December 2011

Dr. Robert J. Emery

Dr. Robert J. Emery

A new study released on December 19 by Joseph Mangano, executive director of the Radiation and Public Health Project, claims that 14,000 U.S. deaths can be tied to radiation from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power accident. Dr. Robert Emery, vice president for safety, health, environment and risk management at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, disputes the claims in the study:

“We aggressively monitored for the presence of environmental radioactivity in Houston following the Fukushima event and worked closely with local public health authorities in the event we detected any threat to public health. We never detected any elevated radiation levels. I don’t see any evidence to support the assertions made by this report that the additional 484 deaths in Houston in 2011 could in any way be related to radioactivity from Fukushima – we never detected any.

“Moreover the study bases its conclusion on the comparison of data from deaths in the U.S. in 2010 and 2011. Using this method you really can’t determine the specific cause of any increase in deaths over the two years. Perhaps the most important question is: what did the 148,395 U.S. citizens die of in 2010, the year before the Japanese earthquake? Most likely the overwhelming causes were heart disease, cancer, and stroke. I believe this is likely the case in 2011 as well. I also believe our finite public health resources are better spent on the issues we know are causing people to die rather than being diverted to explore hypothetical projections.”
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The Progressive Policy Institute has released a new policy memo that discusses the impact of Fukushima on U.S. energy policy and says that Americans should consider the facts about nuclear energy before endorsing a “knee-jerk anti-nuclear policy.” The memo also outlines how electricity is generated in this country and details the actual health and financial risks that are involved from nuclear power.

Excerpt from the Introduction:

The Fukushima incident has stoked nuclear dread around the world and led some to conclude that nuclear power is too risky. Perhaps the most dramatic shift in public attitudes has been in Germany, where a conservative-led government recently unveiled a plan to close down all the country’s nuclear power plants by 2022.

Americans, however, should not endorse this knee-jerk anti-nuclear policy. For the foreseeable future, nuclear power will remain a vital part of a balanced and realistic national energy portfolio. Moreover, as champions of reason and science, U.S. progressives have a responsibility to avoid panicky overreactions and instead undertake a clear-eyed assessment of the actual risks of nuclear energy.

Read the full report >>

Plant Status

  • The Fukushima Daiichi reactors are in “a state of cold shutdown,” with temperatures at the bottom of the reactor pressure vessels and containment vessels stably below the boiling point and radiation levels at the plant boundary below 100 millirem per year. (By comparison, the average radiation level from all sources to U.S. citizens is about 400 millirem per year.) The announcement last Friday by Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda is a key milestone in the site’s recovery plan, U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission Chairman Gregory Jaczko said on his first visit to the site since March.
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Reuters reported this morning that the Japanese prime minister declared that the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear energy facility is in a state of cold shutdown. See story:

UPDATE 5-Japan says stricken nuclear power plant in cold shutdown

TOKYO, Dec 16 (Reuters) – Japan declared its tsunami-stricken Fukushima nuclear power plant to be in cold shutdown on Friday, taking a major step to resolving the world’s worst nuclear crisis in 25 years but some critics questioned whether the plant was really under control.

The Fukushima Daiichi plant, 240 km (150 miles) northeast of Tokyo, was wrecked on March 11 by a huge earthquake and a towering tsunami which knocked out its cooling systems, triggering meltdowns, radiation leaks and mass evacuations.

In making the much-anticipated announcement, Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda tried to draw a line under the most acute phase of the crisis and highlighted the next challenges: the clean-up and the safe dismantling of the plant, something the government says may take more than 30 years.

“The reactors have reached a state of cold shutdown,” Noda told a government nuclear emergency response meeting.

“A stable condition has been achieved,” he added, noting radiation levels at the boundary of the plant could now be kept at low levels, even in the event of “unforeseeable incidents.”


See NEI’s post that explains the difference between “cold shutdown condition,” which is what happened at Fukushima, and the normal process of “cold shutdown.”

NOTE: The Fukushima updates are moving to a weekly schedule beginning today and continuing each Monday.  Additional updates will be issued as needed to cover developing events.


  • Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) said it will receive accident insurance from a Swiss company that will replace a consortium of insurers that will not renew its policies with the utility. TEPCO will pay about $258 million for a five-year policy, about 10 times the amount it paid to the consortium. The policy will cover claims related to Fukushima Daiichi.
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Activity ID: 1002943 Activity Name: NEI Remarketing Safety Activity Group Name: Remarketing Safety First