Japans decontamination standards may not alleviate cancer risk over time

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Experts generally agree that the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster is by far the most complex and technical nuclear accident in history.  In December 2011, the Japanese government released a roadmap for the cleanup activities, which predicted that the full cleanup will take 40 years.

The Japanese government is currently planning to allow some residents to return to their homes after radiation readings in their communities drop to below 20 millisieverts per year or lower.

The Science Council of Japan recently calculated long-term radiation exposures and said the government must set its decontamination targets to lower levels where health risks are eliminated.

The  council’s results showed that cumulative radiation exposure may reach over 230 millisieverts over the next 30 years, more than double the 100 millisievert-mark that is accepted as a benchmark where the threat of cancer is known to increase.

The council added that the cumulative radiation exposure is likely to only drop to about 100 millisieverts in comparison if decontamination efforts are continued for 5 years and are able to lower exposure levels by 20 percent each year after the residents return home.

After the Fukushima nuclear disaster, the effective dose limits for workers responding to the crisis was raised to 250 millisieverts.

If the Japanese government were to lower the 20 millisievert benchmark it would undoubtedly have a profound effect on the spending limits currently allotted to clean up the vast areas of land contaminated by radiation from the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

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