MAPW expert members are available for comment, or to speak on the tragic situation in Japan. Please call us: 03 9023 1958 (office, Monday to Thursday); or 0431 475 465 other times. Speakers include our President, Dr Bill Williams MBBS; and executive member Dr Peter Karamoskos MBBS, FRANZCR – a nuclear radiologist and community representative on Australia’s nuclear regulatory body, ARPANSA; together with Associate Professor Tilman Ruff, and Dr Sue Wareham OAM. See our media contacts page.
Up-to-date news on Japan
- An ACPD (Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics Discussion) report released in October 2011 concludes that the amount of xenon-133 released into the atmosphere at the time of the Fukushima disaster was greater than that released at Chernobyl by a factor of 2.5.
- The IAEA has a general Fukushima update page as well as a press briefings page including links to statistics, on the reactors, and on radiation, where they exist. Slideshow presentations prepared by IAEA relating to the disaster are also available.
- The World Health organisation has advice on food contamination and food safety in Japan. Last updated September 2011.
- During April the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists ran a very succinct and useful daily summary of nuclear issues from Japan
- Japan’s NHK television‘s Science and Technology unit (English) has up-to date data on radiation levels in Fukushima.
- Japan’s Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT) releases regular data of environmental radiation levels by prefecture.
- An article from the New York Times, 2 November 2011, on the latest startling admissions by the Fukushima nuclear plant operators.
- Energy News is a website which lists links largely concerned with the Fukushima disaster. It is constantly updated.
- January 2012 report to the US Congress by the Federation of American Scientists giving an overview of the disaster.
Japan information and analysis
- Nuclear accident ABCs: 2-page plain language fact sheet produced in response to the disaster, by our collegues at the Union of Concerned Scientists (USA).
- See MAPW’s initial media release of 14 March 2011 on the unfolding nuclear disaster, and our 17 March media release calling for full release of information.
- Immediately following the disaster at Fukushima the Nautilus Institute published a speedy but detailed analysis of the impacts of the reactor damage both for energy supply in Japan, and for the future of nuclear power. A report entitled “Nuclear safety and security following 3-11” was published by Nautilus in March 2012. This report, by Peter Hayes, notes that the events at Fukushima have exposed a host of design flaws in current nuclear technology.
- Costs, risks, and myths of nuclear power is an NGO world-wide study on the implications of the catastrophe in Fukushima.
- An article from the Guardian published in March and updated in June with data relating to the Fukushima disaster. It which includes a colour-coded table explaining the situation with regard to each of the reactors.
- This blog site has graphs of radiation levels in various prefectures, and at the reactors, assembled from various sources in March and April.
- A list of further resources relating to the disaster in Japan can be found on the IPPNW’s Peace and Health blog.
- An article on the cultural and philosophical implications of the Fukushima disater by Andy Chi-ming Wang.
- The Fukushima disaster: costs and consequences, an article by Steven Starr, an associate of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation and senior scientist for Physicians for Social Responsibility.
Nuclear power and public health
- MAPW 2010 2-page fact sheet on nuclear power, uranium mining and public health, by Dr Peter Karamoskos
- More detailed briefing paper on Nuclear power and public health, by Dr Peter Karamoskos: a 20-page comprehensive footnoted report on workers’ health and broader public health risks.
- WHO has advice on food safety following a nuclear accident
- The Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency’s current advisories for Australian visitors to Japan.
Radiation and health: why there is no “safe” level of ionising radiation
- A MAPW 2010 fact sheet on radiation and health (basics) including an explanation of “safe” levels of radiation, and a brief discussion of health implications of the nuclear industry.
- “Just in case you missed it, here’s why radiation is a health hazard”: March 2011 article by Associate Professor Tilman Ruff.
- A more detailed paper on radiation and health written by Drs Williams and Karamoskos
Nuclear industry “spin”
- The nuclear industry: a history of misleading claims. Link to 2007 Energyscience briefing paper by MAPW’s Dr Sue Wareham OAM alerts us to the prevalence of “spin” aiming to minimise the effects of nuclear accidents: “From the time of the disaster, official reports have minimised the potential for harm from Chernobyl”.
- Spinning Fukishima: Dr Jim Green analyses, several days after the earthquake and tsunami, how nuclear power advocates systematically downplayed the risks to nuclear power stations and human health.
- Japan’s nuclear scandals and the Fukushima disaster is a briefing paper written by Dr Jim Green of FOE in March 2012, one year after the earthquake and tsunami.
The nuclear industry after Fukushima
- Ten reasons not to switch to nukes: Researcher Nic Maclellan dismantles the “nuclear renaissance”
The history of nuclear accidents
All technology and all human behaviour, to a greater or lesser extent, are prone to error. Nuclear facilities are not exempt from this, but the accidents are often under reported, and their effects insufficiently monitored and undocumented.
The explosions and fire at the nuclear power reactor at Chernobyl in the Ukraine, in 1986, is an ongoing example. Besides the 9,000 deaths attributed to the accident by the WHO/IAEA, effects of the Chernobyl accident include:
- 30,000 to 60,000 estimated future excess deaths from cancer (ie deaths that would not have otherwise occurred)
- 8.4 million people exposed to radiation across Europe, with the worst effects in Belarus, Ukraine and Russia
- an increase of up to 34-fold in rates of thyroid cancer documented (with the highest in females up to 14 years old at the time of exposure)
- almost 400,000 people needed to be resettled
- Around 40% of Europe’s surface area – almost four million square kilometres – contaminated by radioactive caesium-137.
- Restrictions on producing or eating food: from farms (in areas of the UK, Finland and Sweden); and from hunting and gathering (in parts of Germany, Austria, Italy, Sweden, Finland, Lithuania and Poland)
- In January 2003, the Ukraine government had registered almost 100,000 individuals with ‘disabilities connected with the Chernobyl disaster’
- The effects of Chernobyl have been understated, not fully reported, and often not recorded through failure to monitor health effects outside the three most affected countries.
Numerous other incidents and near misses underscore that the risks of serious nuclear accidents are not confined to specific types of reactors or particular countries. Some other notable examples are:
- 1999 criticality accident at the Tokai-mura nuclear power plant in Japan
- 1979 partial core meltdown at the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant in the United States
- 2002 accident at the Davis-Besse nuclear power plant in Ohio, USA, where boric acid corroded a hole within half a centimeter of breaching the steel reactor vessel head that contained the reactor coolant, risking meltdown of the nuclear core
A complete chronology of nuclear accidents, titled Let the facts speak, has been published by the Greens. The fourth edition, available here, was released on 11 March 2012, the first anniversary of the Fukushima disaster.
Many nuclear power plants around the world were constructed in the 1960s and 1970s. Because nuclear power plants have relatively short life spans (~40 years), many of these early reactors are now nearing or past their planned end date for use, increasing the probability of reactor failure, and causing a new problem in how to effectively clean up and decommission the plants.