Since the accident with the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant (FDNPP) in March 2011, the public has been very concerned about radiation releases from the FDNPP. Thyroid ultrasound examinations, which were carried out as part of the Fukushima Health Management Survey (FHMS), a large-scale health survey of Fukushima residents, revealed a high prevalence of thyroid abnormalities in children and young adults. Although the radiation exposure of the residents due to the nuclear accident has been estimated to be generally low and is unlikely to explain this prevalence of thyroid abnormalities (IAEA, 2015), the accident and the observed high number of thyroid abnormalities have had significant psychological effects on the residents of Fukushima.
In response to questions and concerns raised after the FDNPP accident as well as in preparation for possible future nuclear accidents, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has established an international Expert Group on Thyroid Monitoring after Nuclear Accidents. The Expert Group will develop strategies and recommendations on how to plan and implement thyroid monitoring in populations possibly affected by radiation exposure due to nuclear accidents. The Expert Group consists of 14 international experts from a variety of fields, including cancer screening, radiation epidemiology, radiation dosimetry, pathology, oncology, endocrinology, and surgery, and is supported by a Scientific Secretariat (Chair and Scientific Coordinator) from the IARC Section of Environment and Radiation as well as three invited specialists. Most of the experts have been actively involved in a number of research projects related to the FDNPP accident and/or the accident with the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in 1986.
The primary goal of the Thyroid Monitoring after Nuclear Accidents (TM-NUC) project is to use current scientific evidence and past experience to develop principles for thyroid monitoring in populations possibly affected by radiation exposure due to nuclear accidents. Such principles will help guide policy-makers and health professionals in planning thyroid monitoring in case of nuclear accidents.
The TM-NUC project is funded by the Ministry of the Environment of Japan.