Even in Chernobyl, nobody in the general population suffered radiation sickness. The U.N. says that 6,500 cases of thyroid cancer can be attributed to the disaster, but because the cases were closely monitored and treated, only a few were fatal.
Those occurred mainly because people were not warned to stop drinking milk — the main way that dangerous quantities of radioactive iodine enter the body. The isotopes land on the grass, which is then eaten by cows, turning their milk radioactive.
"All they had to say was 'don't drink the milk,' " Boice said.
"In Japan, radioactive iodines are not going to be that big a deal," he said. "They won't let the milk into the food supply."