FEAR! We live in a culture of fear. Fear of the unknown seems to kick our imagination into high gear. One of the most natural fears that we can physically experience is the fear of heights or the fear of falling known as Acrophobia. However, what about the invisible fear of the unknown that controls our imagination, which in turn, feeds our fear. The fear of the fear is greater than the fear itself. The way to overcome any fear is to confront it and the best way is through education. The fear of nuclear radiation is one of those invisible fears because you can’t see it, touch it, smell it or taste it, but you can hear it with a Geiger counter. Many people do not seem to realize that radiation is around all people all of the time. Natural radiation is constantly streaming down onto planet earth from the stars. Radiation is also constantly coming up from the ground. That is called background radiation and what I refer to as the nuclear biosphere.
So to address nuclear fear, we can look at the lessons learned from Fukushima four years later. Quite simply, nuclear power has been proven to be much safer than anyone previously imagined. The world watched the entire saga, second by second for weeks, and now four years later what was the outcome? I know some of you will find this hard to accept but the answer is: total people killed by radiation – zero, total injured by radiation – zero, total private property damaged by radiation – zero, expected long term effects on people by radiation – ~zero. Fukushima was not a nuclear disaster as so many vocalized immediately after 3/11/2011. The Fukushima disaster come from the physical tsunami and worst than that was and still a disaster is from the evacuation of Fukushima and the hardship on thousands of Japanese citizens.
The world still watches Fukushima with morbid fascination. Strangely, the world media does not seem too concerned with the more than 15,000 people killed by the tsunami, or with the massive swathes of residential and industrial property pulverized by the tons of debris propelled by the mighty tsunami waters, like an armada of water-borne bulldozers. And then there is KIMIN ((棄民), the dark, depressing story of Japan’s 300,000 tsunami refugees. While the world’s Press fixates on just the Fukushima evacuees, all the other Japanese tsunami victims have become its forgotten people. That is all I’m going to say about the real disaster of 3/11/2011 and refocus back on the nuclear power plant damage.
A forty year old nuclear power plant with six reactors, built to a sixty year old design was struck by the largest earthquake on record. The obsolete reactors survived that with no problem. The three that were running at that time shut down as designed. Then, 55 minutes later, the largest tsunami on record arrived. The giant wall of water jumped the protective wall, and slammed into four of the reactors at the nuclear plant. The plant’s reactors survived that too…initially. But all primary, secondary and even backup electricity was lost and there wasn’t a way to cool the reactors. Hot reactor fuel needs to be water-cooled for two to five days after an emergency shutdown. Well the reactors did suffer a core meltdown. What happened after that? Nothing, except the reactors are now out of commission forever.
After two years of studying the people around Fukushima, United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR) released its report which stated that rates of cancer, or hereditary diseases, were unlikely to show any discernible rise in the affected areas, because the radiation doses received by people were just too low. Fukushima showed that a nuclear power plant can take the maximum punch of nature’s brutality, and yet the surrounding population does not fry and die as so often dramatically predicted by the fear factor enthusiasts. To bring this closer to home, that was the lessons learned from our own radiation leak at WIPP? I’ll write more about WIPP in a future article.
“What we don’t understand, we fear. What we fear, we judge as evil. What we judge as evil, we attempt to control. And what we cannot control…we attack”.