Australian news, and some related international items

Health impacts of nuclear accidents

Too expensive, too slow: Even the baseload argument doesn’t work for nuclear. ReNeweconomy, Mark Diesendorf 29 October 2021 

”’………………………………………Health impacts of nuclear accidents

Another misleading pro-nuclear statement revived following the Fukushima Daiichi disaster in 2011 is that no excess cancer incidence has been observed around Fukushima, implying that no cancers will be induced. The logical error is to assume that the absence of evidence implies no impact.

It is still too early for most types of cancer, which have latent periods of 20–60 years, to appear around Fukushima. The only cancers likely to appear within a decade after exposure are thyroid cancer and leukemia.

A large increase in thyroid cancers has been observed in the region, but their cause is debated by some on the grounds that the increase could be the result of better screening. Leukemia is an uncommon disease and so even a large percentage increase would be impossible to verify statistically with high confidence (see UNSCEAR 2020).

Fortunately for the citizens of Tokyo, the wind was mostly blowing offshore during the meltdowns of three of the six Fukushima reactors, sending about 80 per cent of the emitted radioactive material out over the Pacific.

Soon after the disaster an exclusion zone was established around the power station and more than 100,000 people evacuated. For these reasons, Fukushima tells us very little about radiation-induced cancers.

The Chernobyl Forum, a group dominated by the International Atomic Energy Agency, estimated that the Chernobyl disaster in 1986 could be responsible for “up to 4000 cancer deaths” in Ukraine, Belarus and Russia. However, the disaster also sprayed radionuclides over large areas of Europe outside those countries.

The International Agency for Research on Cancer (Cardis et al. 2006) estimated that the disaster would be responsible for 16,000 cancer deaths in Europe by 2065.

Another estimate, by a team of medical researchers and practitioners in Ukraine, Belarus and Russia (Yablokov et al. 2006), found that the total number of deaths in their countries could be an order of magnitude higher, but a quantitative estimate was probably impossible due to uncertainties in the total quantities of radionuclides emitted, geographic distribution of radioactivity, and limitations in medical diagnosis and monitoring.

Most of the evidence that low-level radiation is carcinogenic comes from detailed studies of the survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, medical professionals who worked with radiation, uranium miners, children who received CT scans, children living near nuclear power stations, and children who were exposed in utero in the bad old days when pregnant women were routinely x-rayed.

This is the basis of the linear-no-threshold model, the scientific understanding that the number of cancers induced by ionising radiation is proportional to the dose received and that there’s no threshold.

Was the Fukushima disaster “natural”?

Pro-nuclear campaigners claim that the disaster at Fukushima Daiichi was entirely the fault of the tsunami, that it was all just “a natural event”.

Yet the choice of technology cannot be exonerated, because it resulted in mass evacuation, compensation payments (huge in total but inadequate for individuals), destruction of the local agriculture and fishing industries, temporary loss of national tourism, temporary collapse of the electricity grid, massive removal of radioactive soil and vegetation, a multi-decades-long continuing process to decommission the reactors, and the need to import vast quantities of fossil fuels. (The latter would have been greatly reduced if the government’s prior commitment to nuclear energy hadn’t resulted in its neglect of renewables.)

Total costs have been estimated at over US$500 billion, while the nuclear power station was insured for only US$1.5 billion. ………………….

October 30, 2021 - Posted by | Uncategorized

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