Update - February 27, 2014:
Finding the Facts on Fukushima
On March 11, 2011 an earthquake and the tsunami that followed resulted in the deaths of more than 19,000 people, and severely damaged the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, resulting in an eventual loss of power to the plant and a subsequent meltdown of some of the nuclear reactor cores and stored spent fuel rods at the plant. The resulting release of radionuclides into the environment around Fukushima, as well as their airborne transport across the Pacific,has been widely reported in the media. Stabilization and cleanup efforts associated with this accident are expected to take several decades, and there is likely to be continuing media coverage of these efforts for decades to come.
The Community Environmental Monitoring Program (CEMP), which functions primarily as the off-site radiological monitoring program (for more info, visit http://cemp.dri.edu/cemp/moreinfo.html) around the Nevada National Security Site (NNSS), [formerly known as the Nevada Test Site], was the first monitoring program to report detection of radionuclides in Nevada (http://cemp.dri.edu/japan.html) that were associated with the accident at Fukushima. The CEMP reported on these radionuclides for as long as the program continued to detect them in the airborne environment. At no time during this period did activity levels of radionuclides associated with Fukushima and detected by the CEMP represent a threat to human health in Nevada, nor did measurements detected and reported by other monitoring networks in the United States detect levels which represented such a threat. In fact, airborne activity levels detected during this period generally ranged from thousands to millions of times of times less than doses that US populations receive from ionizing radiation associated with naturally-occurring radionuclides in the environment every day. Studies conducted by professional scientific bodies associated with the World Health Organization and the Health Physics Society, comprised of scientists familiar with ionizing radiation and potential health effects and the estimated doses to the public in Japan, have determined that the great majority of the Japanese public will suffer no measureable physical health effects, although psychological and social effects are likely to be significant, especially in areas where populations were relocated from their homes. The CEMP has previously provided links to some of this information (http://cemp.dri.edu/japan.html).
The continuing mission of the CEMP emphasizes direct public participation in radiological monitoring as well as transparency of and accessibility to monitoring data. In addition, the CEMP endeavors to provide access to reliable educational information on ionizing radiation (http://cemp.dri.edu/cemp/resources.html)and respond to public inquiries on this topic as a public service. The CEMP recognizes that, for a variety of reasons, some of the media coverage of the Fukushimanuclear power plant accident has included misinformation, disinformation, or has been sensationalized to the extent that it makes it very difficult for members of the public to distinguish between accurate and inaccurate information, and what information warrants serious consideration. This is particularly true of many online media sites and in social media, where information can be conveyed to millions with the click of a mouse and passed on to millions more through the touch of a smart phone screen or tablet.
While a certain degree of misinformation and disinformation was promulgated during and immediately after the accident at Fukushima, there has been a recent resurgence in late 2013 and early 2014 of articles conveying warnings from various sources on a variety of subjects related either directly or tangentiallyto Fukushima which attempt to claim present or imminent dangers associated with radiation from either past or ongoing activities at Fukushima. These articles are largely targeted at residents of the United States, especially those on the west coast, who are in the transport pathway with regards to both airborne and waterborne materials associated with the Japanese tsunami as well as the accident at Fukushima. They include such claims as Fukushima being responsible for deaths of infants in the US, the die-off of sea life on west coast of the US, high radiation at Half Moon Bay, California and elsewhere, and high radiation "alerts" in US cities across the country, among others.
Below are links to a variety different sources and articles on the Fukushima issues mentioned above. While the CEMP does not imply endorsement of the following web sites or individual authors of these articles, or of additional links that may be encountered within these articles, the CEMP believes that they provide reliable information in non-technical language on the subject matter discussed within the article. They represent a variety of print, audio, and video media sources that include newspapers, journals, and social media such as YouTube. The following list is not intended to be a resource for current information on the situation at Fukushima itself, which continues to be extremely challenging for all those involved in addressing the many technical issues that remain to stabilize and clean up the area around Fukushima. Neither are the links considered to represent an exhaustive list, but instead a reliable sample that generally address most of the recent higher-profile instances ofspurious claims about Fukushima that have proliferated on the internet recently, as well as some that continue to surface from older reports.
For weekly updates on technical challenges, monitoring, and ongoing work around the Fukushima Daiichi site itself, the CEMP recommends the International Atomic Energy Agency's link at http://www.iaea.org/newscenter/news/2013/japan-basic-policy-full.html, which provides access to regular reports from Japan's Nuclear Radiation Authority and related assessments of ongoing work. For general news stories related to the IAEA's work on this issue, the CEMP recommends their link at http://www.iaea.org/newscenter/focus/fukushima/.
The CEMP recognizes that the Fukushima accident has had a significant psychological, social, and economic impact on the people of Japan, and does not seek to minimize the tremendous suffering that has been caused by the resulting relocation of people from their homes. However, the CEMP believes that the promulgation of sensationalismand disinformation on this subject provides a grave disservice not only to those in Japan who have been directly impacted by this accident, but also to the workers whose efforts were critical in preventing a more serious accident, and to all those who are seeking legitimate information on this issue. The spread of this disinformation has real-world implications not only with regards to broad energy and economic policies, but individually for psychological and social health, and also for the physical health of those who have suffered adverse effects from medications they believed would protect them from radioactivity associated with Fukushima. Additionally, falsely implicating Fukushima for unrelated events (e.g., die-off of sea life in the Pacific Ocean on the US West Coast) detracts from the ability to focus on the actual underlying causes, whether they be natural or manmade.
The CEMP will add additional articles to this list on an irregular basis.
- National Geographic (February 22, 2017): After Alarmingly High Radiation Levels Detected, What are the Facts in Fukushima?
- Fukushima Inform (March 25, 2015): Fukushima Radionuclides in Pacific: Doses to Japanese and World Public Unlikely to Cause Health Damage
- The Breakthrough (March 12, 2015): Five Surprising Public Health Facts About Fukushima
- USA Today (November 11, 2014): Tiny amounts of Fukushima radiation found in California
- USA Today (April 4, 2014): More radiation in some Oregon tuna following Fukushima
- Stripes.com(July 28, 2014): USS Reagan sailors not exposed to high radiation levels in Japan, report finds. http://www.stripes.com/news/uss-reagan-sailors-not-exposed-to-high-radiation-levels-in-japan-report-finds-1.293860
- Mercurynews.com(February 24, 2014): Fukushima radioactivity poses little threat to California, scientists say. http://www.mercurynews.com/san-mateo-county-times/ci_25219738/fukushima-radioactivity-poses-little-threat-california-scientists-say
- Discovery.com(February 25, 2014): Fukushima's Radioactive Ocean Water Arrives at West Coast. http://news.discovery.com/earth/oceans/fukushimas-radioactive-ocean-water-arrives-at-west-coast-140222.htm
- News 4 Reno (January 27, 2014): Experts address Fukushima-related radiation concerns. http://www.mynews4.com/news/local/story/Experts-address-Fukushima-related-radiation/3vuNs-co7UaZXPsFfn8X0A.cspx
- Public radio international's "The World"(January 20, 2014): Worried about radioactive 'Fukushima' fish in the US? Don't be, scientists say. http://www.pri.org/stories/2014-01-20/worried-about-radioactive-fukushima-fish-us-dont-be-scientists-say
- The Province (January 19, 2014): Half Lives and Half Truths. http://www.theprovince.com/news/Half+Lives+Half+Truths/9406811/story.html
- YouTube: Surfer's Beach Half Moon Bay Radiation Investigation (January 16, 2014). http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CV0GsWPE7pk&feature=sharenoembed
- Los Angeles Times (January 12, 2014): West Coast radiation from Fukushima poses no risk, experts say. http://www.latimes.com/science/la-me-west-coast-radiation-20140113,0,4048380.story#ixzz2qT4mzf34
- Scientific American (January 9, 2014): What You Should and Shouldn't Worry about after the Fukushima Nuclear Meltdowns. http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/what-to-worry-about-after-fukushima-nuclear-disaster/
- Deep Sea News (January 8, 2014): Is the sea floor littered with dead animals due to radiation? No. http://deepseanews.com/2014/01/is-the-sea-floor-littered-with-dead-animals-due-to-radiation-no/
- Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (August 28, 2013): FAQ: Radiation from Fukushima. http://www.whoi.edu/page.do?cid=94989&pid=83397&tid=3622
- National Public Radio (May 29, 2012): Nuclear Tuna is Hot News, But Not because It's Going to Make You Sick. http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2012/05/30/153925233/nuclear-tuna-is-hot-news-but-not-because-its-going-to-make-you-sick
- Nature (May 23, 2012) Fukushima's Doses Tallied http://www.nature.com/news/fukushima-s-doses-tallied-1.10686
- Scientific American blogs (June 21, 2011): Are Babies Dying in the Pacific Northwest Due to Fukushima? A Look at the Numbers. http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/observations/2011/06/21/are-babies-dying-in-the-pacific-northwest-due-to-fukushima-a-look-at-the-numbers/
Professional Society and Agency ResourcesThe CEMP considers the following organizations to be good sources of scientifically credible information on Fukushima, and on ionizing radiation in general. Again, this list is not considered to be exhaustive in nature, but rather a starting point for those who have more interest in learning about this issue.
- Health Physics Society www.hps.org
- National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements www.ncrponline.org
- International Atomic Energy Agency www.iaea.org
- World Health Organization www.who.int/en/