Science in Society Archive

Nuclear Shutdown

Dr. Mae-Wan Ho and Prof. Peter Saunders

Please forward widely to your political representatives

Now or never

“We lost Japan,” said Rie Inomata, who works as an interpreter [1].

“I feel guilty and sorry for the children. They did not choose nuclear power plants, they did not choose to be born; but it is them that have to suffer in the future.”

“By not protesting against nuclear power I allowed this accident to happen. If we go in the same direction, I don’t see any future.”

“If we [are to] make a difference, we must decide now, it is now or never.”

Potential future of Fukushima children written in Chernobyl

The potential future for the Fukushima children victims is written starkly in the government birth and death registries of the heavily contaminated regions in the Chernobyl fallout; dedicated doctors, scientists, and ordinary citizens are bearing witness to the humanitarian disaster still unfolding.

There have been at least close to a million excess deaths, with general mortality rates doubled or tripled [2] (Chernobyl Deaths Top a Million Based on Real Evidence, SiS 55). A diversity of illnesses continue to claim lives including those of children: birth abnormalities, cancers, cardiovascular malfunction, premature aging, defects affecting practically every organ system, often multiple illnesses in the same individual, all associated with exposure to radioactivity in the body either inhaled or ingested in contaminated food. The number of children in Belarus has fallen by more than 27% since 2000, despite increasing birth rates. The horrific health impacts of the nuclear accident are still emerging more than 26 years later because the land is still contaminated, and the genetic/epigenetic legacy is just as long lasting.

Many of the deaths and sicknesses could have been avoided had governments not done their best to suppress the evidence from the start, even to the point of persecuting doctors and scientists - who put their lives and careers at risk in trying to save the children -including cutting off major funding for a simple treatment that would have reduced the children’s radioactive burden [3, 4] (Apple Pectin for Radioprotection, The Pectin Controversy, SiS 55).

Fukushima fallout as big as Chernobyl

Chernobyl was generally recognized as the biggest nuclear accident in history. Within days of the first explosion, Fukushima was reclassified by the International Atomic Energy Agency to the highest grade 7 – with “widespread health and environmental effects” – the same as Chernobyl [5] (Fukushima Nuclear Crisis, SiS 50).

But as in Chernobyl, the government has withheld vital information from people, the international regulators are downplaying the health impacts, and to this day, the total radioactivity released from the stricken Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant is still unknown [6] (Truth about Fukushima, SiS 55).

The most authoritative estimates based on measurements carried out by the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty monitoring stations around the globe indicate that the total radioactivity released from the Fukushima accident is at least as great as from Chernobyl; some 15 times the official estimate, and much more global in reach [7] (Fukushima Fallout Rivals Chernobyl, SiS 55). The radioactivity in the waste water discharged into the Pacific Ocean is already the single largest release into the ocean in history.

The Japanese government’s own measurements show widespread contamination, with levels of radioactivity outside the official evacuation zone so high that within a matter of weeks, people would have been exposed to 10-200 times the legal limit dose for a whole year [6]. Evacuation especially of children from those areas is a matter of the utmost urgency. Yet the Japanese government is still refusing to do that.  

Nuclear reactors to restart despite lag in crisis plan

On 16 June 2012, Japanese premier Noda ordered the restart of two nuclear reactors amid widespread protest, and new crisis plans drafted after the Fukushima disaster are still to be implemented by any local community living near the nuclear power reactors. The Ohi nuclear reactors to be restarted are a case in point.

If a Fukushima-style meltdown were to happen, the only route for escape or sending help is [8] “a winding, cliff-hugging road often closed by snow in winter or clogged by beachgoers in summer.” Radioactivity from the meltdown could contaminate Lake Biwa, the country’s biggest freshwater source serving 14 million people. The reactors sit on Wakasa Bay, a region home to 13 commercial reactors. Some of the crucial measures designed to protect residents in the new crisis plans are not ready, such as a raised seawall in 2013 and an onsite command centre by March 2o16. And filter vents that could reduce radiation leaks to the environment won’t be ready for three more years.

The Fukui provincial government has only started survey in June 2012 for a multibillion dollar project to repair the sole route to the Ohi nuclear plant and to add a new alternative evacuation road.

Governor Yukuko Kada of neighbouring Shiga province accuses the central government of still ignoring the residents, and says it has still refused to provide radiation simulation data she has asked for in order to compile an evacuation map and to study the impact on Lake Biwa, as another Fukushima-class crisis could “instantly make the lake water undrinkable.”

Public opposition to resuming operations remains high because of the Fukushima disaster and a lingering distrust of the nuclear industry as well as the pro-nuclear regulators and governments.

But the public have good reason on their side.

Big nuclear accidents 200 times more often than previous estimates

Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Chemistry in Mainz have calculated that catastrophic nuclear accidents such as Chernobyl and Fukushima may occur once every 10 to 20 years, based on the operating hours of all civil nuclear reactors and the number of nuclear meltdowns that have occurred [9]. This is more than 200 times as often than estimated in the past. The research team also determined that in the event of such a major accident, half of the long-lived radioactive caesium-137 would be spread over an area extending more than 1 000 km away from the reactor. Western Europe in particular is likely to be contaminated about once in 50 years by more than 40kBq of Cs-137 per square metre, a level upwards that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) defines as ‘contaminated’.

Their calculations showed that if a single nuclear meltdown were to occur in Western Europe, ~ 28 million people would be affected by contamination of more than 40 kBq per square metre.  In southern Asia, the dense population would put the number of people affected by a major nuclear accident at ~34 million, while in the eastern USA and in East Asia this would be 14 to 21 million.

Fukushima has triggered Germany’s exit from their nuclear power programme. It is to close down all 17 nuclear reactors and replace them with renewable energies, mostly wind and solar, and has invested €200 billion (8 % of the country’s GDP) towards that end [10]. “Germany's exit from the nuclear energy program will reduce the national risk of radioactive contamination.” said Director and lead author of the Max Planck study Jos Lelieveld, an atmosphere chemist [9]. “However, an even stronger reduction would result if Germany’s neighbours were to switch off their reactors. Not only do we need an in-depth and public analysis of the actual risks of nuclear accidents. In light of our findings I believe an internationally coordinated phasing out of nuclear energy should also be considered.”

Some governments have too cosy a relationship with the nuclear industry

The UK government is chief among those countries with nuclear ambitions undaunted by the Fukushima disaster. It is still determined to go ahead with the construction of at least 10 new reactors, despite plenty of counter-evidence available to it, which include evidence that an adequate supply of low carbon energy could be produced without it, to the point of misleading Parliament by omission of the evidence in order to get the decision through [11] (UK’s Nuclear Illusion, SiS 55), and with a huge public subsidy. Why?

The most likely explanation is a too-cosy relationship between the government and the nuclear industry, which applies in other countries like France [12] (The True Costs of French Nuclear Power , SiS 53) with close links to nuclear weaponry. But times have changed, the nuclear option is a dinosaur, both as far as energy supply and defence is concerned, and it is time to end the nuclear illusion once and for all.

WHO cannot be trusted

The World Health Organisation (WHO), which should have been an independent regulator of nuclear safety, has long abandoned this obligation. In 1959, the WHO signed an agreement (WHA 12-40) with IAEA that effectively gave the IAEA responsibility for health issues arising from the civilian use of nuclear power. The terms of the agreement are freely available to the public [13] but they are still not widely known, with the result that most people are unaware that reports and other documents that purport to have major input from the WHO, the agency set up by the UN in 1948 to deal with international health issues, are actually from the IAEA, the body whose mission is to promote the nuclear industry. The WHO has put its name on documents such as the 2003-2005 report of the Chernobyl Forum [14] that it had little to do with; it could not have because it has no department for nuclear health and no experts in the field. Its report on Fukushima, similarly, cannot be trusted [15] (WHO Report on Fukushima a Travesty, SiS 55)

IndependentWHO, an organisation concerned about the dangers of nuclear power in general and the consequences of Chernobyl and Fukushima in particular, demands the revision of agreement WHA 12/40, and has held a vigil outside WHO headquarters in Geneva every working day since April 2007 to draw attention to the crime of non-assistance to the victims of Chernobyl and now Fukushima. (For more, see its web site:

Thanks to the IndependentWHO, the editors of SiS were invited to the Scientific and Citizen Forum on Radioprotection – From Chernobyl to Fukushima, 11-13 May 2012, Geneva, which the group organized. This led to the series of articles that has been collected into the present report, Death Camp Fukushima Chernobyl.

Death Camp Fukushima Chernobyl

Death Camp Fukushima Chernobyl is a concise summary of scientific evidence on:

  • The devastating health consequences of the Chernobyl radioactivity fallout suppressed by governments and pro-nuclear regulatory authorities
  • The real extent of the Fukushima fallout and health hazards faced by victims, both downplayed by the Japanese government and the regulatory authorities
  • New findings on the amplified health impacts of low dose ionizing radiation
  • Simple radioprotection measures.

It also shows why the official picture presented by organisations such as the WHO is highly misleading, and why countries still determined to go nuclear are clinging to obsolete energy and defence policies.

The report makes clear that children living in the highly contaminated areas outside the official evacuation zone around Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plants must be evacuated promptly in order to avert a humanitarian disaster on the scale of Chernobyl.  Concerted international effort is needed to provide help for evacuating the children and to continue health monitoring and research on radioprotection. Finally, a global phase out of nuclear power is in order given that a combination of renewable energy options can provide all our energy needs safely, sustainably and at much more affordable costs for all, as we made the case thoroughly in ([16] Green Energies - 100% Renewable by 2050, ISIS Report). 

Article first published 25/06/12


  1. Stories from Fukushima, Message in a Bottle, From the kids of Fukushima to the World, accessed 20 June 2012,
  2. Ho MW. Chernobyl deaths top a million. Science in Society 55 (to appear) 2012.
  3. Ho MW. Apple pectin for radioprotection. Science in Society 55 (to appear) 2012.
  4. Greaves S. The pectin controversy. Science in Society 55 (to appear) 2012.
  5. Ho MW. Fukushima nuclear crisis. Science in Society 50m 4-9, 2011.
  6. Ho MW. Truth about Fukushima. Science in Society 55 (to appear) 2012.
  7. Ho MW. Fukushima fallout rivals Chernobyl. Science in Society 55 (to appear) 2012.
  8. “Crisis plans lag even as Japan’s reactors restart”, Mari Yamaguchi, Associated Press,,  21 June 2012,
  9. “Probability of contamination from nuclear accidents is higher than expected” Max-Planck-Gesellschaft, 22 May 2012,
  10. “Germany swaps nuclear for solar and wind power”, Oliver Lazenby, Truthout, 22 June 2012,
  11. Saunders PT. UK’s nuclear illusion. Science in Society 55 (to appear) 2012.
  12. Greaves S . The true costs of French nuclear power. Science in Society 53, 8-11, 2012.
  13. Agreement between the International Atomic Energy Agency and the  World Health Organisation, IAEA/WHO, 1959,
  14. Chernobyl’s Legacy: Health Environmental and Socio-Economic Impacts and Recommendations to the Governments of Belarus, the Russian Federation and Ukraine. IAEA Division of Public Information. Vienna, IAEA, 2006,
  15. Greaves S. WHO report on Fukushima a travesty. Science in Society 55 (to appear) 2012.
  16. Ho MW, Brett C, Burcher S and Saunders PT. Green Energies, 100 % Renewables by 2050, ISIS/TWN, London/Penang, 2009,

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There are 2 comments on this article so far. Add your comment above.

Eric L. Hanson Comment left 26th June 2012 16:04:54
t is hard to believe that a website called Institute of Science in Society would publish such non-scientific drivel as this. Claims of a million excess deaths as a result of Chernobyl are unfounded anti-nuclear propaganda. See Claims that the IAEA can prevent the WHO from releasing information on radiation related topics is also a myth. The two organizations have a standard information sharing agreement, that is all. Environmental journalist George Monbiot has shown this.

Briseis Gatto Comment left 29th June 2012 14:02:43
Eric, stating the other side's claims are non-scientific drivel, without immediately backing that up with point-by-point evidence, is hardly scientific! Instead it is a smear, and seems to be an ill-tempered attempt at bullying, a *political* activity to support a party line, "nuclear is good"---not scientific debate. You don't get to make reality go away by simply claiming something is "unfounded anti-nuclear propaganda"--and certainly not by referral to a youtube video. There are lots of propaganda videos on youtube. Your video, Eric, seems to feature some "qualified" people; however, it is well known that folks often have conflicts-of-interest. In general we should suspect that people may not look impartially at the risks of technologies, the existence of which results in their paycheck. This fascinating 1980 interview from the New Scientist with physics Ph.D. Ernest Sternglass, makes some of those conflicts clear: Journalist have conflicts too, and even ones with a reputation for fearless truth-telling can become corrupt. According to John Pilger, Monbiot's recent work on press inadequacy has been particularly unbalanced: "Not a word from Monbiot reminds us that two credible studies found that the BBC...had been virtually a Blair government mouthpiece in the run up to the bloodbath.... ‘When Monbiot complains that the “corporate press” has “hobbled progressive politics”, he is dead right. His omissions serve the same purpose.’ (Email, December 24, 2011)