The Fukushima Nuclear disaster could affect more people’s health than Chernobyl according to Chris Busby, a chemical physicist who specializes in nuclear radiation. In a recent interview with Asia Pacific Journal he estimates escalated risks due to the proximity of the Fukushima nuclear plant to dense populations combined with the high quantities of low doses of radiation that have spread across the globe. He contends that the ICRP, the International Commission on Radiological Protection, grossly underestimates the risk, which could lead to over 200,000 more cases of cancer in the next 50 years than officially predicted in Japan – and even more worldwide. His findings are startling and controversial, but given the official underestimatesof those affected by Chernobyl, his work is not without precedence.
Dr. Busby’s analysis is based on his theory that low dose ionizing radiation causes more cellular damage than the official standards set by the ICRP’s model, which was developed after the nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. His work is on how these low doses of radiation are much more potent when they break down or are excited by Gamma radiation than generally believed, and that the risk of them damaging cells and DNA is therefore underestimated. Given the close proximity of the disaster to Tokyo and the generally high population density of the island nation, the cancer risk would be higher than that of the Chernobyl nuclear plant meltdown which occurred in a region with a relatively low population.
Interview by Norimatsu Satoko and Narusawa Muneo
Chemical physicist Chris Busby is at the forefront of scientists who are challenging the radiation risk model propounded by ICRP, the International Commission on Radiological Protection, whose standards for allowable radiation doses the Japanese government has adopted for its citizens affected by the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant accident.1 Busby, Scientific Secretary of the European Committee on Radiation Risk (ECRR), points out that the ICRP model “deals with radiation exposure from all sources in the same way, as if it were external to the body,”2 and then takes this dose and multiplies it by a risk factor based on the high acute external doses of the atomic-bomb survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The ICRP method thus fails to take into account a number of ways in which certain internal radionuclides can deliver very high doses to critical targets in cells, particularly the cell DNA. One of these is from “inhaled or ingested hot particles, which are solid but microscopic and can lodge in tissue delivering high doses to local cells.”3 As a result, internal radiation exposure can be “up to 1,000 times more harmful than the ICRP model concludes.”4 In his calculation based on the ECRR model that considers such internal radiation risks,5 Busby has estimated that within 100 km of Fukushima Daiichi, approximately 200,000 excess cancers will occur within the next 50 years with about half of them diagnosed in the next 10 years, if the 3.3 million people in the area remain there for one year. He estimates over 220,000 excess cancers in the 7.9 million people from 100 to 200 km in the next 50 years, also with about half of them to be diagnosed in the next 10 years. By contrast, the ICRP model predicts 2,838 extra cancers in the 100 km population.6 “The eventual yield will therefore be another test of the two risk models,” Busby contends,7 pointing out that many studies of the Chernobyl disaster showed much higher cancer yields than the ICRP model had predicted.8
The effect of the nuclear disaster, moreover, extends well beyond the 200 km radius. It has been reported in Japan that “traces of plutonium” have been found in the proximity of Fukushima Daiichi.9 This is no surprise, since unusual amounts of plutonium and uranium have been detected in Hawaii, Guam, Alaska, and on the West Coast by the US Environmental Protection Agency in the wake of the 3.11 earthquake and tsunami.10 CTBTO, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization, has reported that radioactive materials had dispersed throughout the Northern Hemisphere within two weeks of the Fukushima accident, and that it had even reached the Southern Hemisphere by mid-April.11 Shukan Kin’yobi, a weekly magazine, interviewed Chris Busby on the issue of global contamination at a time when the Japanese media have maintained silence on the issue. This is a complete original English text of the interview, published simultaneously with the Japanese version on Shukan Kin’yobi (July 8 edition).
Interview with Chris Busby
- Unusual amounts of plutonium have been found on the west coast of the United States and elsewhere. Radioactive materials have also been found in milk and water in the US. What is your view of these facts?
Plutonium has also been found in the UK in air filters.12 This means that particles are now being globally dispersed. There will follow increased rates of ill health, including cancer and birth defects, which will be proportional to the overall air concentration. High in Japan, low in USA, and very low in Europe. I do not think plutonium is much more dangerous than the other alpha emitters, particularly Uranium, on a dose for dose basis. I think the danger is in Uranium, Tritium, Strontium-90, Carbon-14, Tellurium-132. I have found Te-132 in car filters from Japan.
- If plutonium dispersed so widely, it only makes us wonder and fear how it’s been dispersed in the immediate proximity of Fukushima Daiichi, Fukushima as a whole, and beyond… Tokyo and all Japan. What is your view of the seriousness of this issue?
I have car air filters from Fukushima and Tokyo. We have found high levels of radioactive particles in these. In my March/April paper13 I predicted more than 200,000 additional cancers in the next 10 years within a 200 KM radius of Fukushima.14 I have seen nothing to change my mind. In fact it is worse than I thought then and said on TV. I have been hoping all along that I was wrong, and even now there may be some good development that I had not expected or foreseen, but the situation is bad and I am very sorry. I have been helping some lawyers who are making a legal case to have the children evacuated.15 The problem is that dose rate, MicroSieverts per Hour, cannot be used to reassure on the basis of comparisons with annual natural background. The exposures are internal and the risk model of the ICRP, which is based (ironically) on the external exposures at Hiroshima, cannot be used. This is the key issue. There is a more accurate model, the ECRR, one which has now been translated into Japanese and is available on the internet. (Link)
- What will be the effects of the Fukushima meltdown outside of Japan – the US, and beyond? Asia? Europe? What is the current situation and what further effects are expected?
I think the effects in Europe will be rare and undetectable. There will probably be detectable effects in the USA, Korea, Hawaii, Marianas and China.
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