By Debora Dupre | Examiner
During a recent symposium in Tokyo, nuclear engineer Arnie Gundersen predicted the Fukushima disaster will lead to at least four million cancer deaths, some of which is preventable if government would providehuman rights to health and safety in the form of information in best interest of the public.
“The problem is there are 130 million people (sic) in Japan,” Gundersen said on a recent visit to Tokyo. “A third of them will die from cancer in the next 30 years.”
Basing much of his Fukushima assessment on what he learned investigating as an expert witness America’s worst nuclear accident, the 1979 partial meltdown at the Three Mile Island plant in Pennsylvania. He said the official estimate of radioactive releases there was also much too low.
“You have to remember, we don’t know how much radiation was released. It’s guys like me who have to calculate it.” His assessment upped the official radiation figure for the accident by five times. “I’m dead sure that’s too low,” he says, adding that he believes the true figure could be 15 times higher than the industry estimate.
Disputing government and university reports about the Three Mile Island aftermath, Gundersen cites the work of Steve Wing, an epidemiologist who has tracked 10,000 extra deaths from lung cancer in the first six to seven years after that accident.
“The same gases (Xenon and Krypton) that caused those cancers leaked out of the containment vessel at the Daiichi (No. 1) plant,” he said. “Nobody is talking about it.” He also cites a recent reported study claiming that nearly 36 percent of children in Fukushima Prefecture have cysts or nodules on their thyroids as evidence of iodine contamination from the plant.
About 2 million people are still under permanent medical monitoring, quarter of a century after the Chernobyl disaster. ”Fairewinds Energy Education, the nonprofit organization that Gundersen runs with his wife Maggie and a team of volunteers, has become the go-to place for skeptics of the official nuclear line,” The Japan Times reported .
He says Fairwinds’ website (www.fairewinds.org) has had 8 million hits in the last year.
“People started sending us air filters from cars in Tokyo and Fukushima Prefecture,” Gundersen said. “We now have five or six dozen. A car normally uses the same amount of air as a person, so this is what is inside people’s lungs.”
Filters from Fukushima had so much cesium radiation they “turned X-ray film completely white in five days,” he says. ”We used a spinning microscope to look at the size (of the cesium particles), and they’re in the order of two microns, which means that they float. Once they get into lungs they settle.”
Fairewinds is now asking ordinary Japanese householders to send vacuum-cleaner bags, to sample house dust.
“We’ve found one that’s 120 km from the site and it’s 100,000 becquerels per kilogram. That’s the highest, but we’ve found many samples in the 20,000 to 30,000 becquerel range. In Japan, people sleep on the floor, so the internal exposure is significant. But the Japanese government and the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) are not looking at this at all.”
Safecast is another nonprofit group that is checking and publicizing radiation (blog.safecast.org) since the Fukushima catastrophe. ”There is a lot of data out there. The government should take that data and back-calculate what came out of the plant. Nobody is doing that yet. They’re making assumptions about what happened.
Gundersen said that whatever the predicted number of deaths from Fukushima is, he thinks it can be reduced by 30 percent if people were given a chance with appropriate information.
“There are simple public health things than can be done,” Gundersen said. ”If you talked about indoor care and high-efficiency filters on vacuum cleaners, wet dusting, not dry dusting, to keep down particles, that would help. If I were the Japanese government, I’d be telling people to do that.”
Learn more: Are you suffering from radiation poisoning? See “8 main radiation sickness signs.”