As the fourth anniversary of the accident at the Fukushima nuclear power plant has just passed, we can look at radiation and health factors in the light of four years of intensive monitoring and examination of everything that anyone could think of.
There are still no deaths or injuries due to radiation recorded anywhere. So, I repeat what I have said before: Fukushima was not a nuclear disaster – it was a financial disaster for the owners of the plant. The plant is wrecked, but it is not a nuclear danger now – and never was. When you see pictures of people walking around on site wearing those spaceman-type suits, it is not because the suits are necessary, but because the legal procedure requires it.
Let me mention something about those hazmat suits – they will not stop any gamma radiation going clean through the wearer. They are not antiradiation suits, but are antidust suits.
The idea of the hazmat suits is to keep dust off the people because the argument goes that the dust could potentially be radioactive and the authorities do not want folks going home with radioactive dust on their clothes. So, after they finish work, they shower with the suits on, before removing the suits and putting them in a storage place on site. The suits do not go home with them.
At the time of the Fukushima accident, when the tsunami smashed up the district, there were dire predictions from the antinuclear crowd about all the children who would get thyroid cancer.
Well, the children in the Fukushima area have been checked, nonstop, and the results are that they exhibit less thyroid cancer than a control group selected from an area nowhere near Fukushima. Has this interesting finding been reported in the popular press? Nooooo! The Japanese government has decided that the Fukushima children will be monitored every so often for the rest of their lives.
A couple of weeks after the Fukushima incident, a Japanese small farmer hanged himself from a tree because the authorities would not let him sell his produce because it could have been contaminated with radio- active dust. His produce was safe to eat then, and food from the area is safe now.
There have been unfounded stories put out that tuna fish caught near California is contaminated with radioactive caesium from Fukushima and is, therefore, dangerous. This is not true.
But, near Fukushima, fisherman are banned from harvesting many species which are prone to concentrating caesium. However, the Japanese government’s safety limit for radioactive caesium in fish is roughly the same as the natural radioactivity present in all food. (For the technically minded, 100 becquerels per kilogram.)
The Fukushima fishery easily meets this standard. In January, in a test of fish caught within 20k m of the Fukushima plant, out of 95 fish caught, only one exceeded the limit, at 113 Bq/kg, which is perfectly safe, anyway. Of the group, 43 showed zero, but fishing is still banned, anyway.
According to official US government estimates, if you ate a kilogram of fish, containing 100Bq/kg, every day for 80 years, your chances of getting cancer would be about 0.3%, compared with a typical American’s normal day-to-day life’s chances at 40%.
So, there is absolutely no reason why the Fukushima fishery can not be reopened.
In addition, the United Nations Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR) carried out an investigation which showed that the big evacuation that was carried out around the reactors was never necessary.
The area is not now highly radioactive – and never was. In fact, the UNSCEAR report shows that a total dose of radiation picked up from the site by living next door to Fukushima for 80 years will be about half what a person would pick up by living in Johannesburg normally.
Being so high in altitude, Johannesburg receives much more natural background radiation than most cities in the world.