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Fifth Anniversary of the 2011 Fukushima Dai-ichi NPP Accident
10 March 2016
Following the Great East-Japan earthquake and tsunami on 11 March 2011, the Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant (NPP) released significant amounts of radioactivity into the surrounding environment. As we approach and pass the 5th anniversary of this nuclear accident, we remember the 20,000 people that lost their lives from the tsunami and the tens of thousands of people that are still evacuated from the area and whose lives continue to be deeply affected.
The United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR), in its 2014 Report to the General Assembly, assessed that the radiation exposure of the Japanese population resulting from the accident was low, with correspondingly low risks of health effects later in life due to radiation. This finding was consistent with the conclusions of the earlier World Health Organisation (WHO) Health Risk Assessment of the accident. In 2015, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) concluded in its comprehensive evaluation of the Fukushima Dai-ichi NPP accident that there had been no early radiation induced health effects observed among workers or members of the public that could be attributed to the accident.
However, there continues to be health issues, both physical and psychological, related to the social disruption following the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear accident. Many local people in the Fukushima Prefecture remain impacted from the accident and have not returned home. The circumstances in Japan have now shifted to decommissioning and remediation. The return to normality will be a slow process and remediation is likely to take 30 to 40 years.
The international nuclear safety community has been active in drawing out the lessons learned from the accident to strengthen nuclear safety worldwide. Reassessment of the safety vulnerabilities of nuclear power plants in the light of lessons learned from the accident has been a priority around the world. Emergency preparedness and response has been strengthened globally and there is improved guidance on transparency and effectiveness of communication during an emergency.
The Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA) has continued to monitor and assess the impact of the nuclear accident on people and the environment, working closely with international bodies that include UNSCEAR, WHO and the IAEA.
ARPANSA’s current monitoring program indicates that radioactive material from the accident is not detectable in the northern seawaters of Australia. ARPANSA will continue to monitor food, the atmosphere and ocean in and around Australia for radioactive material to ensure that the public is adequately informed.