Radiological protection issues arising during and after the Fukushima nuclear reactor accident

Argentine Nuclear Regulatory Authority, Av. del Libertador 8520, (1429) Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Journal of Radiological Protection (Impact Factor: 1.7). 06/2013; 33(3):497-571. DOI: 10.1088/0952-4746/33/3/497
Source: PubMed


Following the Fukushima accident, the International Commission on Radiological Protection (ICRP) convened a task group to compile lessons learned from the nuclear reactor accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan, with respect to the ICRP system of radiological protection. In this memorandum the members of the task group express their personal views on issues arising during and after the accident, without explicit endorsement of or approval by the ICRP.While the affected people were largely protected against radiation exposure and no one incurred a lethal dose of radiation (or a dose sufficiently large to cause radiation sickness), many radiological protection questions were raised. The following issues were identified: inferring radiation risks (and the misunderstanding of nominal risk coefficients); attributing radiation effects from low dose exposures; quantifying radiation exposure; assessing the importance of internal exposures; managing emergency crises; protecting rescuers and volunteers; responding with medical aid; justifying necessary but disruptive protective actions; transiting from an emergency to an existing situation; rehabilitating evacuated areas; restricting individual doses of members of the public; caring for infants and children; categorising public exposures due to an accident; considering pregnant women and their foetuses and embryos; monitoring public protection; dealing with 'contamination' of territories, rubble and residues and consumer products; recognising the importance of psychological consequences; and fostering the sharing of information.Relevant ICRP Recommendations were scrutinised, lessons were collected and suggestions were compiled.It was concluded that the radiological protection community has an ethical duty to learn from the lessons of Fukushima and resolve any identified challenges. Before another large accident occurs, it should be ensured that inter alia: radiation risk coefficients of potential health effects are properly interpreted; the limitations of epidemiological studies for attributing radiation effects following low exposures are understood; any confusion on protection quantities and units is resolved; the potential hazard from the intake of radionuclides into the body is elucidated; rescuers and volunteers are protected with an ad hoc system; clear recommendations on crisis management and medical care and on recovery and rehabilitation are available; recommendations on public protection levels (including infant, children and pregnant women and their expected offspring) and associated issues are consistent and understandable; updated recommendations on public monitoring policy are available; acceptable (or tolerable) 'contamination' levels are clearly stated and defined; strategies for mitigating the serious psychological consequences arising from radiological accidents are sought; and, last but not least, failures in fostering information sharing on radiological protection policy after an accident need to be addressed with recommendations to minimise such lapses in communication.

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    • "memorandum of the ICRP (International Commission on Radiological Protection) Task Group (Gonzalez et al. 2013) states that: "
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    ABSTRACT: The linear no-threshold (LNT) model of ionizing-radiation-induced cancer is based on the assumption that every radiation dose increment constitutes increased cancer risk for humans. The risk is hypothesized to increase linearly as the total dose increases. While this model is the basis for radiation safety regulations, its scientific validity has been questioned and debated for many decades. The recent memorandum of the International Commission on Radiological Protection admits that the LNT-model predictions at low doses are "speculative, unproven, undetectable and 'phantom'." Moreover, numerous experimental, ecological, and epidemiological studies show that low doses of sparsely-ionizing or sparsely-ionizing plus highly-ionizing radiation may be beneficial to human health (hormesis/adaptive response). The present LNT-model-based regulations impose excessive costs on the society. For example, the median-cost medical program is 5000 times more cost-efficient in saving lives than controlling radiation emissions. There are also lives lost: e.g., following Fukushima accident, more than 1000 disaster-related yet non-radiogenic premature deaths were officially registered among the population evacuated due to radiation concerns. Additional negative impacts of LNT-model-inspired radiophobia include: refusal of some patients to undergo potentially life-saving medical imaging; discouragement of the study of low-dose radiation therapies; motivation for radiological terrorism and promotion of nuclear proliferation.
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    • "The possibility of exposure of a large number of people to radiation following a nuclear incident has raised the public's concerns about the increases in the chances of developing cancers (Knebel et al 2011). Further, the earthquake/tsunami off the coast of Japan in March 2011 renewed attention to the debate on radiation-induced health risks from nuclear power industry mishaps and other accidental releases of radioactivity into the environment (Boice 2012, González et al 2013, Normile 2011). The primary defences against such mishaps are prevention, sheltering in place with delayed evacuation, and restricting the consumption of contaminated foodstuffs. "
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    • "There is scientific consensus that no positive evidence is present for any adverse health effect of low doses of ionizing radiation—doses relevant to medical scanning or air travel, as stated, e.g., by the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation [2010]. Furthermore, the recent memorandum [Gonzalez et al., 2013] of a Task Group of International Commission on Radiological Protection, one of the main bodies promoting the LNT model, states the following: While prudent for radiological protection, the LNT model is not universally accepted as biological truth, and its influence and inappropriate use to attribute health effects to low dose exposure situations is often ignored… Speculative, unproven, undetectable and 'phantom' numbers are obtained by multiplying the nominal risk coefficients by an estimate of the collective dose received by a huge number of individuals theoretically incurring very tiny doses that are hypothesized from radioactive substances released into the environment. (Italics here are by the authors of the Comment). "
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    ABSTRACT: The comment is about the general context, namely concerns regarding exposure hazards due to ionizing radiation during air travel. Implicitly, the authors assume what is called linear no-threshold (LNT) model of radiation-induced negative health effects. With the LNT model, it is assumed that each ionizing radiation dose increment, no matter how small, constitutes an increase in the cancer risk to humans. However, the scientific validity of this model has never been proven and has been seriously questioned and debated for many decades. Particularly regarding air travel, epidemiological studies of flight crew have failed to show a consistent increase in cancer risk. On the opposite side of the debate, numerous studies (experimental, epidemiological, and ecological) have shown that low doses of ionizing radiation can be beneficial to health. The above considerations are totally ignored by the referenced article, which, unfortunately, implicitly promotes radiophobia - an irrational fear of radiation hazards. We strongly recommend that papers dealing - though implicitly - with low-dose-radiation health risks, would contain critical scientific review of these risks.
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