U.N. panel chief says rise in cancer rate after Fukushima inconceivable

18 November 2016

The head of a U.N. panel mandated to assess the effects of radiation exposure reiterated on Nov. 17 its view that there is no evident increase in the incidence of cancer caused by the 2011 nuclear disaster at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima Daiichi plant. Addressing a gathering of local school, medical and administrative officials in Aizuwakamatsu city, Fukushima Prefecture, Malcolm Crick, secretary of the U.N. Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR), said it is inconceivable that there would be any rise in the rate of cancer occurrences stemming from the accident. Crick made the comment as he briefed the audience on a follow-up report tracing the impact of radiation from the crippled plant.

The report that followed the committee's 2013 version evaluated new scientific information published since then on the amount of radioactive substances released into the atmosphere, ocean and rivers, their effects on food, and doses of radiation. The new report regards radiation exposure doses arising from the accident as much lower than in the 1986 Chernobyl disaster because preventive measures were taken at the time of the Fukushima accident.

The report says the incidence of thyroid cancer among Fukushima children greatly differs from trends seen in the Chernobyl case. Comprehensive and highly precise examinations undertaken by the Fukushima prefectural government have enabled the discovery of tiny thyroid cancer that cannot be usually detected, thereby boosting the tendency of morbidity prevalence rates, according to the report.

Some members of the audience expressed concerns over the effects of long-term exposure to low levels of radiation. In response, Roy Shore, a member of the committee's expert group, said he believes Fukushima's case is not as serious as situations where radiation exposure damages health.

(Translated by Kyodo News)