Within weeks of the nuclear disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan, the EPA reported that radiation levels in their specialized air, water, and milk monitoring systems had slightly risen above normal levels. Now, a group of activists are claiming that the slight rise in radiation levels killed thousands of American citizens this year* even though the EPA has repeatedly noted that though the levels rose, they didn’t jump enough to cause panic. As the government in Japan declares the disaster solved, against the wishes of many nuclear specialists worldwide, there is a huge push from both sides of the nuclear power debate to decide whether or not it is a truly safe sustainable energy. We are open to ideas from both sides of the spectrum — nuclear disasters are surely dangerous but the emissions-free energy is tempting — we’re just not open to the idea that anyone can throw out numbers without backing up their own research.
* This is the opinion of a group of independent activists.
After the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster radiation leaked from the damaged reactor for weeks and it was documented that radioactive isotopes seeped into the ocean and the atmosphere. The communities directly surrounding the damaged power station were evacuated while the radiation threat remained high. The EPA’s RadNet monitors across the country were put on heightened alert and began to detect trace amounts of radioactive isotopes similar to those from Fukushima in the air, water and even milk around the country. The EPA reports mostly read like this one from April 26th 2011, “results for precipitation and milk have detected low levels of radioactive material consistent with estimated releases from the damaged nuclear reactors. These detections were expected and the levels detected are far below levels of public-health concern.“
Janette Sherman and Joseph Mangano are positioning themselves as purveyors of nuclear knowledge and attempting to place fear in the hearts of the human race. The pair say that there could be thousands of worldwide deaths attributed to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant disaster — the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl. Mangano and Sherman say they found that the death rates in the 14 weeks following the radiation’s arrival in the United States rose 4.46 percent compared to the same time period in 2010.
We checked their numbers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) and they are close to being right on the percentage. The death rate did rise a few percentage points in the time period between March 11th and June 19th in 2011 as compared to that same period in 2010 — though according to our calculations it only rose 3.2 percent — but the pair say emphatically that the death rate was due to radiation poisoning without backing that up with scientific evidence of those deaths being linked to any kind of radiation sickness. Roughly drawn out, there were 14,000 more deaths in 2011 than in 2010. Though theEPA says that radiation levels in the United States went back to normal after the first week in June of this year, Mangano and Sherman say that all 14,000 deaths are due to radiation even though 10,000 of those deaths occurred after the first week in June.
Just last week the government of Japan made a very controversial decision to declare a cold shutdown of the damaged reactors at Fukushima, even though experts believe that the situation is far from contained. In light of the nuclear disaster in Japan and its real world ramifications we’d love to openly and scientifically discuss the safety and reliability of nuclear power, but any such discussion must be grounded in facts. Until Mangano and Sherman — who by all accounts have poor prior records in the nuclear science community — come back to us with some concrete evidence of their 14,000 nuclear related deaths, we’re going to have to pass on their study as a real part of this conversation.
+ The Radiation and Public Health Project
Editor’s note: Further research into the study conducted by Janette Sherman and Joseph Mangano shows that it lacks evidence to prove that 14,000 US deaths were caused by radiation from the Fukushima nuclear plant. We have adjusted this article accordingly.