Navigation Links
Stanford researchers calculate global health impacts of the Fukushima nuclear disaster
Date:7/17/2012

Radiation from Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster may eventually cause anywhere from 15 to 1,300 deaths and from 24 to 2,500 cases of cancer, mostly in Japan, Stanford researchers have calculated.

The estimates have large uncertainty ranges, but contrast with previous claims that the radioactive release would likely cause no severe health effects.

The numbers are in addition to the roughly 600 deaths caused by the evacuation of the area surrounding the nuclear plant directly after the March 2011 earthquake, tsunami and meltdown.

Recent PhD graduate John Ten Hoeve and Stanford civil engineering Professor Mark Z. Jacobson, a senior fellow at the Precourt Institute for Energy and the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment, are set to publish their findings Tuesday (July 17) in the journal Energy and Environmental Science. The research constitutes the first detailed analysis of the event's global health effects.

No effects?

The Fukushima Daiichi meltdown was the most extensive nuclear disaster since Chernobyl. Radiation release critically contaminated a "dead zone" of several hundred square kilometers around the plant, and low levels of radioactive material were found as far as North America and Europe.

But most of the radioactivity was dumped in the Pacific only 19 percent of the released material was deposited over land keeping the exposed population relatively small.

"There are groups of people who have said there would be no effects," said Jacobson.

A month after the disaster, the head of the United Nations Science Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation, for example, predicted that there would be no serious public health consequences resulting from the radiation.

Global reach?

Evaluating the claim, Ten Hoeve and Jacobson used a 3-D global atmospheric model, developed over 20 years of research, to predict the transport of radioactive material. A standard health-effects model was used to estimate human exposure to radioactivity.

Because of inherent uncertainties in the emissions and the health-effects model, the researchers found a range of possible death tolls, with a best estimate of 130. A wide span of cancer morbidities was also predicted, with a best estimate of 180.

Those affected according to the model were overwhelmingly in Japan, with extremely small effects noticeable in mainland Asia and North America. The United States was predicted to suffer between 0 and 12 deaths and 0 and 30 cancer morbidities, although the methods used were less precise for areas that saw only low radionuclide concentrations.

"These worldwide values are relatively low," said Ten Hoeve. He explained they should "serve to manage the fear in other countries that the disaster had an extensive global reach."

The response

The Japanese government's response was much more rapid and coordinated than that of the Soviets in Chernobyl, which may have mitigated some of the cancer risk.

Japanese government agencies, for example, evacuated a 20-kilometer radius around the plant, distributed iodine tablets to prevent radioiodine uptake and prohibited cultivation of crops above a radiation threshold steps that Ten Hoeve said "people have applauded."

But the paper also notes that nearly 600 deaths were reported as a result of the evacuation process itself, mostly due to fatigue and exposure among the elderly and chronically ill. According to the model, the evacuation prevented at most 245 radiation-related deaths meaning the evacuation process may have cost more lives than it saved.

Still, the researchers cautioned against drawing conclusions about evacuation policy.

"You still have an obligation to evacuate people according to the worst-case scenario," said Jacobson.

If it happened here

To test the effects of varying weather patterns and geography on the reach of a nuclear incident, the two researchers also analyzed a hypothetical scenario: an identical meltdown at the Diablo Canyon Power Plant, near San Luis Obispo, Calif.

Despite California's population density being about one-fourth that of Japan's, the researchers found the magnitude of the projected health effects to be about 25 percent larger.

The model showed that rather than being whisked toward the ocean, as with Fukushima, a larger percentage of the Diablo Canyon radioactivity deposited over land, including population centers such as San Diego and Los Angeles.

Jacobson stressed, however, that none of the calculations expressed the full scope of a nuclear disaster.

"There's a lot more to the issue than what we examined, which were the cancer-related health effects," he said. "Fukushima was just such a large disaster in terms of soil and water contamination, displacement of lives, confidence in government oversight, cost and anguish."


'/>"/>

Contact: Max McClure
maxmc@stanford.edu
650-725-6737
Stanford University
Source:Eurekalert

Related biology news :

1. Stanford scientists find molecule to starve lung cancer and improve ventilator recovery
2. Stanford marine biologist Barbara Block wins Rolex Award for Enterprise
3. Stanford researchers help predict the oceans of the future with a mini-lab
4. Stanford scientists document fragile land-sea ecological chain
5. Support for climate change action drops, Stanford poll finds
6. Americas clean energy policies need a reality check, say Stanford researchers
7. Stanford and MIT scientists win Perl-UNC Neuroscience prize
8. Climate change may create price volatility in the corn market, say Stanford and Purdue researchers
9. Keck award enables Carnegie Mellon and Stanford to dramatically expand crowdsourced RNA design
10. Stanford scientists develop gene therapy approach to grow blood vessels in ischemic limbs
11. Johns Hopkins researchers link 2 biological risk factors for schizophrenia
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:3/15/2016)... , March 15, 2016 Yissum Research ... the technology-transfer company of the Hebrew University, announced today ... remote sensing technology of various human biological indicators. Neteera ... $2.0 million from private investors. ... on the detection of electromagnetic emissions from sweat ducts, ...
(Date:3/10/2016)... March 10, 2016 --> ... research report "Identity and Access Management Market by Component ... and Governance), by Organization Size, by Deployment, by Vertical, ... by MarketsandMarkets, The market is estimated to grow from ... by 2020, at a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) ...
(Date:3/8/2016)... 8, 2016   Valencell , the leading ... it has secured $11M in Series D financing. ... new venture fund being launched by UAE-based financial ... existing investors TDF Ventures and WSJ Joshua Fund. ... its triple-digit growth and accelerate its pioneering innovation ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:5/26/2016)... ... May 26, 2016 , ... Kinder Scientific (KinderScientific.com), a leading ... position the Company for the future. Kinder Scientific announces restructured ownership and ... been appointed Chairman of the Board, Curtis D. Kinghorn has been appointed CEO/President ...
(Date:5/25/2016)... , ... May 25, 2016 , ... ... a variety of fracture-specific plating options designed to address fractures of the distal ... fixation solutions. , The Acumed Ankle Plating System 3 is composed of seven ...
(Date:5/25/2016)... (PRWEB) , ... May 25, 2016 , ... WEDI, the ... information exchange, today announced that Charles W. Stellar has been named by the WEDI ... CEO since January 2016. As an executive leader with more than 35 years of ...
(Date:5/24/2016)... 24, 2016   MedyMatch Technology Ltd ., the data ... real-time decision support tools in the emergency room, announced today ... Israeli Advanced Technology Industries (IATI) BioMed Conference. ... 15th National Life Sciences and Technology Week, and is ... Hotel in Tel Aviv, Israel . ...
Breaking Biology Technology: