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Predicting the Public Health Consequences of a Nuclear Terrorism Attack: Drawing on The Experiences of Hiroshima and Fukushima

Jorgensen, Timothy, J.1

doi: 10.1097/HP.0000000000000870
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The increasing threat of nuclear terrorism warrants consideration of the health consequences of a terrorist incident should preventive measures fail. Although there has not yet been a nuclear terrorist attack of any kind, experiences with the aftermath of the bombing of Hiroshima and the core meltdowns at Fukushima can provide useful insight and allow some inferences to be made regarding the types of casualties that might be sustained and the rescue efforts that might be required. There are many parallels between the events at Hiroshima and what might be expected from an improvised nuclear device, and there are parallels between the radioactivity released to the environment at Fukushima and the aftermath of a radiological dispersal device attack. Nevertheless, there are some unique aspects to a ground-detonated improvised nuclear device that pose health threats beyond those seen at Hiroshima (i.e., fallout). And psychological health may be impacted more than physical health in the case of a radiological dispersal device. Preparedness requires consideration of all of these various health hazards in order to determine how best to mitigate the consequences of a nuclear terrorism attack.

1Health Physics and Radiation Protection Program, Georgetown University, 3970 Reservoir Road NW, Washington DC 20057.

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

For correspondence contact: Timothy J. Jorgensen, Health Physics and Radiation Protection Program, Georgetown University, 3970 Reservoir Road NW, Washington DC 20057, or email at tjorge01@georgetown.edu.

(Manuscript accepted 5 February 2018)

© 2018 by the Health Physics Society