Gerry Thomas Highlights Misconceptions over Health Impacts of Nuclear Accidents

  • 2014•10•17

    This report is also available in Japanese.

    At an open seminar on 15 October 2014, Gerry Thomas (Professor of Molecular Pathology at Imperial College London) emphasized the prevalence of misconceptions related to radiological risk as well as the range of factors that can influence both dose and exposure to radiation. The seminar was co-organized by UNU-IAS as part of its Fukushima Global Communication (FGC) programme and the British Embassy Tokyo.

    The talk by Prof. Thomas covered a wide range of issues related to the measurement of radiological risk and the effective communication and action that can be taken to address it. She highlighted the importance of distinguishing between different forms of radiation (including natural sources) as well as the associated internal and external exposure factors associated with different isotopes.

    A central point of her talk was to consider the potential risks of the Fukushima nuclear accident by reflecting on past data from the Chernobyl nuclear accident and atomic bomb tests of the 1960s. Referencing recent reports from the UN Scientific Committte on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR) and the WHO, she emphasized that the negative health impacts directly attributable to radiation would be negligible, while those linked to psychological stresses caused by evacuation and alarming media coverage would be considerable.

    Opening remarks were delivered by Prof. Kazuhiko Takeuchi (Senior Vice-Rector, UNU), who outlined the difficulties associated with understanding the risks of radiation and communicating these in an understandable manner. The seminar was moderated by Dr. Christopher Hobson (Visiting Research Fellow, UNU-IAS).

    An audio recording and a detailed summary of the talk and subsequent discussion session are available.

    In addition, a video interview was recorded with Dr. Thomas at the United Nations University on the same day as the open seminar, and is available under the FGC website’s videos section.