Citizen science usually isn’t this personal. In 2011, roughly 65,000 Japanese citizens living near the crippled Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant started measuring their own radiation exposure in the wake of the Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami. That’s because no one, not even experts, knew how accurate the traditional method of estimating dosage—taking readings from aircraft hundreds of meters above the ground—really was. Now, in a first-of-its-kind study, scientists analyzing the thousands of citizen readings have come to a surprising conclusion: The airborne observations in this region of Japan overestimated the true radiation level by a factor of four.
The purpose of this post is to relate findings published (open access) in the peer-reviewed journal PLOSOne by Akiyama and colleagues who investigated internal radiocesium contamination in residents living south of the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant. This post is the most recent in a series dedicated to sharing the results of scientific research into the impact of the nuclear power plant disaster on ecosystem and public health. The Akiyama study builds on recent work by this group using a whole body counter (WBC) to look for internal contamination of residents living near (north and west) the reactors at the time of the meltdowns. Measurements were made on 9,206 affected individuals, including 6,446 school children (4-15 years) living south of the reactors or evacuated to Iwaki city following the bulk of radionuclide releases. Measurements began one year after the accident and continued for two years. The authors conclude that, despite lack of data for the first year following the disaster, internal doses experienced by residents to the south of the FNPP were minimal. This suggests that efforts to mitigate foodborne exposure have been largely successful and that nearly all the annual effective doses for this segment of the population more than one year after the disaster are likely due to external exposure. Continue reading Residents Living South of the Fukushima Dai-ichi Have Minimal Internal Radiation Exposure