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expert reaction to two new studies into the consequences of Fukushima

Two studies in JAMA reported on the psychological status of workers at the Fukushima nuclear power plants in Japan several months after the earthquake and tsunami in March 2011, and the amount of internal radiation exposure among residents of a city north of the power plant that experienced a meltdown.


Prof Malcolm Sperrin, Director of Medical Physics at Royal Berkshire Hospital, said:

“Both of these papers are interesting but not particularly surprising. In the first paper, the incidence of stress and PTSD should come as no surprise, but it is very difficult to identify such stress with a specific cause and to uniquely state that without the suspected cause that the individual would experience less stress. For instance, the study may simply reflect the intrinsic stress within a population that would otherwise have gone un-recorded simply because nobody was looking for it.

“In the second paper, the low level of radiation is inferred to be surprising. However, after a year much of the radiation will have decayed and there is no reliable measurement of the radiation present in the first place especially bearing in mind that the area was a considerable distance from the primary risk areas. The paper does seem to be fair in identifying the risk from caesium and why its measurement is important. One reasonable conclusion is that the population risk is not as great as first considered.”

‘Psychological Distress in Workers at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plants’ by Shigemura et al., and ‘Internal Radiation Exposure After the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant Disaster’ by Tsubokura et al., published in JAMA on Tuesday 14 August 2012.

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