There were many misconceptions of health risks immediately following the worst tsunami in recorded history with over 20,000 deaths directly related to the mass destruction along the eastern seaboard of Japan caused by a record earthquake on that fateful day, 3/11/2011. Within 3 days, another unnatural disaster was looming around the nuclear power plant facility of Fukushima Daiichi where three of its six reactors could not maintain a controlled shut down without access to electricity that eventually caused a meltdown. This incident immediately overshadowed all those horrific tsunami video images we were all watching on TV at the time.
The world perception that a nuclear accident such as Fukushima Daiichi would have caused catastrophic harm to millions of people never happened. No one died from radiation exposure caused by the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Meltdown. That historical misconception put the fear of God, and then some, into the Japanese Government to evacuate as many people as far as possible from the accident site to minimize risks.
The initial evacuation perimeter of 5 kilometers (which was enough) was almost immediately increased to 20 kilometers from International pressures based on the Chernobyl experience (30 kilometer exclusion zone). Although, over a thousand deaths have been linked to the ‘stress’ of the evacuation, it was one of the best decisions made, along with a complete shut down of the food chain out from Fukushima (land and sea), to minimize the potential health risks.
Then there is the misconception of the three primary radioactive isotopes of a nuclear reactor meltdown: iodine-131, cesium-137 and strontium-90. The immediate near term health risks concern was the iodine-131, especially for the children. The human thyroid is like a sponge when it comes to iodine, whether radioactive or not. Distribution of stable iodine pills (iodine-127) is standard procedures to counter radioactive iodine-131 by saturating the thyroid with good stable iodine to keep the bad radioactive iodine out. Radioactive iodine-131 has a physical half life of 8 days, so all that was release from the nuclear meltdown decayed away almost immediately. The facility workers had their iodine pills and no health risks were reported.
The second isotope of concern was the longer term potential health risk cesium-137, which has a physical half life of 30 years. Unlike the iodine isotope, cesium does not permanently store in the human body. The biological processing of cesium through our body is similar to what happens with potassium (K-40 or a banana), and has a biological half-life of about 100 days. Any Cesium ingested will be totally purged after about 1,000 days by natural bodily processes (Oh crap!). The biological half-life of ingested cesium can be reduced through medication (e.g. Prussian Blue) to about 30 days, the same duration as potassium.
Strontium-90, which is the bad radiation and known as the “bone seeker” is the least volatile of the three health risk isotopes. This isotope was manageable at the site and did not pose any serious health risks. However, traces were found in the ground water under the nuclear plant in 2013, two years after the meltdown and ENEWS.COM (anti-nuclear) along with other international news outlets posed a greater threat with misinformation than the actual news event, just like they did with our own WIPP accident.
A misconception is the mistaken notion about something based on the lack of detail information. Fear is usually exploited to influence certain outcomes. This applies to not only nuclear, but also to vaccines, GMO, or fracing. Humans have the God given ability to reason. We can continue to live in fear or we can choose to live with understanding.