Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Fukushima: UN experts begin assessment of effects of Fukushima nuclear accident

IAEA fact-finding team examines devastation at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in May 2011. Photo: IAEA/Greg Webb

UN - Sixty international experts assessing the radiation exposures and health effects resulting from the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan last March kicked off a week-long meeting today in Vienna.

“We are putting together a jigsaw puzzle, evaluating the exposures of the general public, of workers, and radiation effects, and looking for the missing pieces,” said Wolfgang Weiss, Chair of the UN Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR).

The power plant was damaged following a massive earthquake and tsunami on 11 March 2011 that knocked out water cooling systems at the plant, contaminating air, water, plants and animals with radioactive plumes dozens of kilometres from the site.

This week’s meeting will explore where there are critical gaps in the data that are available, where additional focus is required, and how to ensure the quality and reliability of what the assessment is based on, according to Mr. Weiss.

Japan is providing data to the Committee together with input from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), the Preparatory Commission for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

A preliminary report will be provided to UNSCEAR’s annual meeting, to be held between 21 to 25 May, and a final report to the UN General Assembly in 2013.

Established in 1955, UNSCEAR is tasked with undertaking broad reviews of the sources of ionizing radiation and the effects on human health and the environment.

Its assessments provide a scientific foundation for UN agencies and governments to formulate standards and programmes for protection against ionizing radiation.