A couple of days ago, a friend of mine passed some news onto me that Dr. Helen Caldicott is hitting the lecture circuit again, this time to talk about the health implications of the incident at Fukushima Daiichi. Her next event will take place tonight in Santa Barbara and will be sponsored by the Nuclear Peace Age Foundation.
Obviously, this blog has a long history debunking Dr. Caldicott's claims about commercial nuclear energy -- one that extends all the way back to 2005 when we disputed her claims about a USEC uranium enrichment facility in Kentucky.
We don't know what Dr. Caldicott will say tonight. However, when it comes to good science about the health effects of radiation, you'd probably be better off watching some video that was shot earlier this month by the Health Physics Society when they hosted a forum on Fukushima. Click here to watch those videos on our SafetyFirst microsite.
One of the individuals you'll see in the videos is Dr. Robert Peter Gale of Imperial College, London. He's worked as a consultant in the aftermath of both Chernobyl and Fukushima. Earlier this month in the LA Times, Dr. Gale wrote the following about the radiation releases at Fukushima and what they mean for the TEPCO employees at the plant as well as the Japanese public:
The kind of radiation was similar to Chernobyl, but about four to 10 times less was released. And there are other important differences. Most of the radiation released (about 80%) was blown offshore by winds, where it was diluted by air and sea. Consequently, exposures received by Fukushima workers and the public are quite low, including among the 20,000 or more workers decommissioning the facility and the approximately 100,000 evacuees. This doesn't mean there will be no future radiation-caused cancers, as some claim. But because there may be so few cancers, it is unlikely any epidemiological investigations will detect an increase in Japan or elsewhere that can be directly attributed to Fukushima.For more from Dr. Gale, click here.
What do the Fukushima exposures really mean? A rough estimate is that for a 50-year-old male working at the Fukushima nuclear facility, his lifetime risk of cancer might increase from 42% to 42.2%. The magnitude of this increased risk is comparable to the added risk of living in Denver (where background radiation is higher because of the altitude and radionuclides in the Rocky Mountains) versus New York City for 10 to 15 years, or smoking one pack of cigarettes a day for one to two years. The Japanese public will, of course, get far less radiation.