On 11 March 2011 the Japanese experienced the worst earthquake in their history, followed by a devastating tsunami. These natural disasters have had a serious impact on several Japanese nuclear reactors, principally those at the Fukushima Daiichi site. The Health Physics Society (HPS) is concerned about radiation exposures associated with these reactor problems and desires to keep our members and the concerned public advised on current events associated with the Japanese nuclear plants.
The Health Physics Society (HPS) convened a panel of leading scientific experts on radiation safety at the National Press Club in Washington, DC, on 1 March 2012 for the benefit of invited media personnel. The name of the program was "Risks and Effects of Radiation: Putting Fukushima in Context." Read more here.
In 2013, two years after the accident, HPS Web Operations published Radiation and Risk: Expert Perspectives on this website, a compilation of papers on topics including natural radiation, medical applications of radiation, effects of natural and man-made radiation on the environment, safety controls of nuclear energy production, risk communication, and the regulatory implications of radiation safety.
DOD Operation Tomodachi Registry
Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission Report
"Fukushima Daiichi: ANS Committee Report"
Fukushima Plant Status Updates
NRC Task Force Review of Insights from Fukushima
June 2011 Japanese Government Report to IAEA
Fukushima Release of Radiation and Potential Health Effects
Presentation on the Fukushima Accident
HPS Information for Radiation Questions
Recommended Sources of Useful Information
Background Information on Nuclear Power
U.S. Department of Energy Radiation Monitoring Data
American Nuclear Society Fukushima Links
IRSN of France Report on External Doses and Outcome of Population Evacuation Measures
Fukushima Documents Released by the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry (METI)
ASME Report on Fukushima and Nuclear Safety in the Future
The Department of Defense (DOD) began establishing the Operation Tomodachi Registry following the devastating 11 March 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan. These unfortunate events caused severe damage to the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, which resulted in the release of radiation into the environment. This registry will include the names of nearly 70,000 DOD-affiliated individuals who were on or near the mainland of Japan during the period from 12 March 2011 to 11 May 2011, along with radiation-exposure estimates for each of these individuals.
The Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission has issued its report. The commission was appointed by the Japanese Diet. An English-language version of the executive summary of the report can be found on the Web Archiving Project website.
"Fukushima Daiichi: ANS Committee Report" has been published by the American Nuclear Society (ANS) Special Committee on Fukushima. As stated in the report: "The Committee was charged to provide a clear and concise explanation of the accident events, health physics, and accident cleanup, as well as safety-related issues that emerged. The Committee also evaluated actions that ANS should consider to better communicate with the public during a nuclear event."
In "As Fukushima Cleanup Begins, Long-Term Impacts Are Weighed," Winifred Bird reports on the decontamination efforts in the areas surrounding Fukushima. Health Physics Society members Kathryn Higley and John Till were interviewed for the report.
Updates on the status of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, which was affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami, are provided by the Japanese Atomic Industrial Forum (JAIF) at http://www.jaif.or.jp/english/fukushima/plantstatus.html. The updates, posted about two times a month, will include information on the challenges and current status of the first period of the medium- and long-term roadmap for decommissioning. JAIF will also update the information if significant developments occur.
The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has released "Recommendations for Enhancing Reactor Safety in the 21st Century: The Near-Term Task Force Review of Insights from the Fukushima Dai-ichi Accident." The Near-Term Task Force was established in response to Commission direction to conduct a systematic and methodical review of NRC processes and regulations to determine whether the agency should make additional improvements to its regulatory system and to make recommendations to the Commission for its policy direction, in light of the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant.
The Japanese Government has released "Report of Japanese Government to the IAEA Ministerial Conference on Nuclear Safety: The Accident at TEPCO's Fukushima Nuclear Power Stations." This preliminary accident report was prepared for the 20–24 June 2011 International Atomic Energy Agency Ministerial Conference on Nuclear Safety and, as stated in its introduction, "represents a summary of the evaluation of the accident and the lessons learned to date based on the facts gleaned about the situation obtained so far."
The emotional trauma of the devastating events in Japan is overwhelming. While the members of the Health Physics Society can only offer our condolences for those who have lost loved ones and our support for those still looking for loved ones, we can help put minds at ease regarding the radiation from the Japanese reactors that has been detected in the United States.
Radioactivity has been detected in nearly every state, whether it be in rain water, in the air, or in milk. We understand that the fear that arises from hearing about radioactivity being found nearby can cause increased stress and, sometimes, an overwhelming sense of loss of control. This is why it is important for you to know that the amount of radioactivity being detected in the United States is of no concern; we can drink the milk, eat food out of our gardens, and drink water from our faucets.
As for foods that may be imported from Japan, there are three safety nets in place so you can feel safe eating what you buy at the grocery store. The first safety net is the ban on importing food from within Japan's evacuation zone (within about 20 kilometers of the nuclear reactors), the second safety net is Japan's monitoring of other foods prior to leaving Japan, and the third safety net is the United States Department of Agriculture, which monitors and inspects our imported food.
It is important to stay informed about the radiation levels that are being detected so you can make the best decisions for your family. With this in mind, we will continue to update our website with new information regarding the Fukushima reactors.
We will also continue to follow results from the 124 radionuclide-sampling stations throughout the country used by the Environmental Protection Agency (you can look at them at www.epa.gov/japan2011) and the monitoring network by the 104 operating nuclear power facilities (monitoring air, water, milk, and foods) to be able to provide you with up-to-date information.
Other helpful links:
- Information on the potential for radiation from the Japanese Nuclear Plants reaching the United States is provided in the HPS Ask the Experts FAQ "Radioactivity in the United States from Japanese Nuclear Plants."
- The HPS Facebook page, Health Physics Society News Cafe, contains up-to-date news items related to the Japanese accident and other pertinent radiation safety topics.
- Information on radiation particle effects on food can be found in the Bloomberg FAQ "Radiation, Particles, Effects on Food, Human Health: Questions and Answers."
- The American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists, the American Thyroid Association, the Endocrine Society, and the Society of Nuclear Medicine have issued "Radiation Risks to Health," a joint statement on the health risks due to radiation from the Fukushima nuclear plant accident.
- Dr. John Boice, Vanderbilt University professor and HPS member, was interviewed on the CNN program "State of the Union" on 20 March 2011. He discussed potential radiation health effects from the Fukushima accident. You can view his interview courtesy of the YouTube video "John Boice on health effects of radiation."
- Additionally, Dr. Boice was interviewed by MSNBC on 2 April 2011. That interview is also available on YouTube: "John Boice Fukushima Radiation a Threat? MSNBC."
- Dr. Boice discussed the possible health implications of radiation from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant accident in his testimony at the 13 May 2011 Hearing on Nuclear Energy Risk Management before the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology's Subcommittee on Energy and Environment and Subcommittee on Investigations and Oversight.
Areva's "The Fukushima Daiichi Incident" is available.
As the world continues to focus on events at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant site, many people are inquiring about the releases of radioactivity and the potential health effects from radiation that plant workers and the surrounding populations may be experiencing. We have seen reported radiation levels in the vicinity of the plant that are quite significant. The HPS has identified the following list of authoritative resources on this website that you can consult for answers to such questions:
- Radiation exposure and pregnancy
- Use of potassium iodide
- Radiation terms and units
- Types of radiation
- Radiation benefit and risk
- Radiation effects
The Health Physics Society recommends the following sources of useful information. Although we cannot verify the accuracy of all the information that you may find, we believe these sources are generally reliable and trustworthy. As events unfold and the potential radiation exposures become better known, we hope to be able to share additional information with you regarding radiation safety.
- Nuclear Regulatory Commission
- International Atomic Energy Agency
- World Health Organization
- American Nuclear Society
- International Radiation Protection Association
- National Academy of Sciences
- Nuclear Energy Agency
- Environmental Protection Agency
- Food and Drug Administration
- Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution
For background and an overview of nuclear power, see our seven-part series "The Resurgence of Nuclear Power: Impact on the Health Physics Profession," reprinted from Health Physics News.
Dick Toohey's "Nuclear Power and Public Health Measures in Nuclear Plant Emergencies" also provides useful information.
The U.S. Department of Energy has released data recorded from its Aerial Monitoring System as well as ground detectors deployed in Japan. That data has been collected, analyzed, and posted on the Department of Energy's website at www.energy.gov/japan2011.
The American Nuclear Society (ANS) Special Committee on Nuclear Non-Proliferation has prepared the Technical Brief - "The Impact of Mixed Oxide Fuel Use on Accident Consequences at Fukushima Daiichi."
Additionally, ANS has prepared and posted a useful Q&A on health effects due to the accident (http://www.ans.org/misc/FukushimaRadiationQ&A_LS.pdf).
The Institut de Radioprotections et de Sûreté Nucléaire (IRSN) has published "Assessment on the 66th Day of Projected External Doses for Populations Living in the North-West Fallout Zone of the Fukushima Nuclear Accident: Outcome of Population Evacuation Measures." According to the IRSN, "The purpose of this report is to provide insight on all radiological assessments performed to our knowledge to date and the impact of population evacuation measures to be taken to minimize the medium and long-term risks of developing leukaemia or other radiation-induced cancers."
Nuclear Emergency Response Headquarters
- Roadmap for Immediate Actions for the Verification of and Restoration from the Accident at Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Station
- Roadmap for Immediate Actions for the Assistance of Nuclear Sufferers
- Immediate Actions for the Assistance of Nuclear Sufferers (in Japanese)
- Economic Impact of the Great East Japan Earthquake and Current Status of Recovery (16 May 2011, update 17 May 2011)
- Roadmap by Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) by Minister Kaieda (17 April 2011)
- Announcement of the Results of Surveys from the "Emergency Survey on Actual Status of Industries after the Great East Japan Earthquake" and the "Survey of Impact on the Supply Chain" (press release: 26 April 2011)
- The Activities of Japan's Industry to Revive the Supply Chain (26 April 2011)
- Results of an Emergency Survey on the Actual Status of Industries after the Great East Japan Earthquake (26 April 2011)
Reference: TEPCO Release Documents
- Progress Status of "Roadmap towards Restoration from the Accident at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station"
- Current Status of Roadmap (issues/targets/major countermeasures) as of 17 May 2011
- Progress Status of Countermeasures
- Progress Status of Cooling (Reactors) (Description)
An American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) Task Force released recommendations for a new nuclear safety construct in June 2012. It reaches beyond the traditional regulatory framework of adequate protection of public health and safety to minimize sociopolitical and economic consequences caused by radioactive releases from accidents.
The March 2011 earthquake and tsunami that hit Japan, causing the accident at Fukushima Daiichi, exposed potential vulnerabilities of nuclear power plants to extreme events. ASME President Victoria A. Rockwell commissioned a Presidential Task Force to review the events, examine the global implications, and make recommendations on ASME's role in addressing issues and lessons learned. Read the report here.