No rise in cancer rates after Fukushima disaster, UN says

Police officers in radiation protection suits bow their heads to offer prayers in silence for tsunami victims in Fukushima on March 11, 2013.</p>

Police officers in radiation protection suits bow their heads to offer prayers in silence for tsunami victims in Fukushima on March 11, 2013.

Cancer rates are not expected to rise because of Japan's Fukushima nuclear disaster, UN scientists say.

A draft report concluded that the evacuation of thousands of people shortly after the 2011 accident drastically lowered their exposure to radiation, although the World Health Organization (WHO) said local resident have a slightly higher risk of developing certain cancers.

"These measures reduced the potential exposure by up to a factor of 10," said Wolfgang Weiss, senior UN Science Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR) member.

"If that had not been the case, we might have seen the cancer rates rising and other health problems emerging over the next several decades."

Weiss, who chairs the UNSCEAR report, said that dose levels were "so low that we don't expect to see any increase in cancer in the future in the population."

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He noted that the UNSCEAR study, which was carried out by 80 experts and included the involvement of five international organizations, was based on information covering a longer period after the accident than the WHO report.

Scientists met all this week to make final changes to the Fukushima report, which will be submitted to the UN General Assembly later this year.

Fukushima nuclear plant reactors were destroyed by an earthquake and tsunami that killed around 19,000 people, making it the world's worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1986.