Wondering why still no radiation casualties at Fukushima? A prominent radiation epidemiologist explains

It has been 4585 days since the Fukushima nuclear meltdown. The casualty count from atomic radiation is today exactly what it was the day before the Great East Japan Earthquake launched a tsunami that killed thousands and wrecked three reactors at the nuclear plant.

That is, the number of radiation casualties is still zero.

On May 13, sixty-three days after the quake and tsunami hit, John Boice, a professor of Radiation Epidemiology at Vanderbilt University, told a U.S. congressional committee why.

(Evidently a Japanese member of parliament believed Dr. Boice. To watch a YouTube video of this politician drinking decontaminated water from the basement of one of the Fukushima reactor buildings, click here.)

His testimony is extremely clear, well informed, and matter of fact. It should be required reading.

Among other points, Dr. Boice told the representatives this:

The health consequences [of the meltdown] for Japanese workers and public appear to be minor.

This is something that a lot of people (including me; see article) predicted on the first day of the nuclear situation. Nuclear meltdowns have never lived up to their pop-culture billing. In the west, the three major meltdowns in the history of the nuclear age—Chalk River in 1952, Three Mile Island in 1979, and of course Fukushima—resulted in zero casualties and negligible environmental damage. This is because they simply did not release enough radiation to kill anyone or harm the environment.

I should point out that the same cannot be said of the nuclear program of the USSR. A partial meltdown at a nuclear power plant in Leningrad killed three people.

Nevertheless, the term “nuclear meltdown” holds irresistible drawing power for media headline writers. Why is this? Because very few people understand nuclear radiation, much less its units of measure. So when faced with a barrage of reporting about radiation measurements—expressed in terms of picocuries, becquerels, rads, and microsieverts—most people have no way of evaluating that information. Therefore it all sounds kind of scary.

This may be why Dr. Boice also told the representatives this:

There is a pressing need to learn more about the health consequences of radiation in humans when exposures are spread over time at low levels and not received briefly at high doses such as in atomic bomb survivors.

When he gives radiation measurements, Dr. Boice oscillates between common and international (SI) units. When describing radioactivity, e.g. in bananas, he uses becquerels (SI units). When describing absorbed dose measurements, Dr. Boice uses millirems, which are common units. Most people use sieverts to describe absorbed dose. To convert millirems to microsieverts, multiply by ten. Click here for an excellent web-based radiation unit coverter.

Reading Dr. Boice’s testimony will take around ten minutes of your time. It is well worth your while.

Here is part of Dr. Boice’s summary:

The lasting effects [of the Fukushima meltdown] upon the Japanese population will most likely be psychological with increased occurrence of stress-related mental disorders and depression associated not necessarily with the concern about reactor radiation, but with the horrific loss of life and disruption caused by the tsunami and earthquake.

In the headline-driven hysteria that has characterized coverage of the Fukushima issue, the tens of thousands killed and hundreds of thousands made homeless by the quake and tsunami have been all but forgotten by the western media.

Lest we forget:


Once again, you can read Dr. Boice’s testimony by clicking here.

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Lew Orban
11 years ago

You have to be kidding me? Do you have any idea what man made radiation contamination really is or what radioactive isotope decay rates really are? It is not the same as what we receive from the heavens my friend or from the core of the earth. Not even close.

Your boy works for the Nuclear Industry and of course he will claim there is no danger, since that is what he is paid to say. If you are so sure everything is safe, then why don’t you go personally and help put up the tents over these Fukushima Japan nuclear core meltdowns, and stop writing such drivel about how safe we are all.

Please let me know when you will be arriving in Fukushima Japan, as several consecutive years will be required for your services there. and then I will write an article later on about your experiences and any long term health consequences you may end up with.

You do know what curie stands for and where that name originally came from correct? You do know what Marie died from correct?

Gee radiation contamination and direct exposure was “not” very safe for her. Yet you spew radiation is safe and there is no harm from radioactive contamination?

Think about it!


Steve Aplin
11 years ago
Reply to  Lew Orban

Lew, appreciate your comment. You sound like you’re a fan of another doctor, i.e. Caldicott, who’s also paid to fly long distances in kerosene powered airplanes to argue just the opposite of Boice. The difference between the two of them is that Boice has some salient facts on his side.

If you actually read what I wrote, you’d see that I actually didn’t say “radiation is safe.” I said nobody has died from radiation at Fukushima. And that that’s because the levels around the plant aren’t high enough.

If you don’t like that, well I don’t know what to say. Start a blog, and publish some made-up numbers. Caldicott will cheer you on.

11 years ago

Do you have any recommendations for credible information on the health and environmental impacts of Chernobyl? I’m assuming you didn’t include Chernobyl in your article because it wasn’t a meltdown, but it was a nuclear power plant accident which caused damage, and I’m wondering which damage numbers are credible. Thanks!

Steve Aplin
11 years ago
Reply to  Heather

Heather, here are three resources you may find useful.

1. http://www.world-nuclear.org/uploadedFiles/org/WNA_Personal_Perspectives/jaworowski_chernobyl.pdf
The author says in the abstract:

The projections of thousands of late cancer deaths based on LNT are in conflict with observations that in comparison with general population of Russia, a 15% to 30% deficit of solid cancer mortality was found among the Russian emergency workers, and a 5% deficit of solid cancer incidence among the population of most contaminated areas.

2. http://www.chernobyltissuebank.com/papers.html
This is a list of papers that used the Chernobyl Tissue Bank as research material.

3. http://www.nltv.co.uk/index.php?option=com_hwdvideoshare&task=viewvideo&Itemid=1&video_id=180
This is a presentation entitled “The Real Health Consequences of Chernobyl – Fact vs Fiction”

Hope you find it useful.

11 years ago

(To be clear, that wasn’t supposed to be a “gotcha” comment. I agree that the effects of nuclear meltdowns have been overhyped, as Dr. Boice so clearly explains)

11 years ago
Reply to  Heather

I came up with a heuristic long ago that I’m not sure I’ve ever shared. A quick-and-crude way to the same truth that the references Mr. Aplin has given get you to with greater rigour. Here it goes:

Nuclear opponents are twice as dishonest as the Soviet Union was, and while that entity wanted to downplay the consequences of Chernobyl, they want to up-play it. Its lies and theirs must therefore bracket the truth!

So if, as I seem to recall, the Soviet Union said 30 people died — ten to power 1.477 — and nuclear power opponents say 8000 did, ten to power 3.903, we need only find a number twice as near to 1.477 as it is to 3.903. That number is ~2.286. Ten to power 2.286 is ~193, so we expect about 200 people to have died. About as bad as Piper Alpha, except not all at once.

Later on, I found some corroboration: http://www.rri.kyoto-u.ac.jp/NSRG/reports/kr79/kr79pdf/Imanaka.pdf

… Imanaka [41, 42] suggested a possibility that a substantial fraction of evacuees from the most contaminated villages could receive effective dose more than 1 Sv, which is a criteria for acute radiation sickness, using the dose rate map on May 1, 1986 presented at CIS/EC Minsk conference in 1996 [43] and temporal changes of dose rate until the evacuation.

After these works Imanaka happened to find another map representing the radiation situation around Chernobyl on June 1, 1986 compiled by USSR scientists in 1991 (Fig. 1) [44]. As seen in Fig. 1, the dose rate in Usov village on June 1 was around 200 mR/h. Our previous calculations [41, 42] indicate that the dose rate on May 1 was about 10 times higher than June 1, which means that a dose rate about 2 R/h can be supposed in Usov village on May 1, 1986, from where inhabitants were evacuated on May 3…

Now, how do we know the USSR was wholehearted in its wish to downplay? Well, the USSR was its government; there was no distinction. This means it was not in the conflict of interest Western governments are. If it chose to spend tens of dollars on fossil fuels rather than a single dollar on equivalent uranium, this was purely wasteful.

But Western governments are in the position of either taking a significant share of the larger fossil fuel price — in the form of royalties and excise tax — or a somewhat smaller share of the much smaller uranium price. What’s wasteful overall is lucrative for them. (It is, of course, also lucrative for oil and gas vendors, and to some extent coal vendors, but their fossil fuel revenues are out in plain sight, and unlike governments, they aren’t empowered to regulate their competition and preach against it. Recall the head of the NRC recommending people 50 miles from Fukushima-Daiichi to run, and — if I recall correctly — German government spokesthings recommending Tokyo be evacuated.)

11 years ago

(Further reading of Dr. Boice’s testimony answers some of my questions and gives me more directions to research, so please delete my previous comments. However, given that most people do associate “nuclear disaster” with Chernobyl, I think I won’t be the only reader to question its exclusion in your article. The media rarely distinguishes between “meltdown” and “accident”, and Dr. Boice’s explanation is the first I’ve come across)

Lew Orban
11 years ago

Thanks for the insight, but no I have not read one thing produced by Caldicot, even though I agree completely with her professional assessment of the world’s current nuclear radiation contamination plight. I heard some of what she says on Youtube. I have read many articles about the dangers of nuclear radioactive isotopes and what they do to the inside of our bodies when taken internally and then what they do to our DNA.

Now either your boy has not read these articles and or he does not agree with these scientific peer research studies or he is living inside a Nuclear fantasy world. This supposed safety regime being touted by the Nuclear Industry is within a research parameter of less than what, lets say 60 years, and then can be stretched way back to more than a 100 years when these people started playing around actively with uranium in volume. Plutonium is another piece of this radioactive puzzle you may want to research in depth as well as our current use of MOX fuel. None of this sounds very safe or is safe, period. What we have now is an ecological disaster of biblical proportions creeping slowly across all borders and making its way around the planet.

Cancer rates started to spike drastically after 1950 and or after the first Nuclear Trinity Bomb test was detonated. Gee I even think John Wayne might even disagree with your boy’s assessment as well as most of the people up in Washington D.C. that have been paying out billions of dollars to victims suffering from radiation contamination and downwind exposures. But then I think you feel your boy is right and everyone else in the medical scientific field must be wrong.

Gene mutations and genetic malfunctions are not immediate and it will take some time for the negative results of this latest Nuclear folly in the form of the Fukushima Japan radiation disaster to be experienced by all those down winders around the world. Your boy looks like he will make a great deal of money off this current disaster.

The nice thing to realize is that 75% of our own US Nuclear Power Plants are now leaking radiation into the surrounding environments and we have now what 500 more of these Nuclear Plant disasters about ready to play out throughout the entire world and or possibly very soon and or maybe like in the near future. This fact makes me very warm and gushy inside.

You my friend have been hoodwinked by the best and looking at the money trail is always the first test and step when delving into the discovery process. The Nuclear genie is out of the bottle and it was the worse thing mankind could have ever done and even Einstein understood the gravity of the mistake he made.

No, I am not buying into this Radioactive bullsh%t anymore and its usually three strikes and then you are out and I think we have given these Nuclear boys many more strikes than they should have ever been allowed to have operating on this planet. We need to find something else to fuel or dramatic need for clean energy.

Nuclear power is not clean energy and its created pollution is simply a nightmare now for the entire world’s ecosystems! Yes, we have recently unleashed an invisible mutagenic ghost all around, and that sadly now can’t be found.

Don’t buy into these lies my friend!

Steve Aplin
11 years ago
Reply to  Lew Orban

Lew, you say “[c]ancer rates started to spike drastically after 1950 and or after the first Nuclear Trinity Bomb test was detonated.”

Let’s be clear that Trinity (1945), and every other test between it and 1950, were bomb tests. A power reactor is not a bomb.

Meanwhile, between 1960 and 1980, life expectancy in the OECD—where by far the most power reactors are—steadily INCREASED. See http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/22/36/47697608.pdf

Also, you say:

This supposed safety regime being touted by the Nuclear Industry is within a research parameter of less than what, lets say 60 years, and then can be stretched way back to more than a 100 years when these people started playing around actively with uranium in volume.

You mean we should evaluate health impacts over a 100-year timeframe? Well, since most humans die between the ages of 0 and 100, we could “prove” that pretty much anything — e.g. oxygen, vegetables, water, naturally radioactive bananas, etc. — is deadly.

Matthew McClure
11 years ago

“There is a pressing need to learn more about the health consequences of radiation in humans when exposures are spread over time at low levels and not received briefly at high doses such as in atomic bomb survivors.”

I wonder if Dr. Boice has read Radiation and Human Health by John W. Gofman, M.D., Ph.D.

The White House has a petition site. One petition is to end the use of nuclear energy in the United States. Please sign it. http://wh.gov/4HA

Another petition urges the government to end taxpayer subsidies for nuclear power – please sign it, too: http://wh.gov/gfN

[…] It is not too late to start. Steve Aplin at Canadian Energy Issues has made a contribution to the necessary sharing effort with his post titled Wondering why still no radiation casualties at Fukushima? A prominent radiation epidemiologist expla…. […]

11 years ago

When I get time I will post some links for you to read up on. Yes, I have noticed the life expectancy rates and yes I have also wondered if we are not simply energizing all biological cells and thus extending life through this background radioactive exposure process now going on all over the planet. This topic would take further research on my part. Wouldn’t it be great if we could all live for 300 years instead of the measly 80 or so years we get now. I am glad you are noticing such fascinating anomalies. The entire solar system however is constantly moving in a universal cycle and we do not know where that cycle will take us in the future. Its a big universe and our life span knowledge footprint is very tiny based on our solar system placement.

You may be aware of the recent scientific fascination with neutrinos and how Nuclear Power Planets are throwing these babies around inside our environment. Cern has made recent announcements that you might want to read up on and evaluate about the speed of certain particles. I find all this research to be very fascinating since these neutrinos apparently have mass yet can fly right through most matter. The interactions they create with matter are not fully understood at this time. Could our own Nuclear Power Plant created neutrinos be interacting with all biological cells or even lets say could they also be influencing the inner core operation of our planet? Simply based on recent reports and the volume of earthquakes now happening around our globe since we all entered this Nuclear age something appears to exciting things in the core. You might want to investigate the Expanding Earth Theory and the sun.

There are many ramifications to our current Nuclear ambitions and science direction and some say we may have inadvertently damaged our own Ozone protection layer via nuclear bomb detonations and or then through the release of krypton 85 via nuclear processing procedures now going on all over the planet. Yet, as man tries to discover the unknown and unlocks the secrets of what we already know is perfect, he may be opening many more cans of worms left better alone until he knows just what types of worms he is setting free. I think those scientists dumping those cans of worms might want to have the option of being able to put them all back, if they choose.

Einstein was aware of the mistake he made and that says a great deal for me. We can not rationalize anymore somewhere inside our heads that the current dangers posed by our current Nuclear Energy Industry practice are not real. These dangers posed are not only very real but they are now imminent and the entire world biological ecosystem is in jeopardy. We are creating a manmade radiation signature that is not natural and all of our created nuclear waste still sits in pools all over the surface of the planet or in the biosphere we live in.

This is not good science my friend. This is now simply a massive ecological disaster just waiting to happen.

Fukushima Japan is now enjoying the latest version of our newly manmade future.

How do they plan in Japan to put all those released radioactive contamination (worms) isotopes back into the dumped cans?

They can’t and they are all now living inside a literal nightmare.

They chose very unwisely to use and implement Nuclear Energy my friend.

James Greenidge
11 years ago

@Lew Orban
The movies got you, boy. They turned you but good. The mutants and gross cancer-skinned bogeymen of your fears and nightmares just aren’t out there in the real world, son, not even in the incompetence results of Chernobyl land. It runs against the anti-nuclears’ grain and wishes but it is so. Check it yourself — not though the dark lenses of anti-nuclear blogs. Using the anti-nuclear rational of how outrageously potent any trace of radioactivity is, then we all should’ve been cancer-laced two-headed corpses long ago. It is not so — anywhere. You grossly overestimate the effects of small radiation exposure and grossly underestimate the resilience of life — which is not as eggshell fragile as most environmentalists assert for were it so it would’ve gone extinct eons ago under far destructive forces than mere nuclear reactors. BTW, Einstein did not regret unveiling atomic energy, only its wartime application, and in either case we would’ve had it with or without his input. The only effective arrow the anti-nuclear crowd has to sway the unwashed and uneducated with is the word “if”, which sows any terror and doomsday you can dream. “If” is an easy emote-tugging cheap-shot to rally around. In seeking radiation victims I employ fact, not “if”. And the facts just don’t bear out your doomsday “ifs”. Moreover, when your frets of radioactivity even extends to natural radiation which has bathed all living things since the dawn of time, I feel sorry for your excessively irrational fear (unless you’re a troll). That anti-nuclears seem perfectly content to allow millions to die yearly of lung aliments attributable fossil fuel pollutants which we can actually measure (and sadly have to treat) just to assuage their jitters of the phantom menace of deadly radiation hiding behind every bush should be dismaying to you if not outright hypocritical if you truly believe in public health. I feel sorry for you because you are not being allowed to openly think and examine fact but embrace the darkest fates created by your own impeccable anti-nuclear philosophy — whether it was seeded by bad science education or bad B-movies or a anti-nuke love interest I don’t know, but that you won’t even consider reviewing the facts as the world gives us and rather bask the easy nightmares of “if”s is a sorry state to be. And no, I’m no shrill of the nuclear industry — nor would it matter if one if presenting Facts.

James Greenidge

Lew Orban
11 years ago

Love your style of writing and how did you know that I love Scifi? By your response I must have an expert giving me insights on all my deepest darkest fears. I love the way certain people come out of the woodwork embracing a brand new technology application that is less than 60 years old and since we have not all died from it’s application by now, we must all be perfectly safe and sound embracing such grandiose technology.

Common sense must rule the day inside your mental “Land of OZ” as we now have no clue what to do with all the contaminated radioactive waste sitting all over the surface of the planet. Yet we are all perfectly safe and quite sane now by just telling people to move along, nothing to see here and pay no mind to those explosions. We have nothing to hide. Maybe you would advise that we should all bathe in this contaminated waste as we have our nightly wet dreams thinking about mankind’s future full of wonderful mutants soon to be born. The mutants will surely save us from ourselves, no matter what damage we do to our own planet.

Since you are not aware of what radioactive decay rates concerning manmade radiation releases really mean, I will clue you in, they are accumulative inside our ecosystem. Coal, did you hear me mention coal? We happen to be talking about radiation contamination today and the negative effects it creates inside biological life forms.

This is not up for discussion and is already proven by the scientific masters of our known universe. I loved Star Trek too!

Why did you feel the need to chime in, since the premise of your entire argument was lost, as soon as you addressed this radiation topic. This is an argument you can’t win! Marie Curie died of radiation contamination exposure. What do you not understand about that statement?

Talk about people that are clueless?

Lew Orban
11 years ago

Sorry, it was James and not John.

Gee, the negative effects of this manmade “Nuclear Radiation Contamination” are already being felt by me and probably all the other down winders recently exposed and that are probably behaving somewhat mentally dazed in the Northern Hemisphere of our planet.

We can probably all give thanks for these subtle short term mental memory lapses some of us are experiencing, to that most recent “Nuclear Radiation Contamination” release and disaster still unfolding in Fukushima Japan.

Lets hope that none of Nuclear Plant cooling switches get turned off by accident and they double check everything they do. Well at least in the Northern Hemisphere.

Lew Orban
11 years ago

Here is a nice video that will let you in on a little of what is really going on with our current Nuclear Energy Technology. I guess it is close to a movie of sorts, like you were talking about, and I hope you really enjoy it!

If you have any questions please feel free to ask them. I will do my best to answer them for you.

Lew Orban
11 years ago

Here are a couple links for you to review about Krypton 85 and how it negatively effects our atmospheric systems, and as you read you will find the current primary sources of its real time creation. I actually knew much of this information a long time ago but others seem not to pay very close attention. Pointing fingers at a major culprit is often hard to do. One thing we can all agree on is that our worldwide weather patterns are very strange these days worldwide and or at least have grown much worse since 1945.
What is Krypton 85? They really think they know how much they are releasing into our atmosphere? No way! K-85 excites CFC’s.
Interesting: Accident after accident and then tons of noble gas releases into our environment followed by odd weather patterns.
New news: Notice how Krypton 85 is not mentioned inside some of these articles? Odd?
Old news

I thought we banned the bad CFC’s a long time ago and if there are less now inside our atmosphere, how are these ozone holes still growing along with a brand new one popping up in the Arctic?

Why so little discussion in the scientific journals about the direct effect of manmade krypton 85 exciting CFC’s or is it simply the
Krypton-85 instead? Cause and effect?

I will let you investigate this area further if you are interested my friend. I think we have a much bigger problem now than just tons of radiation contamination on the ground these days, as it appears this radioactivity problem is now everywhere and the Nuclear Boys want to build more and process more of this radioactive stuff?

Did you notice those wild energetic tornadoes and massive floods this year in the midwest? Seemed like allot of these events followed soon after the release of all forms of radiation contamination on March 11, 2011.

believe all these released radioactive isotopes are really considered another form of decaying energy.

Have fun!

John ONeill
11 years ago

Marie Curie spent years extracting radium, an intensely radioactive and extremely rare element, from pitchblende, it’s mildly radioactive precursor. Her level of exposure was not really comparable with living in the same hemisphere as Fukushima.

Walter Sobchak
11 years ago

“Why so little discussion in the scientific journals about the direct effect of manmade krypton 85 exciting CFC’s”

It is either because there is a vast conspiracy, or because the two gasses have nothing to do with each other. CFCs are compounds of carbon, chlorine, and fluorine. Chlorine and fluorine are halogens, that are in column 17 of the standard form of periodic table. They are highly reactive and combine with other elements with great avidity.

Krypton, OTOH, is a noble gas in column 18. Like all noble gases it is very nonreactive, although it can form an unstable compound with fluorine. At normal conditions at the Earth’s surface, Kr is a monatomic gas much heavier than air. Whatever mechanism sends CFCs into the upper atmosphere, would not move Kr because of its weight and nonreactivity.

The sum total of all Kr 85 produced by nuclear fission that is still present in the atmosphere is tiny in relation to the atmosphere which has a mass of about 5 quadrillion (5×10e15) tonnes. Further Kr’s isotopes are beta emitters, unlike radon 222 which is an alpha emitter, and far more dangerous when inhaled.

Lew Orban
11 years ago

I see your moderation protocol is in full swing and you wanted a little proof about the real dangers of radiation contamination by Nuclear Plant manmade sources. Well enjoy.

It simply amazes me how we can all live inside a world full of lies. The human, plant and biological gene mutations are now happening just like clock work in Fukushima Japan as I write this. Rampant cancer diagnosis will not be very far behind and this radiation contamination event “will negatively effect” the entire Northern Hemisphere and especially Canada.

Isn’t it time for mankind to face his deepest darkest fears and then deal with them like mature grownup adults?

Best we all prepare for the worst my friend, since I do not believe this latest contamination/pollution event will ever go away for mankind, just like Chernobyl hasn’t.

What was it exactly that Einstein stated was the definition of insanity?