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Tenth anniversary of Fukushima nuclear accident

11 March 2021

Today marks the 10th anniversary of the Great East Japan earthquake and tsunami that initiated the nuclear accident at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear power station.

ARPANSA joins with our friends and colleagues in Japan to remember and pay our respects to the people who lost their lives and stand with those who survived and continue to be impacted by these events.

Ten years on from the nuclear accident, we are also reflecting on ARPANSA's role in Australia’s emergency response to the accident during the weeks and months following the event.

ARPANSA undertook measurements and studies during and after the event to assess the impact of the Fukushima accident both on Australians and the environment in Australia. This included investigating the levels of radioactivity in foods imported into Australia from Japan, and in the ocean, seafood and the atmosphere as a result the releases, monitoring for surface contamination on items coming from Japan such as cars, cargo vessels and returning military helicopters as well as provision of advice to Australian citizens who were concerned about radiation.

Radiation doses to Australians in Japan and migratory birds were also investigated. The results were published in 2012 and a decade later ARPANSA continues to be involved in international work being undertaken to follow up the implications of the accident on people and the environment.

Coinciding with the anniversary, the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR) has published a new report, the UNSCEAR 2020 Report, that provides an authoritative and independent update on the levels and effects of radiation exposure due to the Fukushima accident. ‘Since the UNSCEAR 2013 Report, no adverse health effects among Fukushima residents have been documented that could be directly attributed to radiation exposure from the accident,’ said Dr Gillian Hirth, Chair of UNSCEAR and Deputy CEO and Chief Radiation Health Scientist at ARPANSA.

‘ARPANSA still has important work to do as we follow the ongoing recovery activities in Japan and understand the lessons learned from the Fukushima accident that had many broad reaching societal impacts,’ said Dr Hirth.

In the decade since the Fukushima accident, ARPANSA has continued its involvement in the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Radiological Assistance Network, participating in field exercises inside the Fukushima exclusion zones, and in the ongoing development of IAEA Safety Standards for emergency preparedness and response.

ARPANSA’s response to the Fukushima disaster continues to be an important event in our history.

’We remember and honour all of those impacted by this tragedy and will continue our work to engage internationally to support nuclear safety and radiation protection efforts globally,’ said Dr Hirth.