… A Stanford University study in July estimated that radiation from Fukushima Daiichi might eventually cause anywhere from 15 to 1,300 deaths.
Radiation poisoning can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, headaches and fatigue in lower doses. In bigger doses, it can cause burns, haemorrhages, cancer and death.
Radiation can also damage plants and animals, poisoning food for human consumption. A type of butterfly near Fukushima has been found with high rates of mutation, such as deformed wings and eyes.
Part of the risks of enrichment is that the process involves heating uranium to a gas form, Dewey said.
The process frees uranium hexafluoride (UF6), which is both toxic and radioactive and can cause kidney damage. When UF6 comes in contact with moisture it converts to uranyl fluoride and toxic hydrofluoric acid, in a gas form.
Among accidents, in 1986 the rupture of a cylinder at a uranium enrichment facility run by Sequoyah Fuels Corp. in the United States released a cloud of UF6, killing one worker and injuring 31 others. None of the 31 suffered lasting kidney damage.
(Additional reporting by Marcus George in Dubai; Editing by Pravin Char)