Expert comment: Fukushima disaster fifth anniversary


The fifth anniversary of the Japanese tsunami which led to the Fukushima nuclear accident is today, (11 March). Speaking to the Science Media Centre, Professor Richard Wakeford, Professor in Epidemiology at The University of Manchester’s Institute of Population Health and the Dalton Nuclear Institute said:

“Five years on from the serious accident at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power station in Japan, it has become clear that the psycho-social effects of the accident (and presumably of the earthquake and tsunami) represent an area of health research that needs more attention. A lot of time and effort has been spent on examining the potential effects of radiation exposure, and it looks like any such effects will not be detectable above background disease rates, so it is appropriate to draw attention to the (potentially much greater) non-radiation health effects of the accident.

“Following the dramatic increase in thyroid cancer incidence following the high levels of exposure of children in the former USSR to radioactive iodine in Chernobyl fallout, it is understandable that this should be a subject of concern after Fukushima, although thyroid doses in Japan were much lower. There have been some wild claims about thyroid cancer in Fukushima Prefecture, unfortunately some in scientific journals, but these are highly suspect. There is every reason to believe that the previous detailed scientific assessments, concluding that any additional thyroid cancer cases will be undetectable, remain valid.”