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Fukushima - Local Children Unwitting (and Unwilling) Radioactive Guinea Pigs

By John Daly | Tue, 24 July 2012 23:22 | 6

Seventeen months after the earthquake and tsunami that destroyed the Tokyo Electric Power Company’s six–reactor complex at its Fukushima Daiichi, discussions continue about the possible effects of the radiation “dusting” the prefecture’s inhabitants received, and their consequences.

Far outside most media coverage, 2012 is shaping up to be the media battleground between the massed proponents of the ongoing ‘safety’ of nuclear power, as opposed to a motley coalition of environmentalists, renegade nuclear scientists and anti-nuclear opponents, largely bereft of media contact.

The 11 March 2011 earthquake and tsunami double punch that effectively destroyed Tokyo Electric Power Company’s power plant complex has effectively become the newest “ground zero” in the debate over nuclear power. Advocates pro and con debate the implications of everything from the amount of damage to the release of radionuclides to the long term health effects on the Japanese population.

The stakes are high – quite aside from Japan’s multi-billion dollar investment in civilian nuclear energy, dating back to the 1960s, there remains the issues of Fukushima’s radioactive debris polluting neighbours.

All sides in the debate are playing for massive stakes, with the Japanese government and the nuclear industry broadly indicating the issue is under control. Accordingly, every issue from the amount of radiation released to the long term health consequences of the Fukushima disaster are subject to acrimonious debate.

That said, there is an involuntary irradiated “test” Fukushima group monitored since March 2011 displaying disturbing health abnormalities that may ultimately decide the debate, should the global media report it, forcing governments to debate its consequences.

The children of Fukushima.

The issue of nuclear radiation on human health cites besides Fukushima the August 1945 U.S nuclear bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the April 1986 explosion of the Chernobyl reactor complex in Ukraine, but in reality, there are no comparisons to evaluate Fukushima.

The 1945 U.S. Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings were weapon “air bursts,” raising no nuclear debris from the ground. Furthermore, the Japanese medical establishment had no experience with the problem and when U.S. military forces arrived over a month later, information about the human cost of the bombings was censored for decades. Showing pictures of destroyed buildings, okay – showing victims with kimono patterns seared into their skin, no.

As for Chernobyl, the 26 April 1986 catastrophe represented a major black eye for Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev’s “glasnost” policy. Thanks to the heroic efforts of Soviet emergency workers, the Chernobyl smoking nuclear roman candle burned for nine days before being extinguished.

In contrast, Fukushima Daiichi has been like a suppurating wound, leaching radionuclides into the environment since March 2011, and since then furious arguments have swirled about not only how much radiation Fukushima released, but the potential long term health consequences.

But both disputes ultimately devolve into pure speculation.

Only two months ago TEPCO stated that the Fukushima debacle may have released twice as much radioactivity than Japan’s government initially estimated.

Accordingly, how can anyone estimate long term health effects when actual exposure rates are unknown?

That said, scientists do have a well defined test group – the population of Fukushima Prefecture surrounding the stricken NPP.

And the sixth report of the Fukushima Prefecture Health Management Survey, which was released in April, revealed after the survey examined 38,114 local children that 36 percent of Fukushima children have abnormal thyroid growths.

The Fukushima Prefecture Health Management Survey revealed that 13,460 children, or 35.3 percent, had thyroid cysts or nodules up to 0.197 inches long growing on their thyroids and 0.5 percent of the children had growths larger than 0.197 inches.

So, why might this be significant? According to the American Thyroid Association (ATA), thyroid problems from nuclear events occur when radioactive iodine is leaked into the atmosphere and thyroid cells that absorb too much of this radioactive iodine may become cancerous, with children being particularly susceptible.

Furthermore, the ATA reports noted that thyroid cancer "seems to be the only cancer whose incidence rises after a radioactive iodine release" and that that babies and children are at highest risk. The estimated lifetime radiation doses among the children are still low, but they do exist, the Japan’s National Institute of Radiological Sciences stated at a10 July international symposium in Chiba Prefecture.

Who cares about such an arcane issue? Well, the National Institute of Radiological Sciences conclusions refute the government’s assertion that Japanese children in effect received zero thyroid radiation doses from Fukushima.

Re Fukushima children’s health, the news just gets better. Two months ago Tokyo Shinbum reported that 60 percent of Fukushima children under 12 have tested positive for diabetes, according to Dr. Miura, the director of Iwase’s general hospital.

Why, possibly?

Because the Strontium-90 radioactive isotope quickly decays to become Yttrium-90, which can concentrate in the pancreas, causing pancreatic cancer or diabetes. That said, while noting the abnormality, Dr. Miura declined to link it to Fukushima radiation exposure.

So, where does the Japanese government go from here?

It might do worse than to follow the advice of Australian pediatrician Dr. Helen Caldicott, who after observing that "It is extremely rare to find cysts and thyroid nodules in children," added that "you would not expect abnormalities to appear so early - within the first year or so - therefore one can assume that they must have received a high dose of (radiation)" before concluding, "it is impossible to know, from what (Japanese officials) are saying, what these lesions are."

Calidcott also noted that Japanese officials are not sharing the ultrasound results with foremost experts of thyroid nodules in children before noting, "The data should be made available. And they should be consulting with international experts ASAP. And the lesions on the ultrasounds should all be biopsied and they're not being biopsied. And if they're not being biopsied then that's ultimate medical irresponsibility. Because if some of these children have cancer and they're not treated they're going to die."

Nothing to see here, move along – unless your child is part of that 35.3 percentile.

Still, something for Westerners to think about the next time their government promotes building a nuclear power plant nearby - or if you live close to an existing one.

By. John C.K. Daly of Oilprice.com

Leave a comment

  • Ben on July 25 2012 said:
    Jesus Christ. Irresponsible doesn't begin to describe the Japanese government's behavior.
  • Mel Tisdale on July 26 2012 said:
    If the Fukushima reactors had been liquid fluoride thorium reactors (LFTR), then they would have quietly shut themselves down automatically i.e. without any human input whatsoever. There would not have been any high pressure cooling system to manage while being inundated and no massive collection of hydrogen to explode at the first hint of a spark. In short, Fukushima would have been a nuclear non-event and this article would not have been written.

    LFTR is a technology that was proven over fifty years ago and only dropped because it cannot be safely used to make nuclear weapons, which was a key requirement during the cold war (and a damn good thing today). If any country wants nuclear energy, including Iran, then wouldn’t it be nice to be able to call their bluff by imposing LFTR technology on them. If they were to still enrich uranium, it would not matter what they said, it could legitimately be assumed that they had a nuclear weapons programme).

    Anyone interested in securing future energy supply and would like a primer on the subject might like to view a video on YouTube: LFTR in 5 Minutes - THORIUM REMIX 2011. (Despite the title, the ‘five minutes’ only sets up the remainder of the full length video.) Failing that, search for Kirk Sorensen, who is a leading expert in the subject (and uses language that is actually highly comprehensible).

    The problem is that the very mention of ‘radiation’ causes a whole bunch of ‘greens’ to wet their knickers in anger and antagonism without any further investigation. Even the intelligent ones are blinded to rational thought on the matter. They support subsidies on wind farms and solar energy because “they are new technologies that need support to develop”, but will not support development of thorium (LFTR) reactors because “it is a new technology that needs support to develop!”

    Currently there is a lot of excitement surrounding natural gas extraction by means of fracking. Also currently, the scientific community is becoming more and more confident that we stand no chance of reducing global warming to the politically acceptable limit of 2 degrees C, which is really far too high for safety’s sake anyway. There will come a time when the public wakes up to the fact that their children and grandchildren, and probably even they themselves are in for a pretty dire time of it. (What value being able to ‘keep the lights on’ if the larder is bare?) When that time comes, and it cannot be too far off if the events of this summer are anything to go by, even natural gas, which is a highly potent greenhouse gas, and when burnt still produces CO2, another greenhouse gas, will lose its appeal. If we move to thorium reactors A.S.A.P., then we might, just might, get the upper hand over global warming and thus 'keep the lights on' and also have a reasonable food supply. Time is not on our side.

    The ‘greens’ do none of us any favours by having such a blanket dislike of all things nuclear and it is about time they acted more responsibly. Even the writer of this article lumps all nuclear reactors into the same basket.
  • Zak Red Ridge on July 26 2012 said:
    Children being sacrificed and for what? A power supply of clouded merit being extended by people with dubious motives. God help the Japanese children and people, indeed God help all of us!
  • G.R.L. Cowan on July 27 2012 said:
    Nuclear power has never harmed a child in Japan, nor elsewhere in the OECD. It has, however, deprived governments and fossil fuel vendors of one to two trillion dollars in oil and gas revenue.

    The thyroid nodule thing is of course a lie. Nor is there any uncertainty over what the radiation dose rates near FD1 have been; they have amounted to, at most, a few CT scans' equivalent, except received over months rather than in a fractional-second zap. How much had to be released, to produce those exposures, is uncertain.
  • K.Periasamy on July 28 2012 said:
    Can the author provide the English version of the Sixth Report based on which this article has been written ?

    Then only we can comment on this article.

    It is quite unlikely that the Thyroid cyst will develop so early.
  • Ben Heard on July 31 2012 said:
    There is just so much in this article that is unsaid.

    The reason this story has any play at all is that earlier (2001) studies in Nagasaki children found thyroid nodules at a rate of only about 1%.

    Here is the study. http://1am.sakura.ne.jp/Nuclear/kou131attach2.pdf

    So 36% in Fukushima... wow, that's bad, right? Let's see. Quoting this article:

    "The Fukushima Prefecture Health Management Survey revealed that 13,460 children, or 35.3 percent, had thyroid cysts or nodules up to 0.197 inches long growing on their thyroids and 0.5 percent of the children had growths larger than 0.197 inches".

    You may be interested to know that 0.197 inches = 5.0 mm.

    You may be interested to know this too: The Nagasaki study ONLY recorded a positive finding for thyroid nodules GREATER than 5.0 mm.

    From which we can infer several things.

    Firstly, thyroid nodules of less than 5.0 mm are more than likely entirely normal, which is why they were excluded from the Nagasaki study.

    Secondly, these two groups of children are, at present, almost exactly the same for nodules of greater than 5.0 mm.

    Thirdly, we DO in fact know that the dose it too small and the time frame too short to see thyroid cancer development

    Fourthly, more subjectively, this article is total scaremongering bollocks that deliberately obscures essential context by someone who writes for a site whose "analysis focuses on Oil and Gas". Oil and gas imports to Japan have skyrocketed with the shuttering of the nuclear plants.

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