Dienstag, 13. März 2012

Interview with Keith Baverstock

During the “Fukushima 1 Year” Conference, organized in the European Parliament by the Green Group (Greens/EFA) I had the chance to interview Keith Baverstock. “Docent (adjunct professor) in the Department of Environmental Science at the University of Eastern Finland, Keith Baverstock studies the effect of ionizing radiation on the cells and has taken over the years a special interest in effects of low doses of radiation, the toxicity of depleted uranium and the consequences of accidents such as Chernobyl and now Fukushima.”*
Photo: Christian Gapp (c)

Approximately 1 year after the Fukushima catastrophe, how do you see the situation in Japan:

Baverstock: Well, I think the situation is pretty desperate. But I am limited in what I can say and what that might involve in terms of health effects. Because we simply do not have enough information with which to do that. It's pretty clear that in the village of Iiate and around there, there are people which have been exposed to months to levels which are similar to levels which are present in the settlements around the Chernobyl reactor, and where people stay only for 12 days roughly, at the highest. Those people we haven't been able to study because they've been dispersed. But I think there should be a study of these inhabitants of Iiate, because this is potentially valuable information. But the situation in Japan is quite unprecedented: There are 3 cores that have melted down, actually melted trough almost certainly and the secondary containment has been blown away. So there has been no limit to the release and we saw this huge release of Xenon-133, that's an indication that the fuel has melted and all the volatiles have come of. It is perhaps surprising that not more cesium has come out, certainly there must be still a lot retained in the molten fuel but precisely what is the state of the molten fuel, is it just lying on the reactor floor? Has it eaten into the concrete? Is there a danger of eating all the way trough the concrete? That's getting more remote as time goes by. And nobody can find this out, because nobody can get close enough to see what's happening. So, it's an extremely desperate situation, not at all like the situation that national governments have tried to suggest that, well I mean that one of the most ridiculous things is that the IAEA(International Atomic Energy Agency) reporting several months after the initial meltdown, that in fact these reactors are under cold shutdown. “Cold shutdown” doesn't mean anything if the fuel has run out and is at the bottom of the reactor.

After “Chernobyl” it was difficult for scientists to refer to comparable data. Some people tried to compare at the time “Chernobyl” to the data which had been collected from the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Now we have a lot of data from “Chernobyl”, can we use it to compare it to Fukushima?

Baverstock: Well I think we do have a lot of data which I think is useful to compare to Fukushima, but even tough it's 26 years since the “Chernobyl accident”, this long delay periods for diseases to appear after exposure. So there's still a lot to learn from the Chernobyl accident, and the European Commission has commissioned a study back in 2008, to see what else could be learned from the Chernobyl accident. And that study, which I was a part of in 2010, with a main recommendation that a long-term lifespan study should be setup, along the lines of the RERS-Study. And so far no action has been taken. We are now in 2012. We've had the Fukushima accident and there's undoubtedly a huge amount of information that would be gained from further studies of the Chernobyl accident in terms of setting up from existing cohorts, a lifespan study. The second thing is at the time of Chernobyl, it may not have looked appropriate to compare the effects of a low dose of radiation spread over a long period of time with the Japanese bomb survivor data. But now, we have enough data from Tetcha-River (river contaminated by the “Mayak Incident”), from radiation worker studies, to show us that there is in fact no difference. In fact it is even possible that exposure at a low-dose rate is even more damaging than exposure to a very short-lived flash of radiation. So it is quite legitimate to use the precisely the values that you get from Japanese bomb survivors and apply them to situations like Chernobyl or Fukushima.

* http://www.kbaverstock.org/ (Keith's personal Webpage with lots of information on both Fukushima and Chernobyl, his publications and interesting data)


  1. very interesting! thankyou Mr. Baverstock and of course thankz Mr. "Schock" :)


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