The science of nuclear energy
The science of nuclear energy

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The science of nuclear energy

3.3.2 Fukushima – health effects three years later

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It's three years since Japan was hit by a massive earthquake and tsunami which triggered a nuclear leak. Now doctors are warning that a second, silent disaster is unfolding. In the area around Fukushima, the number of evacuees who have died since the disaster has exceeded the number killed in the initial earthquake and tsunami. Many of the deaths have been linked to suicide, depression, and illness, as Rupert Wingfield-Hayes reports.
This is the dead zone. In the little towns around the Fukushima nuclear plant, time stands still. The destruction wrought by the earthquake lies unrepaired, but what has happened to the people who once lived here? Forced to flee the radiation, forced to abandon all they owned. Three years after the disaster, there are now some very serious questions about its aftermath that need to be answered.
Firstly, has the threat of radiation to people's health here actually been greatly overstated by, for example, the media, and by anti-nuclear campaigners? And secondly, is the fear of radiation now actually turning out to be much more lethal than the radiation itself? At a private clinic 60 kilometres from the plant, a little boy is having his thyroid gland examined. His mother is scared.
At Chernobyl, children were diagnosed many years after the disaster. Children here may be fine now, but if there's any risk, I want to find out as soon as possible.
But child cancer experts say Fukushima cannot be compared with Chernobyl. The 33 cases discovered so far are not connected to the nuclear disaster.
The radiation released from Fukushima was much less than at Chernobyl, he says. Children here got a much smaller dose. But once you start using sensitive equipment to check for thyroid cancer, you will find more cases. That is why we're seeing an increase - not because of the disaster.
But the Fukushima disaster is taking lives. Hideko Takeda has come to pray at her father's grave. She says his health collapsed after he was forced to abandon his farm and his animals. Within two years, he was dead.
I blame the power company for his death. They took his dreams, his hope. They took his land and scattered his family far from home. Nothing will ever bring those back.
No one has died from radiation in Fukushima. But unable to return home and rebuild their lives, a growing number of evacuees are dying - from anxiety, from suicide, and from losing the will to live. Rupert Wingfield-Hayes, BBC News, in Fukushima.
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Three years after the tsunami in Fukushima, the majority of those evacuated are still living in temporary accommodation and unable to return home.

The video states that the ongoing fear of the radiation is leading to more health effects than the radiation. To date, no one has died from the radiation from the nuclear fallout. Only a few of the workers at the Daiichi plant have the possibility of suffering any health effects. In contrast, the earthquake and tsunami took thousands of lives.

Nonetheless, those unable to return home lost everything, their homes, woodlands, fields and farmlands. Many have suffered with their health and are traumatised.

Things will not be able to go back to how they were in Fukushima for many decades. If we want to imagine what Fukushima’s exclusion zone will be like in future it is helpful to look at Chernobyl today, which you’ll do in the next section.


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