The News That Matters about the Nuclear Industry

Michael Shellenberger’s misinformation on Chernobyl and Fukushima

Exposing the misinformation of Michael Shellenberger and ‘Environmental Progress’ Jim Green, 

Nuclear Monitor Issue: #853 4689 30/10/2017  “…..Chernobyl and Fukushima

Shellenberger says that at a recent talk in Berlin: “Many Germans simply could not believe how few people died and will die from the Chernobyl accident (under 200) and that nobody died or will die from the meltdowns at Fukushima. How could it be that everything we were told is not only wrong, but often the opposite of the truth?”4

There’s a simple reason that Germans didn’t believe Shellenberger’s claims about Chernobyl and Fukushima ‒ they are false.

Shellenberger claims that “under 200” people have died and will die from the Chernobyl disaster. In fact, the lowest of the estimates of the Chernobyl cancer death toll is the World Health Organization’s estimate of “up to 9,000 excess cancer deaths” in the most contaminated parts of the former Soviet Union.29 And of course there are higher estimates for the death toll across Europe.30,31

Shellenberger claims that the Fukushima meltdowns “killed precisely no one” and that “nobody died or will die from the meltdowns at Fukushima”.4 An EP report has this to say about Fukushima: “[T]he science is unequivocal: nobody has gotten sick much less died from the radiation that escaped from three meltdowns followed by three hydrogen gas explosions. And there will be no increase in cancer rates.”3

In support of those assertions, EP cites a World Health Organization report that directly contradicts EP’s claims. The WHO report concluded that for people in the most contaminated areas in Fukushima Prefecture, the estimated increased risk for all solid cancers will be around 4% in females exposed as infants; a 6% increased risk of breast cancer for females exposed as infants; a 7% increased risk of leukaemia for males exposed as infants; and for thyroid cancer among females exposed as infants, an increased risk of up to 70% (from a 0.75% lifetime risk up to 1.25%).32

Applying a linear-no threshold (LNT) risk factor to the estimated collective radiation dose from Fukushima fallout gives an estimated long-term cancer death toll of around 5,000 people.33 Nuclear lobbyists are quick to point out that LNT may overestimate risks from low dose and low dose-rate exposure. But LNT may also underestimate the risks. The 2006 report of the US National Academy of Sciences’ Committee on the Biological Effects of Ionizing Radiation (BEIR) states: “The committee recognizes that its risk estimates become more uncertain when applied to very low doses. Departures from a linear model at low doses, however, could either increase or decrease the risk per unit dose.”34 And the BEIR report states that “combined analyses are compatible with a range of possibilities, from a reduction of risk at low doses to risks twice those upon which current radiation protection recommendations are based.”34

Fukushima evacuation

Shellenberger claims that the Fukushima evacuation was “entirely unnecessary and indeed counterproductive” and it was the “outcome of the kind of fear-mongering engaged in by Moon, FOE, and Greenpeace.”4 But of course Moon Jae-in, FOE and Greenpeace had nothing to do with the evacuation of 160,000 people in the aftermath of the Fukushima disaster. Evacuations were ordered not on the basis of fear-mongering by nuclear critics; they were ordered on the basis of multiple fires, hydrogen explosions and presumed meltdowns.

EP states: “In 2013, the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR) concluded that the vast majority of the Fukushima evacuation zone is safe and nearly all residents could have returned long ago ‒ indeed, most should never have left.”3 But the UNSCEAR report didn’t conclude that the vast majority of the Fukushima evacuation zone is safe or that nearly all residents could have returned long ago, and it didn’t state that most evacuees should never have left.35 The UNSCEAR report states: “The actions taken to protect the public significantly reduced the radiation exposures that could have been received. This was particularly the case for settlements within the 20-km evacuation zone and the deliberate evacuation zones, where the protective measures reduced the potential exposures in the first year by up to a factor of 10.”35

An EP report berates the Japanese government for failing to follow “normal protocols” by ordering Fukushima residents to evacuate instead of sheltering in place.3 EP cites a 2015 IAEA report36 in support of that argument, but nowhere in the IAEA report (or any IAEA report) is there a proscription against evacuation in response to nuclear accidents. No IAEA report states that sheltering in place should be the “normal protocol” in the event of a nuclear accident ‒ the appropriate response depends entirely on the circumstances. A 2011 IAEA report points to the impracticality of sheltering in place as a long-term response to elevated radiation levels following nuclear accidents: “Lesson 12: The use of long term sheltering is not an effective approach and has been abandoned and concepts of ‘deliberate evacuation’ and ‘evacuation-prepared area’ were introduced for effective long term countermeasures using guidelines of the ICRP [International Commission on Radiological Protection] and IAEA.”37

The 2015 IAEA report notes that radiation levels were astronomical in some areas in the days after the Fukushima disaster ‒ even in some locations beyond the 20 km exclusion zone, dose rates of the order of a few hundred microsieverts per hour were measured from 15 March 2011 onward.36 Thus the annual public limit of 1 millisievert from anthropogenic sources would be reached in just a few hours, and the Japanese government’s new limit of 20 millisieverts in Fukushima-contaminated regions would be reached in just a few days.


December 29, 2017 - Posted by | spinbuster, USA

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