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Asia Pac J Public Health. 2012 Jul;24(4):689-96. doi: 10.1177/1010539512453258. Epub 2012 Jul 11.

Fukushima nuclear incident: the challenges of risk communication.

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  • 1Public Health Division, Western Australian Department of Health, Perth, Australia.


On March 11, 2011, a magnitude 9.0 earthquake occurred off the Sanriku coast of Japan, which resulted in multiple tsunamis. The earthquake and tsunami damaged several nuclear power stations, with the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant being the worst affected, which led Japan to declare a State of Nuclear Emergency. As of November 9, 2011, the National Police Agency of Japan reported a death toll of 15 836 people, with 3664 people still reported missing, following the earthquake and tsunami. Australian radiation health advisers were deployed to Tokyo early in the nuclear emergency to assist the Australian Embassy in assessing the radiological threat, to provide risk advice to Embassy staff and Australian citizens in Japan, and to plan for any further deterioration in the nuclear situation. This article explores the challenges of risk assessment, risk communication, and contingency planning for expatriate staff in the worst nuclear incident since Chernobyl, outlines what measures were successful in addressing heightened perceived risks, and identifies areas where further research is required, particularly in a radiological context.

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