The National Academies

Japan’s Nuclear Crisis

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March 17 - Failed cooling systems and multiple fires at the Fukushima nuclear power plants following March 11’s earthquake and tsunami have led to the release of radioactive material and elevated radiation levels in northeastern Japan. The following National Research Council reports and ongoing project may help inform the current crisis. Safety and Security of Commercial Spent Nuclear Fuel Storage (2006) examines the potential consequences of accidents or terrorist attacks that partially or completely drain spent fuel cooling pools, including the potential for fire and a release of radioactive material. Health Risks from Exposure to Low Levels of Ionizing Radiation: BEIR VII Phase 2 (2006) says that even low doses of ionizing radiation are likely to pose some risk of adverse health effects, and no level should be considered “safe.” Distribution and Administration of Potassium Iodide in the Event of a Nuclear Incident (2004) recommends that potassium iodide pills, which can prevent thyroid cancer caused by exposure to radioactive iodine, should be available to everyone age 40 or younger living near a nuclear power plant in the U.S. The BEIR VII report and similar studies rely on data from the Radiation Effects Research Foundation, a joint U.S.-Japan project to monitor the health of atomic-bomb survivors and their offspring.



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