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Around 2,000 Fukushima Workers At Risk of Thyroid Cancer

Soulskill posted about 9 months ago | from the percentage-points dept.

Japan 124

mdsolar writes "Around 2,000 people who have worked at Japan's wrecked Fukushima nuclear plant face a heightened risk of thyroid cancer, its operator said Friday. Tokyo Electric Power (TEPCO) said 1,973 people — around 10 percent of those employed in emergency crews involved in the clean-up since the meltdowns — were believed to have been exposed to enough radiation to cause potential problems. The figure is a 10-fold increase on TEPCO's previous estimate of the number of possible thyroid cancer victims and comes after the utility was told its figures were too conservative. Each worker in this group was exposed to at least 100 millisieverts of radiation, projections show."

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124 comments

Not surprised. (1)

noh8rz8 (2716593) | about 9 months ago | (#44337171)

I saw it on the news and they said thre were severts everywhere. Not surprised siome people picked it up.

Nuclear power is perfectly safe (0)

rsilvergun (571051) | about 9 months ago | (#44337193)

If you keep profit out of the equation. But with 30 year life cycles I don't know how to do that. Sooner or later someone is going to clamor to privatize it and make it more 'efficient'. And if the plant owner doesn't live anywhere near the potential disaster, and there are no consequences for him whatsoever, why wouldn't he just cut corners? Anyone have any ideas?

Re:Nuclear power is perfectly safe (4, Insightful)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about 9 months ago | (#44337221)

If you keep profit out of the equation. But with 30 year life cycles I don't know how to do that. Sooner or later someone is going to clamor to privatize it and make it more 'efficient'.

Chernobyl was not privately owned.

Re:Nuclear power is perfectly safe (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44337333)

You don't understand what communism was like if you make that statement.

Communism, in theory was about a sort of democracy where everyone was equal. The applied one, was where everyone was equal, but the leader and another handful were more equal than the rest. Everything done, was done for them.

In today's democracy, if you put corporations in charge, you still have thousands and thousands of their people that own everything. It's a matter of perspective, but you can't really understand it well enough, unless you've lived a little of both.

Comparing Chernobyl with a theoretically private owned nuclear plant, is easier if you consider that profit is the the goal of the owners, not the workers. The workers goal, is pleasing the leadership.

I'm getting off track, but we'll never have good leadership. Ever. Humans make mistakes or become corrupt, AI's, human creations will have the same flaws, we're doomed to repeat this pattern over and over and over.

Re:Nuclear power is perfectly safe (1)

kthreadd (1558445) | about 9 months ago | (#44337335)

You think it would have gone better if it was?

Re:Nuclear power is perfectly safe (2)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about 9 months ago | (#44337459)

You think it would have gone better if it was?

Yes. The main problem with Chernobyl was not the accident itself, but the design. It had no containment vessel. No government has ever allowed a private company to build a nuke plant so obviously defective. People in both government and industry are the same, and equally likely to be selfish, greedy and incompetent. The difference is that capitalists are accountable, to both regulators and shareholders. The government is accountable to no one.

Fukushima was run by capitalists, and it failed partly due to incompetence and greed, but also because of one of the largest earthquakes ever recorded.

Chernobyl was run by socialists. It failed entirely due to incompetence and greed, on a sunny and calm Ukrainian day.

The GPP's claim that socialism is some sort of silver bullet for nuclear safety is absurd.

Re:Nuclear power is perfectly safe (4, Informative)

fnj (64210) | about 9 months ago | (#44337871)

Yes. The main problem with Chernobyl was not the accident itself, but the design. It had no containment vessel.

And it had a positive void coefficient. And instability at low power levels. And a flammable graphite moderator. And the tips of the control rods were made of graphite which actually INCREASED reactor power when they started to enter the reactor. And the reactor building roof was covered with flammable bitumen (counter to regulations). The totality of the dreadfulness of the design is almost impossible to comprehend. Even so it is exceeded by the stupidity of the experiment undertaken by the operators which ended in the catastrophe.

There are still 10 operating RBMK reactors of this awful type in Russia.

The main problem with Chernobyl (1)

rsilvergun (571051) | about 9 months ago | (#44338677)

was a bunch of dumb asses who didn't know what they were doing were left in charge of a nuclear power plant. It's pretty well documented that the accident was caused by an unsafe and unnecessary experiment by junior staff. It has nothing to do with socialism or capitalism. Just good 'ole fashion human arrogance and stupidity.

Re:Nuclear power is perfectly safe (1)

khallow (566160) | about 9 months ago | (#44339085)

Fukushima was run by capitalists, and it failed partly due to incompetence and greed

Where's the evidence? What failure of Fukushima can be attributed to incompetence and greed?

Re:Nuclear power is perfectly safe (1)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about 9 months ago | (#44339471)

Fukushima was run by capitalists, and it failed partly due to incompetence and greed

Where's the evidence? What failure of Fukushima can be attributed to incompetence and greed?

The failure to strengthen and raise the height of the seawall. It was well known that the seawall was insufficient to contain a tsunami of known historical magnitude. The coast of northern Honshu is hit by big tsunamis about every 300 years, and was "due". They didn't fix the wall in order to save money, and just hoped they would get lucky.

Re:Nuclear power is perfectly safe (2)

khallow (566160) | about 9 months ago | (#44339751)

It was well known that the seawall was insufficient to contain a tsunami of known historical magnitude.

There's no evidence for this assertion, particularly at the time the plant was designed and built, Instead, the first time that TEPCO seems to have considered this was back in 2008.

They didn't fix the wall in order to save money, and just hoped they would get lucky.

Which incidentally is a good strategy for a nuclear plant that was scheduled for decommissioning starting the very month that the earthquake happened!

Re:Nuclear power is perfectly safe (3, Insightful)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about 9 months ago | (#44337341)

What it boils down to is that human nature is the problem. We see it again and again in every area. Aircraft safety is a perfect example - extremely safe but somehow human beings still manage to screw it up from time to time.

Unless you plan to staff the plant with angels and fuel it with unicorn farts it's never going to be 100% safe.

Re:Nuclear power is perfectly safe (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44337511)

unicorn farts known to the state of california to cause cancer.

Re:Nuclear power is perfectly safe (1)

davester666 (731373) | about 9 months ago | (#44337711)

I will be able to provide you with an unlimited number of unicorn farts for a reasonable fee. You will need to source the angels from someone else.

Re:Nuclear power is perfectly safe (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44337419)

but the lies were equally ambigious.

Re:Nuclear power is perfectly safe (1)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about 9 months ago | (#44337609)

but the lies were equally ambigious.

Absolute hogwash. TEPCO has slanted the facts, and issued incomplete and inaccurate information. But to compare that to the behavior of the Soviet Union in the aftermath of Chernobyl is ridiculous. The Soviet Union issued NO information for days after the accident. Even immediately adjacent towns were left uninformed, and the denials continued as people showed up at hospitals with rashes and vomiting from radiation sickness. They allowed thousands of their own people to be exposed needlessly. They didn't admit to anything until after it was widely reported in the West, which learned about the accident from radiation blown across international borders, and confirmed it with satellite photos. Even then the Soviets tried to minimize and cover up the story for months afterwards.

Re:Nuclear power is perfectly safe (2)

dunkelfalke (91624) | about 9 months ago | (#44338177)

Well, when the West German THTR-300 had an problem (a thorium reactor, by the way, since there are a lot of thorium reactor fans around here) and released a lot of radioactive dust into environment, the private operator denied everything and blamed the fallout from the Chernobyl accident a few weeks earlier for the readings. Only after a Protactinium isotope was found, the operator was forced to admit the release of radioactivity. So much for private industry. If they try to cover up minor incidents, I won't trust them with anything major.

Re:Nuclear power is perfectly safe (2)

PopeRatzo (965947) | about 9 months ago | (#44337771)

Chernobyl was not privately owned.

Three-mile Island was.

So what's your point? The profit motive is just one more weak point in an already hard-to-contain form of energy. Keeping nuclear energy away from private ownership doesn't guarantee there will never be an accident, it just makes accidents due to insufficient compliance with safety regulations less likely.

Anyway, the only reason private industry wants to own nuke plants is because they are protected from serious liability and external costs by the government. Instead of letting private industry own the plants, let them be owned publicly and contract with private industry to run them, albeit with a very heavy boot on their neck and full liability. Taking care of the 2000 possible thyroid cancer cases, and their families, is not cheap. Instead of having to play games with these peoples' lives and end up with government having to pay for them anyway, let's just skip the charade of private ownership for such plants entirely.

Re:Nuclear power is perfectly safe (1)

ShanghaiBill (739463) | about 9 months ago | (#44338093)

Keeping nuclear energy away from private ownership doesn't guarantee there will never be an accident, it just makes accidents due to insufficient compliance with safety regulations less likely.

Nonsense. Under government ownership, the people making the regulations and the people complying with them are the SAME PEOPLE, or at least answer to the same people. This guarantees a conflict of interest, and a lack of accountability. Government owned and run nukes have a far worse safety record than privately run nukes.

Re:Nuclear power is perfectly safe (0)

girlintraining (1395911) | about 9 months ago | (#44338117)

Three-mile Island was.

Three Mile Island resulted in no major ecological or radiological disaster... the plant was simply rendered inoperable... and expensive mess, but if that's the worst that can happen in a 'nuclear disaster' with modern equipment... I'm satisfied it is safe.

And yes, there was some release of radioactive steam (oh noes!) but over the course of a year, a coal base load plant releases many times that amount of radiation... and nobody says anything.

Re:Nuclear power is perfectly safe (1)

PopeRatzo (965947) | about 9 months ago | (#44339263)

And yes, there was some release of radioactive steam (oh noes!)

Would you say "(oh noes!)" to the families of the 2000 Fukishima workers who are now at risk for thyroid cancer? Do you think those workers were maybe exposed to more radiation than a "coal base load plant"?

And is a comparison to a coal plant really a recommendation?

Re:Nuclear power is perfectly safe (3, Informative)

girlintraining (1395911) | about 9 months ago | (#44340171)

Would you say "(oh noes!)" to the families of the 2000 Fukishima workers who are now at risk for thyroid cancer? Do you think those workers were maybe exposed to more radiation than a "coal base load plant"?

They were at risk before. So are you. Everyone has a non-zero risk for everything. Quantum mechanics demands that there is, in fact, a vanishingly small probability that you will turn into a jelly doughnut while reading this. Now let's talk actual risk. The quoted figure is 100 millisieverts. That is the lowest figure for which there is a predicted increase in cancer rates. Below that level, we can't plausibly say that there even is a risk. 20 mSv a year is the current international limit for nuclear plant workers.

So what they're saying is, before the risk was so low, it wasn't worth mentioning. Now the risk is so low, that it's equal to having worked in the plant for five years.

And is a comparison to a coal plant really a recommendation?

No, it's a recommendation that you stop going "oh noes! radiation! it must be bad because all the newspapers put it in big scary red letters!" Well, I can drown you with just a glass of water, but nobody considers that particularly dangerous; And it's the same with radiation. Everything is radioactive. Bananas are radioactive especially. Most radioactive food you can eat, in fact. Nobody is running around going "oh fuck! the bananas are going to kill us all." Perspective man, that's what you're lacking here.

Re:Nuclear power is perfectly safe (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44337911)

I ask you to consider the idea of the Soviet Union as simply one huge bureaucratic corporation.

Re:Nuclear power is perfectly safe (1)

khallow (566160) | about 9 months ago | (#44339113)

Well, if you're going to play that semantics game, then let us note that the worst, most tyrannical, bloodthirsty corporations just happened to be of the form labeled "government".

Re:Nuclear power is perfectly safe (2, Funny)

CajunArson (465943) | about 9 months ago | (#44337271)

Oh yeah! As long as there is absolutely no chance of making a profit I'm sure safety will shoot right through the roof!

  Just look at the death toll from Three Mile Island! Do you know that since the accident THOUSANDS of people in Pennsylvania have died from cancer! It's a crime!

Now look at Chernobyl where Progressive Soviet Idealism has shown the light that will conquer the corrupt imperialist western scum! Did you know that the death toll from cancer in Pripyat has been ZERO for over twenty years! This shows the superiority of the Soviet system over the profit-seeking scum who intentionally caused Three Mile Island and Fukushima because they made insane fortunes from nuclear accidents! Dear Leader Kim Jong Un will soon deliver us to a new world where there are no profits of any kind except to his ruling elite! Join us or die!

Re:Nuclear power is perfectly safe (1)

epyT-R (613989) | about 9 months ago | (#44339619)

Chernobyl is a litany of shortcuts, coverups, and bad technology (huge, positive void, graphite moderated cauldrons = blatant stupidity), and it was all publicly funded, from the reactor design work in the 50s, to the construction of the plant in the late 70s/mid 80s. The fact they named it the 'V.I Lenin' NPP is a fitting ironic epitaph because the issue was his politics.. Defending the ideology became more important than the laws of physics. This leads to the same kinds of shortcuts taken for profit motive in a private ownership scenario.

The people who run the reactor should not be financially motivated to cut corners, period, no matter who owns it, be it the public via a corrupt state, or a private profit seeking entity. This is the old, intractable 'who watches the watchers' problem.

That said, we need to do something because nuclear is the only energy dense power source we have that doesn't involve greenhouse gas release. If those hippies want their electric cars, we need nuclear to charge their batteries.

Iodine tablets? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44337195)

I'm in Quebec, a corrupt backwater third-world banana republic, but even we managed to distribute iodine tablets to citizens around our only working nuclear reactor.

Re:Iodine tablets? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44337573)

Oh yes, proper levels of iodine BEFORE exposure will prevent radioactive iodine from contaminiating the thyroid. I'm not sure how effective it may be after exposure. Sauna therapy might help in this case. You sweat out the bad radioactive minerals and replace them with uncontaminated minerals (assuming that there is more than just radioactive iodine; I'm not a nuclear expert so I'm unsure on this point). You might have to be careful with your towels and the sauna itself due to contamination. Very tricky. One poisoning expert recommends IODORAL.

Pre-exposure iodine supplementaion theory has been around for a long time. I'd hate to be the guy to test the theory.

Re:Iodine tablets? (1)

hcs_$reboot (1536101) | about 9 months ago | (#44337661)

Iodine tablet is not like paracetamol, you take some _only_ if you really need it. Especially for people above 40 yo, who are usually advised not to take the pills.

Re:Iodine tablets? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44339421)

In general, as you age you need more supplementation. Individual deficiencies are verified with an RBC, Red Blood Cell, elements test. A more comprehensive test, the ION (Individually Optimised Nutrition) panel also measures other nutritional factors. Metametrix Labs among others offer them. Ask your doctor about this.

This info comes straight from JAMA.

Herpaderp derp (3, Insightful)

girlintraining (1395911) | about 9 months ago | (#44337225)

were believed to have been exposed to enough radiation to cause potential problems. The figure is a 10-fold increase on TEPCO's previous estimate

Well, yeah. The original estimates were made during a crisis situation and based on limited data. Let's all act shocked now that more comprehensive data is available and the estimate has been revised by an order of magnitude. And yet people act shocked when they take their car into the mechanic for a "strange noise" and demand a quote on the spot, then get irritated when the number goes up because "strange noise" turned out to be something more serious than a loose fitting.

Sigh. This isn't exactly news. We knew that as time went on and more eyeballs were put on Fukushima we were going to find more problems, and more accurate data. That's nothing more than the result of an application of scientific process... it's been doing the same thing the world over for thousands of years.

Re:Herpaderp derp (4, Insightful)

bsolar (1176767) | about 9 months ago | (#44337317)

Well, yeah. The original estimates were made during a crisis situation and based on limited data. Let's all act shocked now that more comprehensive data is available and the estimate has been revised by an order of magnitude.

That's not correct. The estimates the article talks about were made in December 2012 and submitted to the World Health Organization, so well after the crisis. The objections came from Japan's Health Ministry which was concerned that the estimates looked far too conservative. From the article:

TEPCO reported to the World Health Organization in December that only 178 workers at the plant were believed to have received radiation doses to their thyroid glands above 100 millisieverts.

Japan's health ministry voiced concern that the criteria the company used in its estimates of exposure for its own workers as well as for those employed by contractors were too narrow, and called on the utility to re-evaluate its methods.

There were also errors in calculations and differences of interpretation.

TL;DR: the problem was not limited data but wrong methodology.

Re:Herpaderp derp (1, Insightful)

girlintraining (1395911) | about 9 months ago | (#44337423)

TL;DR: the problem was not limited data but wrong methodology.

Okay... which again, is the scientific process at work. Hello peer review. But I still don't see how this is news -- it doesn't change what will happen to the workers, or the care they're receiving, or affect the clean up, or any other aspect of the disaster or after-action activities. The only newsworthy comment is that TEPCO management is obviously incompetent -- in much the same way engineers at NASA repeatedly warned management about the risks in the shuttle program, and management repeatedly ignored them until they started exploding, and then tried very hard to downplay the reported risks with questionable statements and logic that lacked any credibility.

TL;DR -- Bureaucracy is the same everywhere.

Re:Herpaderp derp (3, Insightful)

bsolar (1176767) | about 9 months ago | (#44337631)

TL;DR -- Bureaucracy is the same everywhere.

That might be but this "bureaucracy" and mismanagement is hurting nuclear power. There are countries which decided to ditch it and others which put in place a stop to new nuclear power plant projects. In my country thankfully nuclear power is still supported and the "renewables" holy grail is seen as some interesting long-term project but not up to the task right now. Still every fuck-up by TEPCO & Co. takes the headlines and gives pretty good ammunition to nuclear power opposers which have already a pretty good game with most people.

TL;DR: whoever manages nuclear power needs to be trustworthy. TEPCO is damaging nuclear power with his continuous fuck-ups.

Re:Herpaderp derp (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44337323)

The article also states:

While the natural disaster claimed more than 18,000 lives, no one is officially recorded as having died as a direct result of the radiation released by the disaster.

mdsolar doing nuclear fearmongering? Nah...

http://slashdot.org/index2.pl?fhfilter=mdsolar

Re:Herpaderp derp (1)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about 9 months ago | (#44337353)

Protip: it looks pretty desperate when you try exclude things like cancer and having to abandon entire towns from the tally.

Re:Herpaderp derp (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44337413)

100 mSv add 0.5% probability to the chance of getting cancer. Let's say that all of them die of it (actually thyroid cancer on treated patients has as survival rate of 75%-90%). Then the whole "disaster" might add to the death toll up to 9 more victims.

9 on 18,000. That's 0.05%.

Protip: when posting on slashdot, do the numbers.

Re:Herpaderp derp (2)

Ultracrepidarian (576183) | about 9 months ago | (#44340583)

Well, yeah. But the pattern is always the same - as in oil spills. Initial report hundreds of gallons, then thousands of gallons, then thousands of barrels, then ultimately, millions of barrels. It's just so hard to estimate.

Chernobyl? (1)

Skinkie (815924) | about 9 months ago | (#44337265)

I don't want to talk about risk etc. but can we please get accurate statistics on this one? Because the risk that it is possible that radiation can cause thyriod cancer is good to know, but I am interested how many workers in Fukushima actually got or might get cancer incompare to the unbelievable low numbers in Chernobyl.

Re:Chernobyl? (2)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about 9 months ago | (#44337361)

Almost every single child living near Chernobyl had their thyroids removed after numerous growths were found. Therefore there is no way to know how many would have developed full cancer, but certainly some people did.

Quite a few children living near Fukushima are now showing growths on their thyroids too, but these things take years to be measured and resolved so for the next couple of decades at least there will be a great deal of uncertainly about the numbers.

Claiming that because we don't know the number is zero is ridiculous.

Re:Chernobyl? (1)

khallow (566160) | about 9 months ago | (#44339137)

Quite a few children living near Fukushima are now showing growths on their thyroids too

It's worth remembering here that quite a few children would be showing growths on their thyroids even in the absence of any exposure to radiation from a nuclear accident. The key factor is that people are actually looking now. What makes this observation noteworthy rather than just another mundane case of observation bias?

Re:Chernobyl? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44337391)

unbelievable low numbers in Chernobyl.

WTF is "unbelievable" about Chernobyl? Over 50 people died directly. Another dozen or so died directly attributed to cancer from Chernobyl. We have learned that there is lots of benign cancer in a population - natural background cancers. That is the *real* data. There is also real data that there was no leukemia spike from Chernobyl that was expected based on LNT. There goes the hype, at least if you are rational.

I guess that does not live up to the hype some have spread thickly around because of "evil radiations"? LNT radiation model is for safety purposes only and for nuclear weapon exposures modeled of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It has NEVER meant to model low level exposure. But it is used anyway to hype up danger and get funding and to block nuclear power. And who wants to block nuclear power? It seems both the greens and the fossil fuel lobby. It's bad to both businesses to have non-CO2, non-polluting power source. /rant

Re:Chernobyl? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44337403)

Chernobyl is a myth perpetrated by the ruling cabal of Environmentalists. They want you to believe that Nuclear power is dangerous, so they invent lies to help them sell their useless "renewable energy".

Re:Chernobyl? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44337489)

Chernobyl is a myth perpetrated by the ruling cabal of Environmentalists. They want you to believe that Nuclear power is dangerous, so they invent lies to help them sell their useless "renewable energy".

Wrong Again, Anonymous Coward. Chernobyl did happen and it was no accident. The Russians were testing a how to most effectively sabotage a nuclear power plant. It was blown up on porpoise. And that pun is no accident just ask anyone else who has read the non-redacted reports from the CIA/KGB. Which now the same organization thanks to OBAMA!!!!!!

Radation != Thyroid Cancer (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44337267)

I thought the main reason for the increase in Thyroid cancer came from exposure to radioactive Iodine which is stored and concentrated in thyroid to be released as needed. Evolutionarily this makes since Iodine is a important chemical for the body but is rare in my places so holding on to it when it is available was quite advantages. If the Thyroid has enough Iodine it passes on newer sources(I believe), so am wondering if the majority of people today don't enough Iodine from salt to greatly reduce they Thyroid risks. I believe iodine in salt was only introduced in japan after WW2?? So we have very little data on how people who get enough Iodine respond to radioactive Iodine in the environment. Also, If the workers where using dust masks, not eating food outside of clean areas, using gloves, etc. Very little Iodine could get absorbed into their systems anyhow. I would hope such precautions where taken because radioactive Iodine isn't even the most dangerous nuclear byproduct. Also, they could have been given extra Iodine supplements to prevent absorption of the Iodine.

I hope things work out well for them but everyone of them who gets cancer will blame the nuclear cleanup effort regardless of if their population has an increase or even decrease in cancer vs the general public. Hell, am sure people in the USA are figuring on how to sue in japan for their cancers.

Re:Radation != Thyroid Cancer (1)

somepunk (720296) | about 9 months ago | (#44337401)

The best natural source of Iodine is seafood. The Japanese probably get a pretty good dose of Iodine from their normal diet. Also, administration of Potassium Iodate pills are pretty standard procedure when there's a nuclear incident, so without any specific information to the contrary, I would expect that these workers had enough nonradioactive Iodine in them at the time of exposure.

Heightened Risk != Cancer Victim (3, Insightful)

jkflying (2190798) | about 9 months ago | (#44337291)

Just because they are at a "heightened risk of thyroid cancer" doesn't mean that they are going to get cancer. It means that they are more likely to get it than people who weren't exposed to the radiation. Only 2000 people at a heightened risk, as a result of a nuclear power plant being hit by a tsunami? Not bad, I say.

Next time, don't build a nuclear power plant where it can be hit by a tsunami, though. That was just stupid.

Re:Heightened Risk != Cancer Victim (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44337329)

How many reactors are placed within 80 miles from the east cost of the U.S.A? Since that can be hit by a mega tsunami.
The tsunami in Japan wasn't even mega.

Re:Heightened Risk != Cancer Victim (1)

CnlPepper (140772) | about 9 months ago | (#44337659)

If the US got hit by a mega tsunami it would have a lot more to worry about that a few nuclear plants getting flooded and melting down. The death toll from a mega-tsunami would probably push into the millions. Displaced people... many many more.

Anyway, even if they do melt down, the more modern reactor designs have systems for capturing and spreading the corium to reduce the possibility of uncontrolled runaway (ie it would just ruin the reactor and would not necessarily pollute the area).

Re:Heightened Risk != Cancer Victim (2)

thegarbz (1787294) | about 9 months ago | (#44338977)

If the US got hit by a mega tsunami it would have a lot more to worry about that a few nuclear plants getting flooded and melting down.

What are you talking about? We've just shown that if you get hit with a tsunami which kills 10s of thousdands of people and displaces cities, and puts a country into crisis the only thing anyone will read in the news is "OMG nuclear radiation godzilla will come!!!"

It made me sick that I actually had difficulty finding information on the tsunami during the nuclear meltdown in Japan. This affected millions but no one cared.

Re:Heightened Risk != Cancer Victim (1)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about 9 months ago | (#44337373)

Only 2000 people at a heightened risk, as a result of a nuclear power plant being hit by a tsunami? Not bad, I say.

The law says that if they can prove the link TEPCO will have to compensate them. The fact that TEPCO has admitted the new stats are correct is quire worrying, since it indicates that they think it is somewhat inevitable and would rather just pay up than waste money fighting it in court only to lose.

Next time, don't build a nuclear power plant where it can be hit by a tsunami, though. That was just stupid.

Nuclear plants need to be built near large bodies of water. That's why many are on the coast. Sometimes you can find an inland lake that is suitable, but Japan has rather limited options.

Besides which the plan was crippled by the earthquake, the tsunami just made things worse. Even without the tsunami it would have been bad enough to cause at least one meltdown.

Re:Heightened Risk != Cancer Victim (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44337643)

At Fukushima who could imagin a problem that knocked out
the back up generators that whould not require more than
6 hours of battery power. They had the batteries so they
new there was a problem that should be solved. They just
failed to pay for the added capicity! saving pennies spending
some huge sum of money.

Re:Heightened Risk != Cancer Victim (1)

khallow (566160) | about 9 months ago | (#44339053)

Even without the tsunami it would have been bad enough to cause at least one meltdown.

No, with the cooling system still active, none of the reactors would have been in danger of meltdown because they would have never gotten hot enough to boil water. As evidence consider that there were many other reactors effected by this earthquake as well. For example, 11 reactors scrammed during the earthquake. None of these other reactors came close to a meltdown.

Re:Heightened Risk != Cancer Victim (1)

hcs_$reboot (1536101) | about 9 months ago | (#44337641)

That was not _a_ tsunami, that was _the_ tsunami... Something clearly exceptional that was not anticipated (let alone the M9 earthquake).

Re:Heightened Risk != Cancer Victim (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44340521)

The earthquake and the tsunami were neither exceptional nor unanticipated. Low-frequency, yes. But also completely expected. Parts of the coastline not far from the power plant show clear signs of having been hit by a tsunami 10 meters higher than this one, within the last 1000 years.

Re:Heightened Risk != Cancer Victim (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44337889)

Just the stress of being being labeled 'heightened risk of thyroid cancer' will give them cancer.

Re:Heightened Risk != Cancer Victim (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44338007)

Um... heightened risk X population == excess suffering. Also I'd rather think not in terms of excess deaths but excess medical intervention, since cancer even if cured is a bitch.

Not to mention, one thing that we know is when you move people out of their homes, such as happened in Japan, it causes suffering and excess mortality, especially among elderly people. So the need to evacuate people in the case of an accident is something to consider.

More what bothers me is that the risk/cost curve for nuclear people appears to have a very long tail extending far into the future, decades to hundreds of years. It's not alone in that, since I think the half life of CO2 is maybe a thousand years, dumping CO2 from fossil sources is also something to consider.

The flip side is solar and wind, which appear to have very short and small risk/cost profiles. Leads one to consider when you do proper accounting for various types of power that takes into account the long term costs, the renuables win hands down.

Re:Heightened Risk != Cancer Victim (1)

yesterdaystomorrow (1766850) | about 9 months ago | (#44339017)

Next time, don't build a nuclear power plant where it can be hit by a tsunami, though. That was just stupid.

Except that the enormous loss of life wasn't because they built a nuke on the coast. It was because (like everyone who has a coast), they built *everything* on the coast: homes, schools, factories, offices, railroads, etc. The reactor complex actually turned out to be one of the safest places to be during the tsunami.

ng tin min phí (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44337293)

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http://choquetoi.com/

MOTO (4, Insightful)

cyberjock1980 (1131059) | about 9 months ago | (#44337305)

WoW. MOTO article.

Ever person that works at a nuclear power plant knows and understands the risk of thyroid cancer due to exposure to radioactive Iodine. If anything, the workers know that this is true, understand the technicals for why it is mitigated with potassium tablets, and are okay with the increased risk of a very treatable condition. I've worked in the industry for more than 10 years and I KNOW this is true.

Many emergency responders that work in the vicinity of a nuclear power plant know this too. I KNOW this is true as I dated someone that was an emergency responder.

So maybe we should publish other articles on Slashdot.

-Higher risk of being shot in Chicago than on a farm in Montana.
-Higher risk of dying in a car accident when traveling faster.
-You are more likely to suffocate if you inhale your pool versus inhaling at your neighborhood park.

Not to discredit how much having cancer sucks. But thyroid cancer is very treatable today. Especially when you have a known group of people that are more susceptible to it and therefore can be tested more thoroughly for early warning signs.

Oh slashdot.. I miss the old you...

Re:MOTO (2)

AmiMoJo (196126) | about 9 months ago | (#44337389)

The difference is that these people can sue TEPCO for damages. In all the examples you provide either no single entity is responsible or the person being injured did it to themselves.

Nuclear power just got a little bit more unaffordable.

Re:MOTO (1)

whoever57 (658626) | about 9 months ago | (#44337491)

If anything, the workers know that this is true, understand the technicals for why it is mitigated with potassium tablets

I think that you mean Iodine tablets. The idea is to flood the thyroid with (non-radioactive) Iodine, so that the uptake of any radioactive Iodine by the thyroid is minimized. No other organ absorbs Iodine.

Re:MOTO (1)

Smivs (1197859) | about 9 months ago | (#44337541)

In fact you are both right. The medication used is Potassium iodide tablets - Iodine alone is a volatile and very unpleasant substance and you wouldn't want to take it!

Re:MOTO (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44337907)

> it is mitigated with potassium tablets

I think potassium doesn't mean what you think it means. It's most probably spelt 'iodide'

Re:MOTO (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44339343)

Am I reading this correctly?: "Nuclear power, no problem! Toxic, yeah, but highly treatable! Safer than being shot in Chicago or dying in a speeding car accident!"
Sigh. I am almost apologizing for trolling, but the same old justifications are being used for the same old criticisms. It's been over 70 years people: basic technology flaw. Price-Anderson! It's on us.

Let's be done with this already. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44337311)

This constant under- or overestimation of stuff by any institution by (a few) orders of magnitude. There doesn't seem to be an eponymous law on this, and me being an AC (not the device nor the celebrated Oakley wearing member of The BSB's) & the internet being full of people claiming they coined stuff, let's call it AC's Law.
(or The Coward's Law)

  AC's law states that if an institution claims things are going well, divide by 2. If that same institution says things are not that bad, multiply by 10.

Small Risk (4, Informative)

the eric conspiracy (20178) | about 9 months ago | (#44337327)

This article is preposterous. 100 milliseiverts is the lowest level for which there is believed to be an increased risk long term of getting cancer. The increase in rate is believed to be about 2%.

Now for the adult population the rate of thyroid cancer is about 1% of all cancers, or .25% of the population.

Throw in the fact that the cure rate for thyroid cancer is 95% or so and it is apparent that the odds of any of these people dying from this exposure is quite small.

Re:Small Risk (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44337455)

YOU AND YOUR "FACTS." These workers are as good as dead. We should put them out of their misery before they get cancer and have suffer. There anyway as good as dead. Fact No one who work with or around radiation pre-1900s is alive today. That's all I need to know.

Re:Small Risk (1)

whoever57 (658626) | about 9 months ago | (#44337501)

Throw in the fact that the cure rate for thyroid cancer is 95%

For the most common types of Thyroid cancer, doctors will often recommend no treatment for older patients because the rates at which it develops is very slow.

So 0.005 extra cancer deaths, then? (1)

amaurea (2900163) | about 9 months ago | (#44338025)

You answered exactly what I was planning to ask about, and it is pretty awful journalism that the numbers you quote were omitted from TFA. If I'm interpreting your numbers correctly, that would result in 1973*0.25%*2%*(1-95%) = 0.005 extra thyroid cancer deaths total. Not exactly the picture the article was painting.

Re:Small Risk (1)

Megane (129182) | about 9 months ago | (#44338277)

They're probably more likely to get cancer from smoking [slashdot.org] too much. Japanese men tend to smoke like chimneys. Only recently has there even significant progress in banning smoking inside buildings.

This goes against slashdot doctrine! (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44337363)

This goes against slashdot doctrine!

Nobody will ever die because of Nuclear Power. Sleeping with your arms around a nuclear rod every night gives you the same exposure to radiation as eating 1 small banana!

   

Re:This goes against slashdot doctrine! (1)

flimflammer (956759) | about 9 months ago | (#44337525)

You are an idiot.

Re:This goes against slashdot doctrine! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44339581)

I thought it was a good reminder of the hysterical rush to downplay any risks posed by the nuclear industry when any article with actual facts is posted. This is one of the more pernicious group-think mindsets of the /. crowd.

In other words, *you* are an idiot.

How much increased? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44337365)

If the increased incidence of cancer is 5.5% per Sievert, as Wikipedia states, then 100 millisivert on 2000 people is a total of 11 cancers. The survival rate of cancer is about 50%, so that's a bit less than 6 expected deaths. In fact the survival rate is likely to be better as these people are more likely to receive prompt diagnosis if they do develop cancer since they are known to be at higher risk. 6 deaths still isn't good, of course. According to Wikipedia, the number of deaths for coal mining in the US is 30 deaths per year.

100 mSv is the threshhold (1)

drwho (4190) | about 9 months ago | (#44337371)

100 mSv is the lowest dose linked to an increased risk of cancer (source: http://xkcd.com/radiation/). I imagine the risk would be much less when iodine supplements are taken. Since the Japanese are a generally cautious people, I expect this was the case.

Next to those 56.000 children there... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44337441)

that developed thyroid adenoma (which are to be considered cancer at that age) according to this report http://www.fukushima-disaster.de/information-in-english/maximum-credible-accident.html

Re:Next to those 56.000 children there... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44337497)

Sorry, the correct link: http://www.fukushima-disaster.de/fileadmin/user_upload/pdf/english/Health_consequences_Fukushima_en.pdf p.2
Adenoma might be the wrong wording, they were diagnosed with "thyroid gland nodules or cysts".

Consider the alternative (3, Insightful)

yesterdaystomorrow (1766850) | about 9 months ago | (#44337475)

Suppose the Fukushima complex had been coal-fired rather than nuclear. For decades, it would have contaminated the air and surrounding land with megatons of toxic emissions, harming the health and shortening the lives of its neighbors. Miners would have died supplying the coal. When the tsunami hit, many workers would have died, since coal plants are much less robust than nuclear. The debris wave from the plant would have killed more. I don't think there can be any doubt that, while not perfectly safe, the use of nuclear technology in this location saved many lives. But coal gets a free ride in the press, which downplays its hazards. Anything nuclear gets the fear treatment.

Re:Consider the alternative (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44337607)

Point.
Touche'

Re:Consider the alternative (1)

MellowBob (2933537) | about 9 months ago | (#44338087)

You have to wonder if there are the same people who said the 50 workers that went back in would be dead by now.

Re:Consider the alternative (2)

dunkelfalke (91624) | about 9 months ago | (#44338113)

Well, well, uranium just appears out of the thin air and does not have to be mined and refined. It is also not like uranium mining was considered prison labour because it was so dangerous.

Re:Consider the alternative (1)

yesterdaystomorrow (1766850) | about 9 months ago | (#44338535)

Well, well, uranium just appears out of the thin air and does not have to be mined and refined. It is also not like uranium mining was considered prison labour because it was so dangerous.

Coal and uranium mining are both very dangerous. But the big difference is that while you need tons of uranium to fuel a nuke, you need megatons of coal to fuel a coal plant. The difference in quantity of material and waste dominates the hazard calculation.

Re:Consider the alternative (2)

dunkelfalke (91624) | about 9 months ago | (#44338611)

Except that you don't mine pure uranium, you mine uranium ore (pitchblende), and you need a lot of it to extract a bit of natural uranium. Even worse, pitchblende itself is not as easily mined as coal, because if you have got a coalbed, it consists of mostly, well, coal. If you mine pitchblende, then you go through a lot of rock you need to discard first.

Re:Consider the alternative (1)

yesterdaystomorrow (1766850) | about 9 months ago | (#44338871)

Except that you don't mine pure uranium, you mine uranium ore (pitchblende), and you need a lot of it to extract a bit of natural uranium. Even worse, pitchblende itself is not as easily mined as coal, because if you have got a coalbed, it consists of mostly, well, coal. If you mine pitchblende, then you go through a lot of rock you need to discard first.

Coal exists in narrow seams, too. Massive, destructive strip mining or very dangerous underground mining are required to access it. Coal mining would need to be a million times less unhealthy and destructive than uranium mining to be competitive on safety and environmental impact. It isn't.

Re:Consider the alternative (2)

thegarbz (1787294) | about 9 months ago | (#44339029)

Yes, uranium mining has all these things going against it, yet one uranium mine still produces the same amount of thermal energy as 5-9 coal mines of the same size depending on who's statistics you read.

That and when normalised to a common unit the deaths per TWh of energy generated for nuclear is still orders of magnitude lower than coal.

Bring on the pitchblende

Re:Consider the alternative (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 9 months ago | (#44338257)

Would coal pollution necessitate an exclusion zone? And how long will that exclusion zone be uninhabitable except by rats? Then there's the ocean...

http://www.cnn.com/2012/03/10/opinion/buesseler-fukushima-ocean

Yeah, coal is nasty, but radiation is a whole other level of pollution.

Re:Consider the alternative (1)

khallow (566160) | about 9 months ago | (#44339173)

And how long will that exclusion zone be uninhabitable except by rats?

It's worth noting that no such zone exists for Fukushima. Even if Japan continues to block habitation of the land around Fukushima, it can still be used for industrial purposes. For example, it'd be a great place to put a bunch of nuclear plants.

Re:Consider the alternative (1)

DexterIsADog (2954149) | about 9 months ago | (#44339593)

I like that! Doubling down on Fukushima.

But you don't live there, do you?

Re:Consider the alternative (1)

khallow (566160) | about 9 months ago | (#44339761)

I like that! Doubling down on Fukushima.

But you don't live there, do you?

Nobody does, remember? And the second "bet" is automatically less risky because nobody lives there any more.

Fukushima plant chief dies of cancer (1)

ModelX (182441) | about 9 months ago | (#44338455)

In other news Fukushima daiichi plant chief at the time of the accident died of cancer a few days ago. What a coincidence, maybe it has something to do with radiation.

Link to WSJ article [wsj.com]

Re:Fukushima plant chief dies of cancer (1)

fullback (968784) | about 9 months ago | (#44339117)

If you had read the article you cited, you wouldn't have posted what you did.
Are you an editor for a tabloid?

Re:Fukushima plant chief dies of cancer (1)

khallow (566160) | about 9 months ago | (#44339191)

It's worth remembering here that he died too early to be affected by his mild radiation exposure from the Fukushima accident. And frankly, otherwise healthy people who are going to die in a couple of years would be ideal for dealing with radiation releases like Fukushima.

Re:Fukushima plant chief dies of cancer (1)

DexterIsADog (2954149) | about 9 months ago | (#44339617)

I was just going to leave the one reply to your other post, but then I saw *this* gem.

You really are a don't-give-a-fuck-about-anybody-else kind of guy, aren't you?

Just think of the other applications! Use those people who are "going to die in a couple of years" to go clean out the asbestos from old buildings! Use them for carcinogenic chemical spills!

Are you trolling, or do you really believe certain classes of people are objects to be used up to their maximum profit?

Re:Fukushima plant chief dies of cancer (1)

khallow (566160) | about 9 months ago | (#44339787)

You really are a don't-give-a-fuck-about-anybody-else kind of guy, aren't you?

You would be wrong here. But I'm used to the clueless making that sort of accusation.

Just think of the other applications! Use those people who are "going to die in a couple of years" to go clean out the asbestos from old buildings! Use them for carcinogenic chemical spills!

Ok, I'm thinking of it. What's the problem here? I see the problem being that you never bother to change the clean up process so that it doesn't harm people. That's not an issue with Fukushima because it was a one time thing.

Are you trolling, or do you really believe certain classes of people are objects to be used up to their maximum profit?

Well, how about you? I have just as much reason to believe you hold that belief.

Fun Fact (1)

Billy the Mountain (225541) | about 9 months ago | (#44338739)

Good sources of natural dietary iodine include kelp, and other sea vegetables and fish as well. So the traditional Japanese diet has a helpful side-effect of tending to limit the uptake of Iodine-131 into the Thyroid and other body glands.

I consider these guys heros (3)

peter303 (12292) | about 9 months ago | (#44339453)

Putting their health and maybe their lives on the line to make others in Japan safer.
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