Fukushima is Now Safe, Six Years after Nuclear Disaster

Fagjun | Published 2017-03-13 04:35

Evacuees can now safely return to their homes in Japan's Fukushima Prefecture, six years after a devastating disaster struck. The Japanese government will allow about 52,000 evacuees to return to Fukushima later this month.

On March 11, 2011, 9.0-magnitude earthquake hit Japan's Tohoku coast and caused a massive tsunami. There were 15,894 confirmed deaths, 6,152 injured, and 2,562 people missing as of March 10, 2015. The tsunami also caused a level 7 nuclear meltdown in the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. A level 7 meltdown is the worst accident that can occur in a nuclear power plant. The only other level 7 meltdown that has ever occurred in history is the infamous Chernobyl disaster in 1986.

The Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, five days after the Tohoku earthquake and tsunami
[Photo by Digital Globe]

The Japanese government ordered the evacuation of all residents living within a 20-kilometer radius of the power plant. People from this area have a slightly higher risk of developing certain types of cancer. Surprisingly, the World Health Organization has found that the evacuees have a relatively small chance of experiencing the debilitating effects of radiation in their lifetime.

Radiation Levels and Decontamination Efforts

A new study now offers more evidence that evacuees can return to their homes in Fukushima without worrying about health risks. Researchers studied radioactivity levels above the district of Date, which is close to the Daiichi reactors. However, its residents never evacuated. Apparently, there was a 60% decrease of radiation levels from 2011 to 2013.

The researchers also studied how successful decontamination efforts were at lowering radiation levels in Date. They found that there has been no decrease in personal radiation levels among 425 residents since decontamination began in 2012.

Therefore, the researchers conclude, natural radioactive decay was one of the primary reasons that radiation levels decreased. Rainfall was also instrumental in washing the causes of radiation away.

This isn't to say that decontamination efforts were a waste of time and energy. However, the natural decay and rainfall seem to have been more effective in the specific area that the researchers studied.

The Future and Fukushima

The researchers hope that their findings and methods can be instrumental in the future, should any more nuclear disasters occur. Of course, they hope that there won't be any more. However, their study can contribute to estimating decontamination periods. It can also help estimate whether the effects of radiation will affect a person during his or her lifetime.

For now, though, the study can help evacuees who can now safely return home. The government lifted evacuation orders in other areas around the Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant as well. Whether or not the evacuees choose to return to Fukushima, at least they'll be making an informed choice.

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