On 20 March, the Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano announced that the plant would be decommissioned once the crisis was over. The abandoned city of Pripyat with the Chernobyl plant in the distance. Chernobyl and Fukushima are the only two disasters to receive a level 7 (the maximum classification) on the International Nuclear Event Scale.  However, studies by the World Health Organisation and Tokyo University have shown that no discernible increase in the rate of cancer deaths is expected. On 16 December 2011, Japanese authorities declared the plant to be stable, although it would take decades to decontaminate the surrounding areas and to decommission the plant altogether. When it comes to the safety of nuclear energy, discussion often quickly turns towards the nuclear accidents at Chernobyl in Ukraine (1986) and Fukushima in Japan (2011). You have the permission to use, distribute, and reproduce in any medium, provided the source and authors are credited. Our World in Data is free and accessible for everyone. Fukushima 50 is a pseudonym given by English-language media to a group of employees at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant.Following the Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami on 11 March 2011, a related series of nuclear accidents resulted in melting of the cores of three reactors. In its 2000 report, the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR) remained cautiously in favour of the LNT method, stating: Until the […] uncertainties on low-dose response are resolved, the Committee believes that an increase in the risk of tumour induction proportionate to the radiation dose is consistent with developing knowledge and that it remains, accordingly, the most scientifically defensible approximation of low-dose response. , Finally, there has been a widely critiqued paper published by members of the controversial Radiation and Public Health Project which attempts to ascribe the natural annual cycle of rising and falling adult and infant mortality rates in the United States to Fukushima fallout, suggesting about 14,000 have died. They found that some deaths were early, during evacuation processes, while other deaths gradually happened after the disaster. The number of people who were impacted over long-term radiation exposure is more difficult to discern and remains highly contested. , On 14 April 2011, it was reported that the oldest resident of Iitate, a 102-year-old, committed suicide rather than to leave following the announcement of his village's evacuation. International Journal of Cancer. FAQs: Fukushima Five Years On. There is no known mechanism for this, and "the cities under study with the lowest radiation fallout have the highest increases of death rates in the 14 weeks following Fukushima, while the Californian cities that would have received larger doses saw a decrease in death rate growth" and concluded that "innumerable factors other than radiation" were likely responsible for the major part of the variation in US mortality around the time of the nuclear disaster. A study in the International Journal of Cancer by Cardis et al. In its initial Health Risk Assessment of the nuclear disaster – published in 2013 – the World Health Organization (WHO) note exposure levels too low to affect human health for the national population, with exception to a few communities in closest proximity.7 The follow-up WHO Report published five years on – in 2015 – suggests very low risk of increased cancer deaths in Japan.8 In a review of the response and long-term health impacts of Fukushima, published by Michael Reich and Aya Goto (2015) in journal The Lancet, the authors note that: “no one has died from radiation exposure, and the UN Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation report in 2013 stated that substantial changes in future cancer statistics attributed to radiation exposure are not expected to be observed”.9,10.  One worker is postulated to have died from lung cancer as a radiation induced illness in a Japanese court and the family has got compensation on that ruling. However, the application of the LNT model is widely contested: since it has no lower threshold, this model suggests that even very low dosages of radiation increase cancer risk.  No increase in these effects are therefore expected in or around the Fukushima power plants. For comparison, the average dose from an abdominal and pelvic computed tomography (CT) scan, with and without contrast, is 20 to 30 mSv. Chernobyl’s Legacy: Health, Environmental and Socio-Economic Impacts. The plant comprises six separate boiling water reactors originally designed by General Electric (GE), and maintained by the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO). As the ongoing nuclear disaster in Japan continues, it is highly likely that Fukushima will far surpass Chernobyl in terms of its human death toll and environmental damage. The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster (福島第一原子力発電所事故, Fukushima Dai-ichi (pronunciation) genshiryoku hatsudensho jiko) was a series of equipment failures, nuclear meltdowns, and releases of radioactive materials at the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant, following the Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami on 11 March 2011. (2015). steel-and-concrete containment structures, blog post on the relative safety of energy, https://www.who.int/ionizing_radiation/a_e/fukushima/faqs-fukushima/en/, Report of the United Nations Scientific Committee on the effects of atomic radiation to the general assembly. Major news source reporting at least 2 TEPCO employees confirmed dead from "disaster conditions" following the earthquake. Evacuation procedures after the accident may have potentially reduced deaths from radiation by 3 to 245 cases, the best estimate being 28; even the upper bound projection of the lives saved from the evacuation is lower than the number of deaths already caused by the evacuation itself.  As of 19 July 2011[update], 33 cases of heat stroke had been recorded. Average annual exposure in the region from naturally occurring sources is about 2.1 mSv, and average lifetime exposure is 170 mSv (Chapter II A(2) paragraph 29).  Thirty workers conducting operations at the plant had exposure levels greater than 100 mSv. Ten months after the earthquake and tsunami and the subsequent nuclear accident, perinatal mortality in 6 severely contaminated prefectures jumped up from January 2012 onward: jump odds ratio 1.156; 95% confidence interval (1.061, 1.259), P-value 0.0009. No radiological health effects have, or will, result from the Fukushima disaster - neither cancers, deaths nor radiation sickness. Chernobyl occurred 25 years prior to Fukushima; it was the first instance of a nuclear accident at this scale. Radiation exposure to workers at the plant was projected to result in 2 to 12 deaths. However, the LNT method remains strongly contested, and is assumed to provide a conservative estimate of potential mortality [we have provided a short discussion on the LNT model and its implications in the technical notes at the end of this post]. ", "Seismic Damage Information (the 110th Release)", "Radiological Assessment of effects from Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant", "TEPCO lambasted by health ministry for lax employee management", "Health and Safety Considerations: Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant Workers at Risk of Heat-Related Illness", "Fukushima workers brave radiation and heat for £80 a day", "Fourth worker at Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant dies". (2015).  Immediately after the earthquake, the remaining reactors 1-3 shut down automatically, and emergency generators came online to control electronics and coolant systems. By now, the most serious nuclear accident has been the Chernobyl disaster in 1986. Close to 16,000 people were killed across Japan as a direct result of the earthquake and tsunami in 2011. World Health Organization (2016). These zones have dramatically depopulated the area, and Fukushima has become a place synonymous with risk.  The victims include hospital inpatients and elderly people at nursing facilities who died from causes such as hypothermia, deterioration of underlying medical problems, and dehydration. These include: Evacuation aims to minimize or prevent health risks of radiation exposure. There are a couple of factors which are likely to have played a key role here. In the case of Fukushima, although 40 to 50 people experienced physical injury or radiation burns at the nuclear facility, the number of direct deaths from the incident are quoted to be zero. Around 18,500 people died or disappeared in the … Special Report: Counting the dead. Radiation didn't cause Fukushima No. Workers involved in mitigating the effects of the accident do face minimally higher risks for some cancers. , Experts estimate the total amount of radioactivity released into the atmosphere was approximately one-tenth as much as was released during the Chernobyl disaster. The data produced by third parties and made available by Our World in Data is subject to the license terms from the original third-party authors. Europe after Chernobyl. Radioactive iodine, which can lead to increased risk of thyroid cancer if absorbed into the body, was released into the air along with other fission products. Level 7 is the highest international rating for a nuclear accident and 20 times more severe than Level 5. We may therefore expect the figures quoted above to provide a conservative (upper) estimate of long-term deaths from radiation exposure. Sources and effects of Ionizing Radiation. ", "Japan nuclear plant workers in hospital after radiation exposure", "Radiation-exposed workers to be treated at Chiba hospital", "Japan's unfolding disaster 'bigger than Chernobyl, "Explainer: What went wrong in Japan's nuclear reactors", "Analysis: A month on, Japan nuclear crisis still scarring", "Fukushima Accident: Radioactive Releases and Potential Dose Consequences", "World Health Organization weighs in on Fukushima", "Trauma, Not Radiation, Is Key Concern in Japan", "For The First Time The World Learns Truth About The Risk of Nuclear", "Evacuating A Nuclear Disaster Area Is Usually A Waste of Time And Money Says Study", "Fukushima evacuation split 50% of families: survey", "Damage Caused by Earthquake and Tsunami", "Emergency Responses and Health Consequences after the Fukushima Accident; Evacuation and Relocation", "573 deaths certified as nuclear-crisis-related in Japan", "Fukushima evacuation has killed more than earthquake and tsunami, survey says", "WHO Sees Minimal Cancer Risks From Fukushima Accident", https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-45423575, "3 nuclear reactors melted down after quake, Japan confirms", "Fukushima nuclear accident update log, updates of 15 March 2011", Japan raises nuclear alert level to seven, "Problematic public relations: Japanese leaders leave people in the dark", "China urges Japan's openness amid panic buying of salt", "Japan PM says Fukushima nuclear site finally stabilised", "The radiological and psychological consequences of the Fukushima Daiichi accident", "Caesium fallout from Fukushima rivals Chernobyl", "Japan mulls Fukushima food sale ban: IAEA", "Tokyo water unsafe for infants after high radiation levels detected", "TEPCO puts radiation release early in Fukushima crisis at 900 PBq", "Fukushima radiation higher than first estimated", "UPDATE: Government panel blasts lack of 'safety culture' in nuclear accident", "Japan Power Company Admits Failings on Plant Precautions", "Fukushima operator must learn from mistakes, new adviser says", "Japan utility agrees nuclear crisis was avoidable", "Japanese nuclear plant operator admits playing down risk", "Levels and effects of radiation exposure due to the nuclear accident after the 2011 great east-Japan earthquake and tsunami", "Radiation Dose Associated with Common Computed Tomography Examinations and the Associated Lifetime Attributable Risk of Cancer", "Health risk assessment from the nuclear accident after the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami", "WHO Report Says That Fukushima Nuclear Accident Posed Minimal Risk to Health | TIME.com", "Japan Nuclear Plant Owner Confirms First Deaths as Workers Fail to Contain Leak", "Families want answers after 45 people die following evacuation from Fukushima hospital", "Old people suffer abandonment, cold in wake of tsunami", "Man, 102, 'kills self over nuclear evacuation plan, "Fear in Fukushima: What Are the Health Risks of Radiation? About 0.7% of the workforce received doses of more than 100 mSv (Chapter II A(b) paragraph 35). , As the water boiled away in the reactors and the water levels in the fuel rod pools dropped, the reactor fuel rods began to overheat severely, and to melt down. In severely contaminated areas, the increases of perinatal mortality 10 months after Fukushima were essentially independent of the numbers of dead and missing due to the earthquake and the tsunami. 154,000: People evacuated from Fukushima due to the radiation concerns. About one third of people [33.3%] in industrialized nations are presently diagnosed with cancer during their lifetimes, radiation exposure can increase one's cancer risk, with the cancers that arise being indistinguishable from cancers resulting from other causes..  However this is based on law and not science. Method: This descriptive study used monthly data from vital statistics between March 2009 and December 2015. With the lifetime risk increase for thyroid cancer, due to the accident, for a female infant, in the most affected radiation location, being estimated to be one half of one percent [0.5%]. In its 2005/06 assessment ‘Chernobyl’s Legacy: Health, Environmental and Socio-Economic Impacts’ the World Health Organisation (WHO) estimated that the total number of long-term deaths will be around 4,000.2, However, this figure is related only to the proximate populations of Ukraine, Russia and Belarus which were exposed to high radiation levels; if extended to estimates of those exposed to low-level radiation across the region, this number rises to 9000.3, Other studies have suggested higher figures. At the same time, sea water that had been exposed to the melting rods was returned to the sea heated and radioactive in large volumes for several months until recirculating units could be put in place to repeatedly cool and re-use a limited quantity of water for cooling. T he Japanese government has recognized for the first time that a worker at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant has died as a result of radiation exposure. It was the largest nuclear disaster since the Chernobyl disaster of 1986, and the radiation released exceeded official safety guidelines. This figure ranges between 1,000-1,600 deaths from evacuation (the evacuation of populations affected by the earthquake and tsunami at the time can make sole attribution to the nuclear disaster challenging).  This value exceeds the number that have died in Fukushima prefecture directly from the earthquake and tsunami. At the four damaged nuclear power plants (Onagawa, Fukushima Daiichi, Fukushimi Daini and Toka Daini), 22 of the 33 total backup diesel generators were washed away, in… Stress-induced deaths affected mostly older people; more than 90 percent of mortality occurred in individuals over the age of 66. Yet, as of 27 February 2017, the Fukushima prefecture government counted 2,129 “disaster-related deaths” in that prefecture alone.   Significant amounts of radioactive material have also been released into ground and ocean waters.  The Japanese government and TEPCO have been criticized in the foreign press for poor communication with the public and improvised cleanup efforts.  45 patients were reported dead after the evacuation of a hospital in Futaba due to lack of food, water and medical care as evacuation was delayed by three days. These two events were by far the largest nuclear incidents in history; the only disasters to receive a level 7 (the maximum classification) on the International Nuclear Event Scale. Part of this difficulty lies in the methodology used to estimate long-term deaths from low-level radiation exposure. The LNT model assumes that cancer risk holds a linear relationship with radiation dose (e.g. To get lung cancer from the isotopes and concentrations, released under a nuclear accident, is as impossible as it gets, because the isotopes does not build up in the lungs, but get absorbed to the blood stream almost right away, so the lungs does not receive any high dose of radiation,. Our World in Data presents the empirical evidence on global development in entries dedicated to specific topics. Please consult our full legal disclaimer. The Fukushima Daiichi meltdown was the most extensive nuclear disaster since Chernobyl. Deaths from Fukushima In the case of Fukushima, although 40 to 50 people experienced physical injury or radiation burns at the nuclear facility, the number of direct deaths from the incident are quoted to be zero. This is where exposure to radioactive material was highest. Crucially, the cooling systems of both plants worked very differently; at Chernobyl, the loss of cooling water as steam actually served to accelerate reactivity levels in the reactor core, creating a positive feedback loop towards fatal explosion (the opposite is true of Fukushima, where the reactivity reduces as temperatures rise, effectively operating as a self-shutdown measure). fukushima accident deaths. The flooded generators failed, cutting power to the critical pumps that must continuously circulate coolant water through a nuclear reactor for several days in order to keep it from melting down after being shut down. , Annex A of the UNSCEAR (United Nations Scientific Committee for the Effects of Atomic Radiation) 2013 report to the UN General Assembly states that the average effective dose of the 25,000 workers over the first 19 months after the accident was about 12 millisieverts (mSv). The latest report from Fukushima revealed that more people have died from stress-related illnesses and other maladies after the disaster than from injuries directly linked to the disaster.  Predicted future cancer deaths due to accumulated radiation exposures in the population living near Fukushima have ranged in the academic literature from none to hundreds.. Fairlie and Sumner (2006). Towards long-term responses in Fukushima. , The Associated Press reported that fourteen senior citizens died after being moved from their hospital which was in the Fukushima plant evacuation zone. This article was first published in July 2017; revised and updated in February 2020. Estimates of the cancer burden in Europe from radioactive fallout from the Chernobyl accident. (2006). In comparison, the response in the former Soviet Union was one of denial and secrecy. Available online. [clarification needed] Furthermore, at least six workers have exceeded lifetime legal limits for radiation and more than 175 (0.7%) have received significant radiation doses.  In these harsh working conditions, two workers in their 60s have died from heart failure. Report of the United Nations Scientific Committee on the effects of atomic radiation to the general assembly. Japan earthquake and tsunami, severe natural disaster that occurred in northeastern Japan on March 11, 2011, and killed at least 20,000 people.  A thyroid ultrasound screening programme is currently ongoing in the entire Fukushima prefecture, this screening programme is, due to the screening effect, likely to lead to an increase in the incidence of thyroid disease due to early detection of non-symptomatic disease cases. Available online. , Concerns about the atmospheric venting of radioactive gasses, and the occurrence of the large hydrogen explosion at unit 1 led to a 20 km (12 mi)-radius evacuation around the plant. Since Chernobyl, distributing potassium iodide to children has been a standard response when risk of radioactivity release is high. , The estimated risk of cancer to people who were children and adults during the Fukushima accident, in the most affected area, was determined to be lower again when compared to the most at risk group - infants. All visualizations, data, and code produced by Our World in Data are completely open access under the Creative Commons BY license. Measurements taken by the Japanese government 30–50 km from the plant showed caesium-137 levels high enough to cause concern, leading the government to ban the sale of food grown in the area. United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation. The event began with a powerful earthquake off the coast of Honshu, Japan’s main island, which initiated a series of large …  The health risks in the WHO assessment attributable to the Fukushima radioactivity release were calculated by largely applying the conservative Linear no-threshold model of radiation exposure, a model that assumes even the smallest amount of radiation exposure will cause a negative health effect. Of the 459 620 residents of the Fukushima Prefecture not employed at the power plant and for whom an external dose was estimated, 285 418 people (or 62.1% of those assessed) received, over the course of the first four months following the accident, external doses of less than 1 mSv and 15 people (0.003% of those assessed) received doses greater than 15 mSv. At Fukushima, there were no deaths or cases of radiation sickness directly associated with the accident — neither workers nor members of the public, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). , Satellite image on 16 March 2011 of the four damaged reactor buildings, F. Tanabe, Journal of Nuclear Science and Technology, 2011, volume 48, issue 8, pages 1135 to 1139, Mangano, Joseph (2004), "Three Mile Island: Health study meltdown", Bulletin of the atomic scientists, 60(5), pp.31-35 "In Dauphin County, where the Three Mile Island plant is located, the 1979 death rate among infants under one year represented a 28 percent increase over that of 1978, and among infants under one month, the death rate increased by 54 percent. Help us do this work by making a donation. These results are consistent with findings in , As of September 2012[update], there were no deaths or serious injuries due to direct radiation exposures. The Fukushima meltdown was the world's worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl in 1986. This blog post draws on data and research discussed in our entry on Energy. These technical differences undoubtedly played a role in the relative levels of exposure from both events. , According to the Japanese Government, over 160,000 people in the general population were screened in March 2011 for radiation exposure and no case was found which affects health. In people that smoke or have inhaled asbestos it takes decades for the lung cancer to develop and the risk to develop lung cancer is much higher in those cases. In 2018, the Japanese government reported that one worker has since died from lung cancer as a result of exposure from the event. The agency found out that the cause of these early deaths were due to the disruption of hospital operations, exacerbation of pre-existing health problems and the stress of dramatic changes in life. Nuclear Energy Agency, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. Chernobyl: Assessment of Radiological and Health Impacts. As a result, it is suggested that models which estimate the number of deaths using the LNT methodology may provide an overestimation, especially within populations which experience only low radiation exposure. But why are more expected to die from Chernobyl than Fukushima?  In May 2012, TEPCO reported that at least 900 PBq had been released "into the atmosphere in March, 2011 alone. Despite this, there were no deaths caused by Background: Associations between nuclear disasters and suicide have been examined to a limited extent. Nature 440, 982-983 (20 April 2006) | doi:10.1038/440982a. Their bodies were decontaminated as radiation has been spewing from the plant for three weeks. The accident also did not cause any acute radiation injuries or deaths among workers or the public. Adults living in the city of Fukushima were estimated to have received, on average, an effective dose of about 4 mSv (Chapter II A(a) paragraph 30). A 2015 WHO study found that people who believed they would face immediate, delayed or genetic radiation risks had an increased amount of psychological stress following the Fukushima accident. The earthquake damage and flooding in the wake of the tsunami hindered external assistance. No accepted consensus on the LNT methodology has been reached amongst governmental, scientific and regulatory bodies. As of year 2016, among those deaths, 1368 have been listed as "related to the nuclear power plant" according to media analysis.  Further, the radiation exposure resulting from the accident for most people living in Fukushima is so small compared to background radiation that it may be impossible to find statistically significant evidence of increases in cancer. ", A Japanese Research Company was assigned to find out the health effects and casualties caused by the disaster. Available online.  In their final 1981 report, the Pennsylvania Department of Health, examining death rates within the 10-mile area around TMI for the 6 months after the accident, said that the TMI-2 accident did not cause local deaths of infants or fetuses. The selection of particular methodologies used to carry out such assessments are strongly contested. No discernible increased incidence of radiation-related health effects are expected among exposed members of the public or their descendants (Chapter II A(b) paragraph 39). The radioactivity released was an order of magnitude lower than that released from Chernobyl, and some 80% of the radioactivity from Fukushima was deposited over the Pacific Ocean; preventive actions taken by the Japanese government may have substantially reduced the health impact of the radioactivity release. The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster was a nuclear accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in Ōkuma, Fukushima Prefecture. In the chart we have shown the estimated number of total deaths by attributed cause. , The WHO calculations using this model determined that the most at risk group, infants, who were in the most affected area, would experience an absolute increase in the risk of cancer (of all types) during their lifetime, of approximately 1% due to the accident.  For evacuation, the estimated number of deaths during and immediately after transit range from 34 to "greater than 50". 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