VIENNA, Jan 31 Reuters – The health impact of last year’s Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan appears relatively small thanks partly to prompt evacuations, the chairman of a U.N. scientific body investigating the effects of radiation said on Tuesday.

“What we have seen in Chernobyl – people were dying from huge, high exposures, some of the workers were dying very soon – nothing along these lines has been reported so far (in Japan),” he said. “Up to now there were no acute immediate effects observed.”

via No Big Fukushima Health Impact Seen, UN Official Says: Scientific American.

The “several thousand children” who developed thyroid cancer due to radioactive iodine poisoning after Chernobyl were signalled by “acute immediate effects” right after Chernobyl blew up. The fact that “no acute immediate effects” have been observed does not mean that there will be no negative health effects from released radiation. But it does bode well.

And from the World Nuclear News website:

If nuclear reactors do not restart, Japan faces the challenge of meeting summer peak demand without a large part of its usual power supply, although it is thought that continued energy austerity might be able to bridge the gap.

The cost of this extended nuclear shutdown, however, is catastrophic: Importing an extra ¥4.3 trillion ($55 billion) of fossil fuel tipped Japan’s trade balance into the red for 2011; and today Bloomberg reported financial results from six Japanese power companies that counted total losses of ¥463 billion ($6.0 billion) due to increased fossil fuel costs and idled nuclear capacity.

via IAEA reviews Japan’s nuclear restart process | WNN

No doubt we will get the usual flood of “They’re just saying that because they believe in nuclear power/(insert your favourite bête noire)”