium-90 have been discovered during the past years, even at considerable distance beyond the evacuation zone."
The report also notes: "Finally, there are frequent leaks at the power plant itself – particularly from the cracked underground vaults of the reactor buildings and from containers holding radioactive contaminated water, which were hastily welded together and already exhibit numerous defects. According to TEPCO, 300 tons of radioactive wastewater still flow unchecked into the ocean every day – more than 500,000 tons since the beginning of the nuclear disaster. The amount and composition of radioactive isotopes fluctuate widely so that it is not possible to ascertain the actual effect this radioactive discharge will have on marine life. What is clear, however, is that increasing amounts of strontium-90 are being flushed into the sea. Strontium-90 is a radioactive isotope that is incorporated into living organisms in a similar way to calcium - in bones and teeth. As it travels up the marine food chain, it undergoes significant bioaccumulation and, because of its long biological and physical half-lives, will continue to contaminate the environment for the next hundreds of years."
ABOUT THE GROUPS
Physicians for Social Responsibility has been working for more than 50 years to create a healthy, just and peaceful world for both the present and future generations. PSR advocates on key issues of concern by addressing the dangers that threaten communities. www.psr.org.
International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War is a non-partisan federation of national medical groups in 64 countries, representing tens of thousands of doctors, medical students, other health workers, and concerned citizens who share the common goal of creating a more peaceful and secure world freed from the threat of nuclear annihilation. www.ippnw.org
MEDIA CONTACT: Max Karlin, +1 (703) 276-3255 (in US) or [email protected].
EDITOR'S NOTE: A streaming audio replay of the news event is now available.