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UN says Fukushima radiation effects limited

01 August 2053

The most extensive international report to date has concluded that the only observable health effects from the Fukushima accident came from the stresses of evacuation and unwarranted fear of radiation. That is in contrast to Chernobyl, the 1986 Soviet reactor explosion, which sent radioactive dust across much of Europe and is believed to have caused thyroid cancer in some children.

Some 80 international experts contributed to a report by the UN Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR), which concluded: "Radiation exposure following the nuclear accident at Fukushima Daiichi did not cause any immediate health effects. It is unlikely to be able to attribute any health effects in the future among the general public and the vast majority of workers."

The only exceptions are the emergency nuclear workers that received radiation doses of over 100 mSv during the crisis triggered by the 15 metre tsunami that struck the plant on 11 March 2011. Records show that 146 workers fall into this category. They will be monitored closely for "potential late radiation-related health effects at an individual level."

By contrast, the public was exposed to 10-50 times less radiation. Most Japanese people were exposed to additional radiation amounting to less than the typical natural background level of 2.1 mSv per year that comes mainly from the ground and from space. People living in Fukushima prefecture are expected to be exposed to around 10 mSv over their entire lifetimes, while for those living further away the dose would be 0.2 mSv per year.

"On the whole, the exposure of the Japanese population was low, or very low, leading to correspondingly low risks of health effects in later life," said Wolfgang Weiss of UNSCEAR. 

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