Fukushima cleanup workers’ radiation feared 20% higher
Japan’s government may have underestimated by 20 percent the internal radiation doses Fukushima cleanup workers received after the plant’s nuclear disaster, a panel of leading UN scientists says in its preliminary findings.
Three of the Fukushima plant’s nuclear reactors were damaged by an earthquake-triggered tsunami on March 11, 2011, which led to a nuclear disaster with the plant accumulating radioactive water ever since.
The UN Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR) raised doubts about the estimates of radioactive substances discharged at the plant provided by the Japanese authorities, plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) and other entities, Japanese newspaper the Asahi Shimbun cited a preliminary report submitted to the UN General Assembly as saying.
The UN committee analyzed the data on radiation doses of 25,000 employees who worked at the plant no later than October 2012.
The committee established that the tests conducted on the workers had failed to account some types of radiation, the newspaper reported, citing a summary of its report. The procedures completely ignored incidences of Iodine-132 and Iodine-133, which have short half-lives of 2 hours and 20 hours, respectively.
Moreover, the workers were tested for thyroid gland doses from radioactive iodine only after a significant delay, the committee found.
If the UN scientists’ estimates are correct, then more Fukushima employees would be eligible for free health checkups and treatment.
At present about 1,100 people subjected to radiation of 50 millisieverts or more in whole-body doses are entitled to free tests for cancer of the thyroid gland, lungs, stomach and colon, the Asahi Shimbun reports. About 2,000 people with whole-body doses below 50 millisieverts but thyroid gland doses of 100 millisieverts or over are entitled to be tested for thyroid gland cancer.
UNSCEAR has said that the soonest the report will be completed is by the end of the year.
The Japanese Health Ministry required TEPCO and 81 primary contractor companies to submit medical examination results for 20,000 Fukushima employees before December 2011; however it is still waiting for that data, the Asahi Shimbun reported.