It is urgent that the general public understand that you will be getting very mixed statements about what amount of radiation is safe vs. what isn’t. When events like this come into play you will be hearing two things: Attempts to protect the nuclear industry from political and economic fallout. The industry is in full control of all federal and state agencies, in terms of who gets into positions of power. For this reason, the general public should have a very healthy skepticism of who has been guarding the hen-house from the industry’s inception. After Chernobyl the global monitoring group said that radiation was between 4-16 times worse than previously accepted by the official radiation protection bodies around the world. The U.S. refused to change its safety standards for nearly a decade, and in the case of personalizing dose impacts they continue to refuse to do so. By this I mean that when they tell you that a radiation reading they obtain is safe, what they mean is that it is safe for a 21 year old healthy male.. Not what is safe for the fetus of a pregnant mother, or anyone with serious health problems.
At present, there are very serious implications from the Fukushima disaster to the Japanese public, primarily from the spent fuel pond incident. However, there is no indication of dangerous levels of radiation anywhere outside of Japan. In comparison to how the US responded to the Katrina disaster at New Orleans, Japan has done a far better job with this disaster which is far larger.
Lastly, it was the USA that pushed Japan to build US General Electric reactor designs upon that country in the 1970’s, while never informing Japan that a report here was hidden that warned that these designs should never have been built. It is this single fact that that could come back to bite this country, just as in 2010 it was a US nuclear accident that broke another major scandal in Japan where an American nuclear submarine leaked coolant at ports around Japan. In horror after the disclosure, the Japanese public was told that their government had secret abrogated the country’s constitution calling for no nuclear weapons to ever be allowed in Japan. For weeks in Japan, the country the country was forced by the US since Richard Nixon to secretly allow nuclear power vessels from the US to routinely visit ports around Japan.
The Media and the Nuclear Industry Spin Machine
For anyone who has been watching the Japanese nuclear crisis unfold, please understand that you can expect the coverage of this disaster to be one of the biggest spins imaginable. Until the 2nd day after the quake, CNN and every major US media outlet prematurely claimed that there was no danger and that Japan had designed and built reactors that were capable of withstanding the quake. The kind of commentators being relied upon were all nuclear industry people. But that changed when the world saw the reactor housing of one of the 6 reactors at Fukushima get blown up. With two more explosions as well as the uncovering of the spent fuel pond at Unit 4, the tone changed to extreme alarm, and what they are now starting to reframe as an over-reaction to the actual scope of the disaster. Looking closely at what is, what might be and what was, its clear that we are now watching a managed attempt inside the United States to protect the nuclear industry from political fallout, as we have seen with congressional and administrative responses by the president, the Nuclear Regulator Commission and the Dept. of Energy on March 17th.
The general public is clearly demanding a response as can be seen that the nuclear industry around the world has reacted in political terror as well with even China, Russia and France the most aggressive promoters of nuclear development all taking public actions to calm their people down. The world was told that only Russia lacked the technological skills to safely run and operate nuclear reactors by the western press in 1986. The Chernobyl disaster released deadly amounts of radiation for an entire month until the reactor fire could finally be extinguished. It took several more months before The Soviet’s completed the sarcophogus that finally secured radiation releases to the environment. The event took over 500,000 conscripted workers to clean up of which many later died.
Unless Japan is able to keep the 3 reactors currently in danger of further meltdown we are facing a Chernobyl scale event. We may be facing something close to a Chernobyl scale event just from the spent fuel in the damaged reactor. However, as we have seen with the media over-reacting, there is not enough evidence, including the fact that there hasn’t been a single credible report of high readings outside of Japan as of yet to place this event on a level equal to Chernobyl. Three days after Chernobyl Sweden broke the Chernobyl disaster to the public when they were getting deadly levels thousands of miles from Kiev. This hasn’t happened as of yet.
Its incredibly important that active opponents to nuclear not jump the gun, and realize this nightmare could still go on for weeks, even months. Over dramatizing the event could impact how the public sees opponents and you can bet the media and the industry will do everything in its power to save itself.
Official US radiation protection standards
National Council on Radiation Protection
“… every increment of radiation exposure produces an incremental increase in the risk of cancer.” (National Council on Radiation Protection, “Evaluation of the Linear-Non-threshold Dose-Response Model for Ionizing Radiation,” NCRP report 136, Bethesda, MD, June 4, 2001, cited in Science for Democratic Action, IEER, June 2005)
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
“Current evidence suggests that any exposure to radiation poses some risk, i.e. there is no level below which we can say an exposure poses no risk.” (U.S. EPA, “Radiation: Risks & Realities,” Air & Radiation, 6602J, EPA 402-K-92-004, Aug. 1993)
U.S. Department of Energy
“[T]he effects of low levels of radiation are more difficult to determine because the major effect is a very slight increase in cancer risk. However, U.S. Government regulations assume that the effects of all radiation exposures are cumulative and should be limited as much as reasonably possible.” (DOE/NE-0074, “Understanding Radiation,” p. 8 & 9. <http://www.ne.doe.gov/pdfFiles/UNDERRAD.PDF>)
U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission
“[T]he radiation protection community conservatively assumes that any amount of radiation may pose some risk for causing cancer and hereditary effect, and that the risk is higher for higher radiation exposures. A linear no-threshold dose-response relationship is used to describe the relationship between radiation dose and the occurrence of cancer. … any increase in dose, no matter how small, results in an incremental increase in risk.” (U.S. NRC, “How Does Radiation Affect the Public?” www.nrc.gov/what-we-do/radiation/affect.html)
National Academy of Sciences
The National Academy of Science’s … committee further judges it unlikely that a threshold exists for the induction of cancers…” ( National Academy of Sciences, “Health Risks from Exposure to Low Levels of Ionizing Radiation: BEIR VII, Phase 2,” Committee to Assess Health Risks from Exposure to Low Levels of Ionizing Radiation, National Research Council, June 29, 2005)
International Radiation Protection Bodies
ICRP, International Commission on Radiation Protection
ICRU, International Commission on Radiation Units
IAEA, International Atomic Energy Agency
UNSCEAR, United Nations Scientific Committee on the effects of Ionizing Radiations
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