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What Did and Did Not Happen in Fukushima

James Conca writes this in Forbes:

But the real health and environmental impacts from the Fukushima reactors are nothing compared to the tsunami. Contrary to all the hype and fear, Fukushima is basically a large Superfund site. No one will die from Fukushima radiation, there will be no increased cancer rates, the food supply is not contaminated, the ocean nearby is not contaminated, most of the people can move back into their homes, and most of the other nuclear plants in Japan can start up just fine.

It’s definitely true that the earthquake and tsunami, which killed 22,000 people, was a tremendous human disaster. But is Conca overstating the case on the nuclear accident?

This would seem to suggest so:

Unfortunately, a new monitoring system for thyroid cancer seemed to reveal an immediate and drastic effect. Hundreds of thousands of children in Fukushima prefecture underwent sensitive ultrasound scans after the accident. The results showed that 44 percent of them had thyroid cysts or nodules, which are possible warning signs of cancer.

This could have been caused by the radioactive iodine released by the facility – it’s a little tricky because Japan did a good job of sheltering people and giving out potassium iodide, which floods the thyroid and keeps radioactive iodine out.

It’s impossible to truly know whether the accident caused these thyroid abnormalities if there is no baseline, which is a very uncomfortable argument to make – unless you create a baseline. And the Japanese did create one:

That baseline study found that the frequency of thyroid nodules and cysts in that uncontaminated population was about 57 percent — somewhat higher than among Fukushima kids. The spike in Fukushima thyroid anomalies isn’t caused by fallout — because there is no spike.

Actually, that’s a little more than somewhat. It also makes an important if oblique point: thyroid abnormalities are actually quite common and do not lead invariably to cancer.

None of this is to downplay the seriousness of the Fukushima Daiichi accident and the fear it engendered. Still, what people most fear from such an accident is radiation exposure and the development of cancers. If you consider the sheer wreckage and suffering the area endured after the tsunami, that shouldn’t be an extra burden. And, thankfully, it’s not.

Comments

jimwg said…
Good article, still, I just don't understand why nuclear advocates don't whip out their ace card from their butt pocket! Sure, one doesn't have to "downplay the seriousness" of what happened at Fukushima -- but then don't not hawk the fact that _THREE meltdowns in a row_ occurred with zit causalities while anti-nukers have long been spewing that just ONE is Doomsday. How much safer bucking the odds can you get?? How about citing how many were killed by gas and oil incidents in the same breath as Fukushima? The public loves comprehending comparison games!

James Greenidge
Queens NY
Jose A. said…
Also take a look at this:

http://www.fukushimaminponews.com/news.html?id=435

"According to the report, 23 of the 103 cases confirmed as thyroid cancer were subjected to genetic analysis. Most gene mutations found in cells of these confirmed cases were of the type that is commonly seen in thyroid cancer among adults in Japan and that was not found among children with thyroid cancer developed after the Chernobyl accident. Furthermore, the type of gene variations commonly found among the Chernobyl cases was not detected among any of the 23 Fukushima cases."

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