If the right lessons are to be learned then the numbers need to be as correct as possible. Being off by orders of magnitude leads to more mistakes and unnecessary deaths.
I would think that the elderly should not be evacuated since they will not have time to develop cancer from low levels of radiation. Also, hospitals and care facilities should be built to enable more effective sheltering in place.
It is not clear that low levels of radiation effects and the linear no threshold (LNT) theory is valid. If LNT were valid then there are 200,000 deaths that would result from commercial air travel. Studies of air crews show no excess deaths from more radiation The possible exposure does not take into account that people at the time were mostly indoors and more sheltered from any radiation.
A report from Hiroshima University that was published in the Lancet: no significant contamination was found in the patients evacuated from the 20 km zone despite the fact that 48 h had passed between the first explosion and their evacuation.
Mark Lynas has addressed problems with the methods used by Mark Jacobson. There have been other even more stupid and insane claims of higher expected deaths tolls. One of those claims were made by Chris Busby, who was trying to scare the Japanese victims to sell them products at ripoff prices.
Ten Hoeve and Jacobson used a 3-D global atmospheric model, developed over 20 years of research, to predict the transport of radioactive material. A standard health-effects model was used to estimate human exposure to radioactivity.
Because of inherent uncertainties in the emissions and the health-effects model, the researchers found a range of possible death tolls, from 15 to 1,300, with a best estimate of 130. A wide span of cancer morbidities was also predicted, anywhere from 24 to 2,500, with a best estimate of 180.
Those affected according to the model were overwhelmingly in Japan, with extremely small effects noticeable in mainland Asia and North America. The United States was predicted to suffer between 0 and 12 deaths and 0 and 30 cancer morbidities, although the methods used were less precise for areas that saw only low radionuclide concentrations.
"These worldwide values are relatively low," said Ten Hoeve. He explained they should "serve to manage the fear in other countries that the disaster had an extensive global reach."
In a July 17, 2012 CNN article titled "Researchers estimate 130 might die from Fukushima-related cancers" , Kathryn Higley, head of Nuclear Engineering and Radiation Health Physics at Oregon State University, was quoted in the following context.
"The methods of the study were solid, and the estimates were reasonable, although there is still uncertainty around them, said Kathryn Higley, head of Nuclear Engineering and Radiation Health Physics at Oregon State University. But given how much cancer already exists in the world, it would be very difficult to prove that anyone's cancer was caused by the incident at Fukushima Daiichi. The World Health Organization estimates that 7.8 million people died worldwide in 2008, so 130 out of that number is quite small, says Higley."
Higleys Response to Rod Adams Email Inquiry
Here are some of Higleys thoughts on the article
1. The authors used some fairly standard methods to estimate where the radioactive material went, and how people were exposed and the doses that resulted.
2. That being said – they used calculational tools, and estimated many values that had to be plugged into their computer models. Those input values have uncertainty associated with them, and the “true” values might not be known for a while (they suggest as much in the text)
3. Because of that, I take exception to their first statement in the abstract – namely that they are “quantifying” world-wide health effects. I would argue instead that they are “estimating” impacts. Yes, they are calculating numbers, but there is considerable uncertainty in them.
4. They estimate worldwide mortality 130 deaths with a range of 15–1100, and it appears that this number is from exposure occurring over a 50 year time period (although most mortality is presumed contributed from the early months of the release).
5. They conclude that the estimated 130 deaths are non trivial. I do not want to minimize the pain and suffering of any individual with cancer, but the World Health Organization estimates that in 2008, 7.8 million people died of cancer world wide. In the US alone, the American cancer society estimates that this year, 28,170 men will die of prostate cancer. So I take exception to the authors stating, in their conclusions that ” Fukushima nuclear accident may cause nontrivial cancer mortality and morbidity”. There is still considerable debate in the radiobiology community if the LNT theory is valid at doses below 1 mSv, and if the response is linear, has a threshold, or is something else altogether.
6. They do go on to compare their estimated numbers and make the final recommendation that “Nevertheless, long-term cancer risk studies should be conducted in Japan to compare with the estimates developed here as well as with future modeling studies of the health effects from Fukushima”. I believe that the Japanese are already doing this, even though their expectation (and epidemiologists in the US as well) is that it will be very unlikely for them to detect excess cancers in the exposed population, simply due to the high background incidence of cancer.
Jacobson on Evacuation killing more than expected radiation deaths
Japanese government agencies, for example, evacuated a 20-kilometer radius around the plant, distributed iodine tablets to prevent radioiodine uptake and prohibited cultivation of crops above a radiation threshold – steps that Ten Hoeve said "people have applauded."
But the paper also notes that nearly 600 deaths were reported as a result of the evacuation process itself, mostly due to fatigue and exposure among the elderly and chronically ill. According to the model, the evacuation prevented at most 245 radiation-related deaths – meaning the evacuation process may have cost more lives than it saved.
Still, the researchers cautioned against drawing conclusions about evacuation policy.
"You still have an obligation to evacuate people according to the worst-case scenario," said Jacobson.
So they calculate the evacuation killed 355 more than any high estimate radiation deaths avoided but Jacobson still defends the evacuation.
They think it is a good idea to evacuate the elderly who will not have time to develop any possible cancer. Plus they do not consider developing effective sheltering in place/
Their estimates of evacuation deaths is higher than other reports and their estimate of radiation deaths are high.
A Lancet study of the evacuation. About 50 died as a result of the evacuation for inpatients and elderly - the most vulnerable.
It does note that no significant contamination was found in the patients evacuated from the 20 km zone.
There were eight hospitals and 17 nursing care facilities located within a 20 km radius of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. The estimated numbers of hospital inpatients and elderly people in nursing facilities at that time were about 1240 and 980, respectively.
The dawn of March 14 therefore saw the beginning of a hurried transportation of these patients to a screening site in Minamisoma city, 26 km northwest of the plant. Medical personnel did not accompany the patients during transportation. Bed-ridden patients were laid down on the seats, wrapped in protective gowns. During transportation, some patients suffered trauma by falling from the seats of the vehicles.
Evacuation continued late into the night. As the situation at the damaged plant became more volatile, the evacuation became more rushed and patients were transported by police vehicles as well. The vehicles were packed full, not only with patients but also with residents who had missed the chance to evacuate on their own. Late at night on March 14, patients were required to leave the buses because admitting hospitals or facilities could not be found and the vehicles were required elsewhere. Eventually, the patients were temporarily housed at a meeting room of the Soso Health Care office in Minamisoma city, with no heaters or medical supplies. Many had to wait for more than 24 h before reaching admitting facilities.
27 patients with severe medical problems such as end-stage renal failure or stroke were transported more than 100 km to Iwaki city. At least 12 of them were confirmed dead at 0300 h on March 15, ten of whom seemed to have died in the vehicles during transportation. Later, it was reported that more than 50 patients died either during or soon after evacuation, probably owing to hypothermia, dehydration, and deterioration of underlying medical problems.
In the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant accident, there were no deaths related to radiation or the explosion of the reactors. However, the evacuation of these patients was accompanied by loss of life. No medical support was provided during evacuation or at shelters, resulting in the deterioration of the physical condition of many patients. Difficulties in reallocating patients forced them to stay in the confined space of the transporting vehicles for long hours. However, no significant contamination was found in the patients evacuated from the 20 km zone despite the fact that 48 h had passed between the first explosion and their evacuation. These facts suggest the danger of unprepared evacuation and the effectiveness of indoor sheltering for protection from radioactive plumes.
This is a report from the radiation emergency team of Hiroshima University. We were involved in the initial medical activities after the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant accident. We thank Naoko Takeoka and Natsuko Kimoto for their assistance in emergency care, and the radiology technicians of the National Institute of Radiological Sciences for assisting with the radiological survey for the evacuated patients at the Soso Health Care office.
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