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Fukushima radioactivity a complete non-issue on West Coast: Also for Fukushima locals, in fact

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Actually you'll suffer a heavier radiation dose living in the USA than you would near Fukushima

Well, a large group of Japanese scientists have just carried out a full study into radiation dose rates in several areas "in the Radiation Zone", including Minamisoma - the dangerous Haramachi area of it, nearest to the plant - as it happens. Their conclusions?

For Haramachi residents specifically, as at 2012 the extra radiation dose due to the Fukushima incident amounted to 1.51 milliSieverts per year. In 2022 this will have dropped to 0.53 mSv/yr, as deposited caesium isotopes decay away. By 2062 the figure will be 0.2 mSv/yr.

Normal background radiation dose in Japan is about 2 mSv/yr, so a Haramachi resident is now sustaining about 3.5 mSv/yr, which will drop to 2.5 in 8 years' time and 2.2 in 2062.

For context, the average background radiation dose sustained by a resident of the USA in normal times is around 3.1 mSv/yr. On average, US citizens generally manage to double this dose voluntarily, mainly by having various sorts of medical scans. Ironically, Ms Hohle faces a noticeably greater lifetime radiation dose than she would if she lived in Haramachi. If she's worried about tiny radiation doses, she ought to take her children and move to Fukushima province.

The end result of the study, as has been expected by scientists for a long time, is that the possible increased cancer risk to local Fukushima residents over their lifetime will be so small as to be epidemiologically undetectable. It won't ever be possible to say that any cancer cases were caused by Fukushima. As nobody - no plant workers, nobody - has suffered enough radiation dose to actually get radiation sickness either, that means the total radiation deaths and injuries count from Fukushima will be zero.

The new study, published in the august Proceedings of the US National Academy of Sciences, can be read for free online here (pdf).

Analysis

It's worth noting here that the Daiichi reactors and cooling pools were not particularly safe as nuclear powerplants go: they were a very old, long outmoded design. They were hit by earthquakes and tsunamis wildly beyond what they were rated to withstand, in the second worst nuclear power disaster that has ever happened anywhere.

And as a result ... absolutely nobody's health has been or will be measurably harmed. That's a pretty impressive safety performance.

We stand by our original headline: Fukushima was a triumph for nuclear power, not a disaster. If there's one lesson to learn from it, it's that nuclear power is very safe indeed. ®

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