Subscription Only: Tokyo says WHO overestimated Fukushima disaster radiation doses
By YURI OIWA
May 24, 2012
In its report, the WHO [World Health Organization] said residents living near the stricken Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant northeast of Tokyo were exposed to whole-body doses of between 10 and 50 millisieverts
“The WHO estimates deviate considerably from reality,” said one anxious Japanese government source. “If those figures are taken at face value, that may spread disquiet and confusion among the Japanese public.”
“Overall, (the latest WHO figures) are overestimates,” said Yoshio Hosoi, a professor of radiology at Hiroshima University’s Research Institute for Radiation Biology and Medicine. “In particular, they have sharply overestimated the doses of external exposure and food-derived exposure,” he said.
But the Japanese government’s System for Prediction of Environmental Emergency Dose Information (SPEEDI), which is designed to forecast the spread of radioactive substances, did produce larger thyroid gland dose estimates for 1-year-old infants in some districts of Namie, Fukushima Prefecture.
In that case, the WHO estimates “probably mostly reflect reality,” Hosoi said.
The WHO began compiling the dose estimation report last summer. Its first draft, which appeared last November, startled one Japanese government official.
The draft report estimated the whole-body doses for 1-year-old infants at 10-100 millisieverts in Namie and 1-10 millisieverts in Tokyo and Osaka.
The thyroid gland dose estimates for 1-year-old infants were 300-1,000 millisieverts in Namie and elsewhere and 10-100 millisieverts in Tokyo and Osaka.
Tokyo sent health ministry officials to the WHO headquarters and went through diplomatic channels to call for revisions.
“The figures are just impossibly high,” a government official said at the time. “If they are released, that will not only arouse unnecessary anxiety among the Japanese public but also serve as negative publicity.”
Published: May 25th, 2012 at 1:17 am ET