Accurate radiation info needed

Nasu, Tochigi

The Fukushima nuclear accidents were indeed a catastrophe, but the damage that was done was caused entirely by a misguided and paranoid human response to nonexistent threats, not by radiation. In the June 17 editorial “Regrettable ‘go’ on reactors,” The Japan Times says operating nuclear power plants in quake-prone Japan could cause “a catastrophe with irreparable damage.”

But it conveniently fails to explain how that could happen. Presumably we all “know” that radiation is a terrible threat. We’re told that the restart of the Oi reactors is irresponsible — one reason being that there is no evacuation plan in place.

Radiation from Fukushima has not killed or injured any resident of the region. Rather, the mass and mandatory evacuation of people within 20 kilometers of the Fukushima plant caused tremendous damage to people’s lives, livelihoods and psyches, and unparalleled economic damage. Some evacuees are said to be on the verge of suicide, depressed that their normal lives were taken from them. Yet, there is no evidence that the evacuation was even necessary.

Every scientific review of the Fukushima accidents to date has agreed that, despite the plant’s suffering the worst possible disaster imaginable, no member of the public has received more than 5 to 20 millisieverts of radiation.

There is no evidence that doses under 100 millisieverts have health risks for humans. Nor is there any suggestion that the radiation that entered the food chain in such amounts could sicken anyone. Far larger doses likely raise a person’s cancer risk by only fractions of a percent. Why should anyone be forced into giving up their home and livelihood over such an insignificant threat?

Nuclear power is the safest, cleanest and most dependable source of energy ever developed. Yes, nuclear power has some risks, as do all human activities. So why don’t we see The Japan Times arguing that we should ban all air travel, since a single plane crash routinely kills more people than all the nuclear plant accidents in history put together?

Humans are terrible judges of risk, especially when they’re worried about something they cannot see. If an anti-nuclear protester gets in a car to travel to a rally, he exposes himself to a chance of death or injury many tens of thousands times higher than the risk posed by leaked radiation.

The most important task ahead of us is to spread accurate knowledge about the effects of radiation to the public and policymakers so that we can rid our society of policies and editorials based on ignorance and phantom menaces.

The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.

scott t. hards