Richard Garwin

The truth about Fukushima

There was much scaremongering in the wake of the tsunami and the shut-down of the Fukushima reactors. Most of it media driven and most of it drivel.

Have read of what Richard Muller has to say about it all at the Wall Street Journal:

Denver has particularly high natural radioactivity. It comes primarily from radioactive radon gas, emitted from tiny concentrations of uranium found in local granite. If you live there, you get, on average, an extra dose of .3 rem of radiation per year (on top of the .62 rem that the average American absorbs annually from various sources). A rem is the unit of measure used to gauge radiation damage to human tissue.

The International Commission on Radiological Protection recommends evacuation of a locality whenever the excess radiation dose exceeds .1 rem per year. But that’s one-third of what I call the “Denver dose.” Applied strictly, the ICRP standard would seem to require the immediate evacuation of Denver.

It is worth noting that, despite its high radiation levels, Denver generally has a lower cancer rate than the rest of the United States. Some scientists interpret this as evidence that low levels of radiation induce cancer resistance; I think it is more likely that lifestyle differences account for the disparity.

Now consider the most famous victim of the March 2011 tsunami in Japan: the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. Two workers at the reactor were killed by the tsunami, which is believed to have been 50 feet high at the site.

But over the following weeks and months, the fear grew that the ultimate victims of this damaged nuke would number in the thousands or tens of thousands. The “hot spots” in Japan that frightened many people showed radiation at the level of .1 rem, a number quite small compared with the average excess dose that people happily live with in Denver.

Right so Denver, Colorado is more radioactive than the area surrounding a major nuclear accident.

If you are exposed to a dose of 100 rem or more, you will get sick right away from radiation illness. You know what that’s like from people who have had radiation therapy: nausea, loss of hair, a general feeling of weakness. In the Fukushima accident, nobody got a dose this big; workers were restricted in their hours of exposure to try to make sure that none received a dose greater than 25 rem (although some exceeded this level). At a larger dose?250 to 350 rem?the symptoms become life-threatening. Essential enzymes are damaged, and your chance of dying (if untreated) is 50%.

The hotspots were just .1 rem…and no one even got close to a life threatening dosage. To put this in perspective let’s look at some numbers. Estimates of likely death caused by the reactor failures vary from Richard Muller’s 100 deaths all the way up to 1,500 deaths estimated by Richard?Garwin, a renowned nuclear expert. The tsunami killed 15,000 people.

The media has a great deal to anser for in panikcing people.