Annual Report

49. A Review Epidemiological Study for Health Monitoring of Potential Risk from Radiation Exposure near Nuclear Power Plants in Japan

Yasuhiko Yoshimoto and Shinji Yoshinaga

Keywords: Epidemiological study, Potential risk of the public, Radiation exposure, Nuclear power plants, Radiological emergency

An apparent increase of leukemia risk occasionally raises public concern about radiation exposure in countries where nuclear power plants (NPPs) are located, although the facilities operate normally. Certainly, on the other hand, a reactor plant accident poses a threat to increased thyroid cancer risk in children due to radioiodine uptake mainly from fallout contaminated fresh milk. At the end of 1998, there were 52 NPPs operating in Japan. One important issue in radiation epidemiology is how to clarify scientific, social, and political controversies about the potential public health risk from radiation exposure for people living near NPPs if nuclear energy is to be a necessary energy source in Japanese society. A review epidemiological study was conducted for public health monitoring of potential risk of radiation exposure near the NPPs in Japan with respect to two points: routine releases of radioactive effluents from NPPs and consequence of a NPP accident.

Our goal in this issue is not hanging onto very small potential risks or seizing one positive aspect to prove no risk at the time of normal operation. It is a challenge to provide 'evidence-based epidemiological translations' for the Japanese public to recognize what potential risk NPPs pose for our society. In the not too distant future, we expect to use national health statistics and realistic estimates of routine radiation concentration from NPPs in a geographic information system. It is very rare that a large number of the public are involved in a serious nuclear accident. A justification for the adopted implementation for decontamination is sometimes to be determined through not only radiological assessment of the environment, but also epidemiological assessment of long-term public health consequences. Further continuous efforts should be done to ensure that no major public health impact from the fallout after the Chernobyl accident is to be observed except the predicted further increase in thyroid cancer risk. It will give us useful findings to reduce risks of the public after radiological emergency.

Yoshimoto, Y. and Yoshinaga, S. 10th International Congress of the IRPA, P-2a-62, 2000.

[Back to index]