Stanford University released a study that projected 130 people, primarily in Japan, will die from cancer over the next 50 years as the result of the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.
The group of companies that comprise Japan Airlines Co. Ltd. (JAL) has a fleet of about 280 aircraft and carries around 52 million passengers each year. Thus, using the same crude estimate of radiation exposure during a flight that I used before—which is roughly comparable to the crude estimate of radiation exposure calculated by “a 3-D global atmospheric model,” since I rely on measured statistics, while the Stanford paper relies on a computer model of dubious quality using inputs with unspecified uncertainties—I can calculate a collective dose. The result is about 2100 passenger-Sv of equivalent dose in a 16-month period.
So using the same lazy reasoning, back-of-the-envelope estimation, and LNT assumption that Ten Hoeve and Jacobson use in their paper (e.g., on page 12 of the PDF), I conclude that their methodology predicts that, since March 2011, the date of the Fukushima earthquake and tsunami, JAL has been responsible for an additional 240 passenger cancers and 120 eventual cancer deaths
While this is slightly less than Ten Hoeve and Jacobson’s projected 130 people, primarily in Japan, who will die from cancer due to the Fukushima accident over the next 50 years, we should note that the Fukushima-I plant has been shut down. Meanwhile, JAL is still operating and is still killing a “projected” 90 people each year, of various nationalities, without any plane crashes or other accidents.
Naturally, the uncertainties in these estimates are very large. However, considering these results and the “scientific rigor” that has gone into both this analysis and the Ten Hoeve and Jacobson study, perhaps it would be more prudent to restart the Fukushima-I plant and shut down Japan Airlines.
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
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