Tuesday, April 5, 2011

There's No Such Thing as Safe Radiation

Since Fukushima failed, the Japanese government and TEPCO have obscured the danger of the Fukushima crisis—and it is a crisis. The word "safe" has been tossed about loosely. Unfortunately, when it comes to radiation, there's no such thing.

Now, there is no cloud of lethal radioactive vapor headed toward your house right now. If you're outside of Japan, as I write this, there's no evidence that you're in any imminent danger from what's spewing out of Fukushima.

Nothing I'll write here is meant to scare you, because we shouldn't be scared.

But we shouldn't be ignorant either. And, largely, we are. Japanese authority figures have taken steps, whether deliberately or out of pure ineptitude, to whitewash the danger of Fukushima's radiation. Speaking out of both sides of his mouth, Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary, Yukio Edano, said that Tokyo's drinking water was both safe and unsafe. Levels of iodine 131, a radioactive isotope that clogs your thyroid gland and can have devastating effects on children, was found to be 110 becquerels per liter above the safe level. The evacuation zone surrounding the plant was expanded by seven miles—but only as a voluntary, not mandatory move. The government has advanced and retreated on the danger of irradiated food, with clear internal discord. The radiation limit deemed unsafe was suddenly erased and replaced with a new figure, on the fly. And just today, the TEPCO said it'll start dumping thousands of tons of contaminated water into the Pacific Ocean—an act they're saying poses ''no major health risk."

Nevermind that, before the Fukushima disaster, the average person outside of a physics classroom had zero idea in radioactive hell what a becquerel is. Nevermind that the entire concept of a safe level of radiation has been shown to be demonstrably elastic. (read more)