Fukushima’s Uncertainty Problem

from fukushimaupdate.com: It’s been well over a year since multiple meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi plant in Japan sparked the worst nuclear crisis in 25 years — and it is remarkable how little we still know about its impact. I was reminded of this fact by a paper published yesterday that tries to put numbers on the health effects from the accident. The paper, by engineers John Ten Hoeve and Mark Jacobson of Stanford University in California, seems at first glance to be a thorough analysis, but the uncertainties surrounding the crisis mean that the work is unable to provide even an order-of-magnitude guess for the number of cancer deaths that will result from Fukushima. Anywhere from 15 to 1,100 people may die as a result of exposure to radioactivity released by the plant, it finds. Another 24 to 1,800 people may experience the debilitating effects of cancer, although they will not perish from the disease. To most people, there’s a big difference between 39 cancers and 2,900. Why can’t science do better? The problem is that these types of estimate depend on models and assumptions. In other words, it’s guesswork — of a very educated kind, but guesswork nevertheless.

Related: Getting ready for the Big One: Japan chooses disaster-alternative capital*
Fukushima contractor forced workers to fake radiation readings*
TEPCO to review Fukushima report amid contradictions*

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