Fukushima – the Hidden Epidemic

I hope to show in this post how the events at Fukushima and the subsequent actions of the Japanese government effectively signed the death warrant for thousands of Japanese people and consigned many more to ill health and premature death. I will also show that sadly, this is a continuing and on-going problem with no end in sight.

A great deal of lurid speculation has surrounded the melt downs at Fukushima. But surprisingly, (it is now two years since the Tsunami) there has been no indication of any actual loss of life from radiation from any reputable body.

But significant loss of life there has been. Without a doubt.

The press and media have distracted people from this silent epidemic by their lurid (often fictional, usually ignorant)  sensationalist news reports. The result is that most people are now focussing on the wrong issue.

To get a handle on this epidemic we  need to consider events that took place all across Japan immediately after the Tsunami. Particularly we need to see what happened to Japanese power generation.

After the melt downs,  the Japanese government ordered the shutdown of all nuclear plant in Japan. Today, two years on, only two reactors are in operation. As Japan relied on nuclear power for close on to 30% of its electricity, these shut downs left a very large hole in Japan's generation capability. A hole that had to be filled by other generating capacity.

Here is a a set of tables up to end 2011 of  Japanese fossil energy usage for electrical generation

From this you can see Natural Gas generation rose by 58 TWh, coal by 57 TWh, and Oil by 9 TWh through 2011.  It would seem reasonable to assume the split remained much the same through 2012, if not somewhat higher in total

Now we come to some highly regarded published and peer reviewed papers

The first paper (published in Environmental Science and Technology paper available HERE) is by Hansen and Kheracha (if you don't know who Dr Jim Hansen is then you must have been asleep for the last ten years)

They reference a second paper (published in The Lancet medical journal - paper available HERE) by Markandya and Wilkinson. Both papers revolve around this table showing the number of deaths caused by electrical generation. While this table refers to Europe, I would argue is equally valid for Japan.

The extra Coal based electrical generation, (displacing Nuclear) kills through air pollution, 24 people per TWh of generation. Over the two year period that comes to (24 x 57 x 2) = 2736 deaths, 25,000 serious illnesses and untold minor ailments.

Extra Natural Gas based electrical generation has caused (3 x 58 x 2) = 348 extra deaths, 3400 serious illnesses and  again thousands of minor illnesses

Oil based electrical generation statistically kills 19.2 people per TWh. So the additional oil based generation has caused the deaths of ( 19 x 9 x 2) = 342 extra deaths, 2900 serious illnesses and another legion of minor illnesses.

Assuming Nuclear would have originally handled all this (i.e. 57 + 58 + 9 = 124 TWh),  then the statistical deaths from nuclear would have amounted to (0.052 x 124 x 2) = 12 deaths and 54 serious illnesses.

So there we have our hidden plague. Death brought about NOT BY nuclear power, but brought about by NOT HAVING nuclear power. An epidemic killing almost 3500 people in two years ( that is nearly 33 a week) and leaving many times that number ill and incapacitated.

Of course, this slaughter can be stopped within a few days. But that requires political courage and an honesty beyond that seen so far in Japanese politics.

Basically somebody has to stand up, explain the statistical risks to the Japanese people from nuclear power. Then detail the continuing carnage from the fossil fuel replacement.

Then they need to turn the nuclear plant back on.

(my figures are highly conservative. The most likely death toll from this silent plague is considerably higher)


George Angwin said...


You certainly have reported conservative estimates. For example, you left out all the people who suffered and died from being needlessly evacuated from the Fukushima area.

Keep up the good work. Our society needs to hear sane voices.


BilloTheWisp said...

Thanks George. I feel a little embarrassed about how low (or rather less high)these figures are than the actuality. Although they still indicate a grotesque carnage.

But I made the decision to ensure there was no "wriggle room" for those lying and scaremongering about Fukushima. Especially as they are, in the main, doing so for their own political or financial ends.

The thousands of deaths that have occurred from noxious emissions (and are continuing) are down to them.

Maybe one day they will come out of denial and admit their culpability, though realistically this is unlikely. But one day hopefully,they will be called to account and their preposterous scaremongering shown for what it is.

Maybe then we will need a proper and probably much more severe forecast of the death toll caused by the switch to fossil fuels in Japan.