Stanford Researchers: Fukushima Radiation Will Likely Kill Less Than 200 People Worldwide

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    Stanford University researchers John Ten Hoeve and Mark Jacobson (both Civil/Environmental engineers) have released a study that estimates the global health impact of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Disaster, estimating that the number of deaths will probably be less than 200:

    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, from 15 to 1,300, with a best estimate of 130. A wide span of cancer morbidities was also predicted, anywhere from 24 to 2,500, with a best estimate of 180.

    This makes their worst-case estimate ten times less than the death toll of the earthquake and tsunami. notes that the best estimate for a death toll is even considerably lower than the estimated 600 people who died due to the evacuation of the area around the plant.

    Earlier this year, the U.N. Scientific Committee on the effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR) announced that the health impact from Fukushima would not be large. They found that the largest health risks will be limited to workers at the plant, not the general public:

    The UNSCEAR committee’s analyses show that 167 workers at the plant received radiation doses that slightly raise their risk of developing cancer. The general public was largely protected by being promptly evacuated, although the WHO report does find that some civilians’ exposure exceeded the government’s guidelines. “If there’s a health risk, it’s with the highly exposed workers,” says Wolfgang Weiss, the chair of UNSCEAR. Even for these workers, future cancers may never be directly tied to the accident, owing to the small number of people involved and the high background rates of cancer in developed countries such as Japan.

    These estimates place the death toll estimates for Fukushima much lower than those for the Chernobyl disaster. It also pales in comparison to the mostly-ignored deaths caused by fossil fuel use.

    ( Nuclear Picture via BigStock )

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