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Nagataki reports that five years have passed since the nuclear accident at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Stations on 11 March 2011. Here we refer to reports from international organisations as sources of predicted values obtained from environmental monitoring and dose estimation models, and reports from various institutes in Japan are used as sources of individual actual values. The World Health Organization, based on information available up to 11 September 2011 (and published in 2012), reported that characteristic effective doses in the first year after the accident, to all age groups, were estimated to be in the 10–50 mSv dose band in example locations in evacuation areas. Estimated characteristic thyroid doses to infants in Namie Town were within the 100–200 mSv dose band.

A report from the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation published in 2014 shows that the effective dose received by adults in evacuation areas during the first year after the accident was 1.1–13 mSv. The absorbed dose to the thyroid in evacuated settlements was 7.2–35 mSv in adults and 15–83 mSv in 1-year-old infants. Individual external radiation exposure in the initial 4 months after the accident, estimated by superimposing individual behaviour data on to a daily dose rate map, was less than 3 mSv in 93.9% of residents (maximum 15 mSv) in evacuation areas. Actual individual thyroid equivalent doses were less than 15 mSv in 98.8% of children (maximum 25 mSv) in evacuation areas.

When uncertainty exists in dose estimation models, it may be sensible to err on the side of caution, and final estimated doses are often much greater than actual radiation doses. However, overestimation of the dose at the time of an accident has a great influence on the psychology of residents. More than 100 000 residents have not returned to the evacuation areas 5 years after the Fukushima accident because of the social and mental effects during the initial period of the disaster. Estimates of radiation doses placed in the public domain must be based on scientific evidence, and the way such information is communicated to residents should be carefully considered to avoid psychosocial effects that may have a greater bearing on health than the radiation itself.

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