Radiation fears forced me to postpone Japan visit by U.S. students

Dear Minister of Education Hakubun Shimomura,

Let me begin by expressing my strong support in principle for the Japanese government’s ongoing efforts to increase the number of foreign students in Japan from the current 140,000 to 300,000 students by 2020. This exchange cannot but enrich all participants.

I use the words “in principle” because in April of this year I was forced to make one of the most difficult decisions of my teaching career at the tertiary level: I was forced to recommend to the university authorities where I was employed that they postpone their planned Study Abroad Program in Japan scheduled for the fall of 2013.

While I deeply regretted this recommendation, I honestly felt that in good conscience I had no choice. That is to say, in March 2013 I attended a two-day Fukushima-related medical seminar at the New York Academy of Sciences where I learned, for the first time, the full scope of the ongoing dangers posed by radiation contamination from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant.

This knowledge was compounded by the fact that, upon returning to my home in Yellow Springs, Ohio, I was contacted by a 2012 Study Abroad Program participant who informed me that she had suffered from such symptoms as vomiting, nosebleeds and recurring headaches, all symptoms typically associated with radiation contamination. I was forced to take action.

True, the student in question made a personal choice to visit the Tohoku region during the individual research period that was part of the Study Abroad Program. Thus, one reasonable response would have been to forbid 2013 students from traveling anywhere north of Tokyo. As I considered this option, however, I could not but recall the warnings given by nuclear and medical experts both inside and outside of Japan concerning the danger of additional major radiation contamination coming from Fukushima No. 1.

Thus, I regretfully came to the conclusion that I could not expose students, especially female students of childbearing age, to the possible danger of radiation contamination, and informed the university accordingly.

Sadly, in the ensuing months the situation at Fukushima No. 1 has only worsened. Only recently Tepco finally admitted that 2.35 billion becquerels of cesium per liter of water, roughly the same as that measured right after the crisis began in spring 2011, has accumulated in groundwater tested around Fukushima No. 1, from where it then seeps into the ocean. Needless to say, this amount of radiation is millions of times higher than Japan’s acceptable limit.

With this radiation now spewing uncontrolled into the ocean, it is no longer possible to simply avoid the danger by not traveling to the Fukushima area. That is to say, fish are swimming in an ever more heavily contaminated environment where radiation bio-accumulates in the seafood. Thus the largest fish, which eat the most, often live the longest and swim great distances, become the most contaminated, and it is simply impossible for the Japanese government, or any government, to check every fish caught to ensure its safety.

Another solution I seriously considered was for 2013 program students to become vegetarians while in Japan. However, to my dismay I recently learned, from an article published by the Fukushima Minpo newspaper on Jan. 24, that the Japanese government plans to purchase contaminated rice grown in Fukushima Prefecture (providing it contains less than 100 becquerels/kg) and later sell it nationwide.

I fully realize, Minister Shimomura, that you are not in charge of decisions related to Fukushima No. 1. But as a Cabinet minister, l appeal to you to add your voice to those demanding that effective measures be taken immediately.

One eminently reasonable proposal is for the Japanese government to take complete responsibility for the clean-up operation, given Tepco’s demonstrated incompetence. Then, calling on the best expertise from throughout the world, all effective measures, regardless of cost, should be taken to completely stop additional radiation from the disaster contaminating the environment.

Needless to say, these measures should be taken first and foremost to protect the Japanese people themselves. But, additionally, this would allow educators like myself to once again recommend, in good conscience, that foreign students study in Japan.

I long for that day to come.

Yellow Springs, Ohio

Send your submissions of 500-700 words to community@japantimes.co.jp .

  • Mori

    Oh, think of the poor children!
    Yes, indeed. Think of the young people who, on this man’s recommendation, who will be denied the opportunity to make the decision for themselves whether they want to study in Japan. They will be denied the opportunity of a lifetime – the chance to try to make it in a world entirely different from their own, simply because one man is afraid of the aftereffects of Fukushima. Regardless of how Mr. Victoria feels, I’m quite certain that the students at his university are intelligent enough to consider those effects on their own and let that play into their decision.
    Frankly, if I were at that university, I’d be filing transfer papers right away, to an institution with staff that would respect my own opinions on what is safe for myself.

  • Mr. No

    I hope you also ban your students from driving, since there have been more deaths caused my motor vehicle accidents this month in Ohio than deaths caused by radiation in Tohoku since 2011.

    • ” there have been more deaths caused by motor vehicle accidents this month in Ohio”

      Indeed, probably even within the last hour.

    • robertwgordonesq

      To be fair, Mr. Victoria’s concerns can not be compared to auto accidents (although I “up voted” “Mr. No’s” auto-accident comment as I thought it a really good debate point and it was pretty funny).

      I have relatives in the Tohoku region who live 25 miles from the reactors and I’ve been to their home since this accident. They currently live in an “elevated” atmospheric radiation environment with a radiation monitor in their home and a central monitor in the “town square”. Although not scientific, my tongue was tingling the entire time I was there which hasn’t been the case for the numerous trips I’ve taken there pre-accident (that might mean something or nothing…I don’t know).

      Motor vehicle accidents to some degree can be avoided (to the extent they are caused by drunk driving, poor maintenance, etc.)

      Environmental radiation and radio-active particle contamination is unpredictable, less avoidable, and simply a constant fear which may (or may not) kill or affect you “somewhere” down the road. That is what makes it “scarier”.

      Further I don’t think solar radiation from air flights is comparable to the types of contamination thought to be emanating from Dai-ichi.

      I love Japan as much as the next person, but I think this teacher has some well grounded concerns. I chose to “risk” my family traveling to the region because their direct relatives live there. Taking responsibility for other people’s children is a different matter.

      Having said that, he could have instead stated the risks of travel as best as he could to the students and parents and allow each of them to decide for themselves if the risks are worth the rewards of travel. That is a decision each person should make for themselves after being thoroughly informed. Honestly, I’d prefer to die in Japan, than to live anywhere else…but that’s just me.

      Fukushima is no ordinary disaster and I don’t think the Japanese government or Tepco is really being as explicit or forthcoming as to what is actually going on at the Dai-ichi site.

      Further, since the effects of such contamination on one’s health show up perhaps years even decades down the line, the present administration (LDP) does not need to fear any immediate political consequences, especially if they can keep things as quiet as possible.

      Essentially, by the time sh*t really hits the fan (if in fact it ever does hit the fan) in terms of people’s health, it probably won’t be their problem to deal with anymore.

      Prime minister Abe-san is trying to “improve” the Japanese “economy”. [Fn 1] I doubt he would be in favor of releasing information of a more widespread or serious contamination in Tohoku as this would undoubtedly affect his economic and political goals.

      Don’t you think so?

      Finally, as far as the clean up, should reactor manufacturers/designers like General Electric (“GE”) share some responsibility? I don’t know. I hear manufacturers require to be released from liability as part of the contract to provide the reactor. I don’t know if that was the case with GE and the Dai-ichi reactors. [Fn 2]

      [Fn 1] I put “improve” in quotation marks since some believe Japan’s “economy” is just fine and perhaps even stronger than the United States’. See: “The Myth of Japan’s [economic] Failure” found here: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/08/opinion/sunday/the-true-story-of-japans-economic-success.html?ref=opinion&pagewanted=all–
      and video interview found here: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/programmes/newsnight/9677356.stm

      I put the word “economy” in quotation marks because there is no such thing a single “economy”. There are sectors and sections of economic activity, but no single entity known as “the economy”. For example, rising prices may improve a company’s bottom line, but they certainly don’t help consumers who then have less buying power. One man’s “bear market” can be another man’s boon and vice versa.

      [Fn 2] General Electric designed five of the six reactors at Dai-ichi: See http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Asia-Pacific/2011/0318/GE-defends-reactors-in-Japan-nuclear-crisis

      Former GE engineer claims GE reactors had design flaws. See: http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/03/15/us-japan-quake-engineer-idUSTRE72E9H420110315

      See also: http://seekingalpha.com/article/258666-ge-built-nuclear-reactor-in-japan-whos-responsible-now

      • tau_neutrino

        The cosmic radiation at increasing altitude is more energetic than the radiation at Fukushima. It even produces thermal neutrons which make radio-nuclides like potassium-40 and carbon-14.

      • robertwgordonesq

        I’m no radiation expert. However I think the real and easiest test is this: Any politician, pundit, or commenter who claims the radio-activity near Dai-ichi is not serious, relatively not dangerous, less energetic than airplane radiation, inconsequential, etc. should prove it by “Eating the Tomato” [Fn 1].

        Meaning, they should move their family, kids, and or relatives to at least 25 miles of the site and live there for at least 3 years…then maybe I will believe what they have to say.


        [Fn 1] People in 1800’s America thought that tomatoes (also known as the “wolf peach”) were poisonous because it was related to the deadly Nightshade plant. No one would eat them. However, the story goes that Colonel Robert Gibbon Johnson announced that at noon on September 26, 1820, he would eat a bushel of tomatoes in front of the Boston courthouse in the state of Massachusetts (some say it was in Salem). Thousands of eager spectators supposedly turned out to watch the poor man die after eating the poisonous fruits, and were shocked when he lived. The story is probably untrue, but tomatoes began to steadily grow in popularity after that time. So anyone wanting to prove the nuclear radiation “ain’t that bad”, I say “Eat the Tomato”. See: http://www.jerseymanmagazine.com/south-jersey-legend-colonel-robert-gibbons-johnson

      • Sam Gilman

        So you’re saying you won’t believe someone like me unless I quit my job, persuade my wife to quit her job and move my kids from their friends and their grandparents, and go and live somewhere unemployed for three years?

        Is this how you normally conduct arguments?

        The thing is, if you’ll provide all our moving and living expenses including the value of all our informal child support, and commensurate with our current income status, then yes, I’d seriously consider it. The only health threat to me or my family would be the dislocating stress of moving. I have a bad novel I’d like to finish. All work and no play…

        How about this: I’ll only believe you if you agree that your or any of your relatives on life support might suffer death from a blackout? Or I’ll only believe you if you live next door to a coal fired power station (please don’t do this, by the way). Or I’ll only believe you if you can eat twenty cream crackers in three minutes?

        How about overcoming your fear of looking at scientific evidence? Do that, and maybe I’ll believe you.

      • robertwgordonesq


        All I am saying is that folk who down play the dangers of Fukushima probably do not live there.

        If that’s the case, I take what they have to say with a grain of salt (or gram of soy sauce or what ever the case may be).

        I’m not an expert on radioactive material so someone spouting scientific jargon is not all that impressive to me. Especially in matters of life and death.

        Such people may be 100% correct…possibly…but the “proof is in the pudding”…”put your money where your mouth is” and all similar colloquial expressions seem appropriate for matters like this.

        Science is about “demonstration” is it not?

        So demonstrate that it’s all perfectly safe.

        That’s all I ask.

        Such “radiation-is-harmless-and-ubiquitous” arguments ring hollow to me if they come from people not actually living in the threatened areas.

        I have relatives (with young children) who live in the area. I’ve been to the area myself. So I have real reason to be concerned.

        No one asked you to quit your job. Or to be “unemployed”.


        Take the blue pill and all will be well.

        I have no fear of scientific evidence.

        I’m just asking folk to live up to a basic tenant of the scientific method and demonstrate the truth of their assertions.

        After all…did you expect me to take such “scientific” explanations on faith?

      • So if a scientist tells you water is two parts hydrogen and one part oxygen, and is safe to drink, do you ask of him that he drink the water from your tap to prove the point and “put his money where his mouth is”? What if you go to the next town over, do you require that scientist to accompany you to prove the point all over again, since the water in this new location might be different?

        If a mathematician tells you “2+2=4”, do you demand to see the “proof in the pudding” and that he whip out two beans, then another two, and line them up to show you that, yes, two beans and two beans equals four beans? And what if he goes on to say “3+3=6”? Do you demand he “prove” that to you as well before you will believe him?

        Science is not based on “faith”, and it is not dependent on location. We are not talking about some arcane Black Art, it is *science*, and is based on verifiable, reproducible, unchangeable *facts*. If scientists and doctors in New York or London or Geneva say that, based on empirical evidence and data, that there is no long-term threat to people’s health from living in most areas of Fukushima, not a single one of them owes it to you to humor you by “putting their money where their mouth is” and personally moving to Fukushima.

        And if you choose not to believe the science because the you feel scientists presenting the evidence don’t have skin in the game, or whatever euphemism you choose to whip out next, well, that is not science’s problem.

        It is yours.

      • robertwgordonesq

        Ha, ha.

        Good try, but your argument falls flat.

        Your analogies are not analogous.

        Let’s take your water example…for example.

        To make it analogous, let’s say I’ve heard (or saw) that people drinking this particular water in this particular town fell sick and died 3 days after drinking the water.

        Then a “scientist” comes by, tests the water and says, “It’s not the water that is making them sick, it’s really a poison leeching from their metal cups that is killing them.”

        He or she is 100% confident in this conclusion.

        The “science” backs him or her up 120%.

        Then he (or she) says to me…”Go ahead…drink the water…it’s perfectly safe!”

        Now…how should a “rational” person respond to this?

        I have no access to this scientist’s data. I don’t understand his or her methods. I have no ability to conduct such experiments for myself. All I know is that after people drank the water, they got sick and died.

        Would it be totally unreasonable of me to ask the scientist to drink the water themselves first? Or for them to give it to their newborn baby to drink?


        If nuclear radiation is “safe”, why do the scientist who create these nuclear devices go through so much trouble to contain the radioactive material? Why do the people working at nuclear plants wear dosimeters to monitor their radiation exposure and then are later restricted from further exposure when their limit hits a certain level in a certain time period? Why must nuclear waste be buried and secluded in far away places for thousands of years?

        And so after these scientist take all of these precautions for perfectly normal reactors and then one of these nuclear plants “blows up”, I’m simply supposed to accept (on faith) that “all is well?”

        That’s would be insane.

        In fact, it would actually be *contrary* to science.

        Science is absolutely based on faith (i.e., assumptions that can not be proven). What scientists see as “causation”, we philosophers recognize as “correlation”. You never actually observe something called “causation”…you only see phenomenon and *assume* causation or a lack thereof.

        Lastly, “science” is only as good as the scientist interpreting the data.

        Are you saying all scientists are infallible, and never have any vested interests, prejudices, or assumptions that may cloud their interpretation of facts or data?

        The world of reality may be fact.

        However, human interpretation of data is virtually always susceptible to the possibility of corrupting influences.

        I say some doubt is healthy…unless you are trying to turn science into a new kind of cult where absolute obedience is the only acceptable norm.

        Is that what you are suggesting?

        Now, these scientist in London, New York, and Geneva who say there are no “long term” health effects…what are they basing their predictions on? Have there been other “fukushimas” where they have actually conducted these long-term, 20-year experiments? Or are their predictions and pronouncements based on assumptions that haven’t actually been tested in the real world?

        Again, if there are no long term health effects…why have all these precautions and regulations to protect against radiation exposure in perfectly “normal” reactors? But when four of them practically “blow up” it’s all supposed to be perfectly safe?

        That just doesn’t make any sense.

      • “If nuclear radiation is “safe”…”

        Strawman Part 1.

        No one is saying that radiation is safe, period. What science says is that, within certain parameters or up to certain amounts, radiation is not harmful.

        “Science is absolutely based on faith (i.e., assumptions that can not be proven).”

        You obviously have no idea how science works, then.

        “Are you saying all scientists are infallible, and never have any vested interests, prejudices, or assumptions that may cloud their interpretation of facts or data?”

        Absolutely not – and when they do follow their prejudices or vested interests, like Caldicott or Mangano or Kaku, they should be ignored.

        “Again, if there are no long term health effects…why have all these precautions and regulations to protect against radiation exposure in perfectly “normal” reactors? But when four of them practically “blow up” it’s all supposed to be perfectly safe?”

        Strawman Part 2.

      • robertwgordonesq

        GMainwaring wrote: “No one is saying that radiation is safe, period. What science says is that, within certain parameters or up to certain amounts, radiation is not harmful.”


        Ok, so if it is “not harmful” why isn’t that the same as saying it’s “safe”?

        You said earlier “…based on empirical evidence and data, that there is no long-term threat to people’s health from living in most areas of Fukushima.”


        So “no long-term threat” sounds like someone is saying it is safe.

        Doesn’t it?

        If that is not what “no long-term threat” and “not harmful” mean…then what do those statements mean??

        R.W.G.,Esq. wrote: “Science is absolutely based on faith (i.e., assumptions that can not be proven).”

        GMainwaring responded: “You obviously have no idea how science works, then.”

        Hmmm…sounds like how a religious person would respond when their faith is being questioned, e.g., “You just don’t know how God works…I’ll pray for you.”

        So, are you saying that science can demonstrate each and every proposition it claims?

        And if not, why not tell me exactly how “science” works? Since I’ve successfully completed high school, college, and graduate school and continually present scientific experts in front of juries in courts of law, yet I apparently have no idea of how this “science thing” works.

        Please teach me.

        Now, what about my question concerning the basis of the “no long-term threat” assessment?

        Have these “scientist” ACTUALLY conducted a 20-year experiment, having released radioactive material into the air and oceans near a heavily populated human community and monitored the effects and concluded that there is “no long-term threat” to human health when radioactive material is released into the environment in similar proportions as in the Dai-Ichi incident?

        Have they conducted such experimentation or not?

        Isn’t such actual experimentation the hallmark of science, the scientific method, and of scientific conclusions?

        If not, then they can not make “scientific” conclusions on what WILL happen in Fukushima.

        They can only give us their best guess based on ASSUMPTIONS which have not actually been proven.

        And doing so is “unscientific” and is based on faith.

        So again I say, is it so unreasonable to ask the “scientist” to “drink the water” or “eat the tomato” when so many people’s lives are on the line?

        It is easy to prognosticate from the safe academic halls and laboratories of New York, London, and Geneva about “no long-term threat” or “not harmful” to Fukushima…but quite another thing to make those same prognoses when actually living in Fukushima, Minamisoma, and Iwaki.

        And by the way….I haven’t used straw to construct my arguments since the 3rd grade.

        Nothing but pure brick baby…pure brick.

      • C.J. Bunny

        robertwgordonesq: you genuinely can’t understand how something that isn’t safe, can be not harmful, within certain parameters or up to certain amounts?

        Seriously, you believe that every potentially dangerous substance or activity causes harm whatever the dose or precautions taken? Wow!
        Perhaps you are just trolling, but otherwise you must be a very young person from the way you frame your arguments or just seriously lacking reading comprehension. Unless your appearances in front of juries relates to regular trouble with the law resulting from your naïvety, your country must be a scary place to go to court.

        Assuming you are genuine, here’s an example:
        From where I’m sitting, I can see a bottle of containing sodium hydroxide – it’s a dangerous chemical. It isn’t safe; on my skin it will burn and dissolve my tissue, if ingested it could kill me. But it is not harmful to me. Under certain parameters like it sitting on a shelf over there, it’s doing me no harm. Equally, it I took a small amount of it and diluted it a lot, I could drink it, bathe in it to my heart’s content. So up to certain amounts, it is not harmful.

        Also, it is known around how concentrated (how much) sodium hydroxide needs to be to be harmful and also the precautions we need to take to be around this dangerous chemical. You will probably come into contact products that contain it everyday and eat foods that have been processed using it. It’s not harmful to you, yet it is dangerous and only safe at particular amounts and under certain parameters, pretty much like radiation.

      • Sam Gilman

        To be honest, I think you’re mixing up two things here – the feelings and concerns of those in the areas affected, and the science of radiation and health. I absolutely agree that those near the Fukushima plant need to be heard out, they need to have their fears listened to and not belittled at all. A strident tone of “there’s nothing to fear!” would be insensitive. Instead, a sensitive, science-based exploration of the various aspects of the leaks at Fukushima and how they might impact on health and the environment would be appropriate. No matter what the science is, we have been bombarded with the message that radiation kills, perverts and destroys through entertainment media, and such ideas cannot be dismissed simply by waving a scientific paper in front of someone’s nose. Openness and honesty and a willingness to listen are essential. There are some small populations where there is going to be a raised risk of rare cancers. This may affect only a few individuals, but we shouldn’t lie about the risks either.

        However, we’re not dealing with people living close to the plant. We’re primarily dealing with a highly educated man in Ohio sending his students to Kyoto and telling the world they’re coming back with radiation sickness – which is a scientific term. We also have people using words like “radianucleides” to spout scientific nonsense, attempts to cover a bunch of quacks with the gloss of “top notch scientists”, claims that the food in Hokkaido and Kyushu is unsafe to eat because of “contamination” – it’s not true that those who say there is little risk to human health now are the only ones throwing around scientific terminology.

        The main reason why you might find some of the more scientifically detailed explanations a bit alienating, as I sense you do, is that they’re genuine science, rather than PR. The trick of the quack is to use just enough sciencey words to (a) convince you they know what they’re talking about and (b) make you think you understand what they’re talking about. This is how quack medicine generates support, for example. It returns to people a sense of control over the modern world.

        “Go live there and tell me again” sounds like a tempting formula. But it’s not good science. I don’t mean to patronise you here, but this is how it works. Science tests hypotheses: for example, is there a link between radiation exposure and cancer. To do this in medical science, we require large samples. We cannot ethically run trials exposing people to levels of radiation that may injure them, so instead we have to find populations that have that exposure anyway – nuclear plant workers, radiology workers, populations exposed to frequent medical scans, flight crews, and, of course, survivors of the atom bombs and Chernobyl – and compare them to similar groups who were not exposed. We examine the hypothesis that there is a relationship between the level of exposure and subsequent illness. We need large samples in particular because other things such as income level, education, age and gender can make the stats a problem. (For example, some nuclear enthusiasts like to claim that nuclear workers get less cancer than the average population, so therefore a little radiation is good for you. Actually, nuclear workers tend to be more educated than the average, and so are less likely to get diseases like cancer, which are affected by lifestyle. It has nothing to do with radiation.)

        The results of all these studies, performed by well-respected scientists around the world, tend towards the same conclusion quite clearly. The levels of exposure from Fukushima do not pose a meaningful risk even to those who were living in the exclusion zone at the time of the explosions, with the exception of two villages where there has been a rise in the chance of some very rare cancers – meaning where possibly none out 30,000 would get a cancer, now one or two might. And, apart from the workers at the plant, that’s pretty much it.

        That this is the case is not affected by where you or I or anyone lives.

        These people like Brian Victoria who spread the message that lots of people are going to die – an idea based not on science but on political (and in some cases financial) opportunism in the anti-nuclear movement – are not helping. They don’t help people suffering psychologically from fear both close to and further from the plant. They don’t help confidence in the local economy. They’re doing more harm than good by a pretty country mile.

        And as you can see from Brian Victoria’s total non-reaction to being shown evidence that his experts are cranks, it’s not clear that he cares very much at all for the people in Fukushima. He doesn’t seem interested in whether he’s right or not. If people seem angry with or dismissive of him, it’s probably because they do care.

      • robertwgordonesq

        True, true.

        You make a legitimate distinction between the educator from Ohio and those living in Fukushima.

        Was Mr. Victoria’s response over the top?


        But fear is fear.

        By definition it is “irrational”.

        If I weren’t in love with Japan, maybe I’d react the same way as Mr. Victoria.

        It’s not every day that you have a nuclear incident (possible meltdown). And to all external appearances it looked like you had at least three of the reactors blow their lids. So I think his fear is in fact “rational” (in that it is based on something real).

        Add to that the alleged history of collusion between TEPCO and the Japanese government and the practice of “amakudari” (“descent from heaven”) where government officials get plum and lucrative positions in the nuclear industry after retiring from government service (See here: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/04/27/world/asia/27collusion.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0)

        … leads to the conclusion that there is no good reason to trust anything that the government says about the severity of the disaster.

        It simply isn’t in the government’s interest to “tell the truth” if in fact the disaster is worse than the official reports. The elite simply have too much invested into nuclear power. (See why Japan Won’t Give up Nuclear Power: http://www.globalasia.org/l.php?c=e400)

        Given that background, it is very reasonable for Mr. Victoria to gravitate towards the opposite end of the spectrum and entertain “worse case scenario” reports.

        His use of the term “radiation sickness”…perhaps a bit over the top, but we have people like you and GMainwaring who usually do a very excellent job of deconstructing such comments. So no harm no foul.

        Actually, I do not find scientific explanations alienating at all.

        I’ve just had a lot of experience (due to my work) where very intelligent experts can say things that simply aren’t true or are deceptively and intentionally misleading. I know that for an absolute fact.

        Most people can’t go out and test for themselves the “truth” of these scientific explanations.

        In that respect, these scientist have a monopoly.

        It is just like the religious prophets or Moses having an experience with God, which ordinary people have no access to verify for themselves. You basically just have to trust Moses on faith.

        In a similar way, some people here are saying that simply because the explanations are “scientific” and come from well regarded “experts” that we should then accept those conclusions on blind faith as well.

        Sure, their conclusions are based on “science”, but if I have no access to that science or ability to reproduce those experiments for myself, then faith is basically the only “rational” option, according to some people here.

        However, I reject that this is the only rational option.

        I understand the process of testing hypotheses (thanks for the clear explanation). But they are merely that…”best guesses” and those guesses are only as good as the assumptions they are based on and that also assumes that the assumptions themselves are in fact accurate (i.e., that the researcher is getting all the complete facts about Dai-ichi).

        Therefore, these scientist can’t present conclusions based on assumptions as if they were conclusive fact.

        That would be just as bad as making outlandish non-science based claims because it gives an opinion the imprimatur of an established fact.

        The best they can say is “This is our best guess based on the available evidence and our assumptions with the possibility that those assumptions are inaccurate or wrong”, which is much, MUCH different than saying “there are NO long term heath risks”.

        They just can’t say that definitively.

        Yes, you are correct, Mr. Victoria implying that lots of people will die based on questionable evidence is irresponsible.

        However, so too is saying only one or two people might die is just as irresponsible without the explicit caveat that these are just best guesses based on assumptions.

        How thoroughly have the backgrounds of these “reputable” scientist been checked out? What are their financial stock holdings? Their political connections? Do they sit on the boards of any companies that supply the nuclear industry? Do they receive any grant money from industries or institutions with nuclear connections? These are all relevant questions.

        It is not any and everyone who can become a nuclear physicist. There must be some form of “hand-picking” of who gets to study in this field and who does not. Who gets accepted into the elite educational institutions and who does not. There may certainly be some self-selective screening going on given the especially sensitive nature of this field. And such screening may warp the scientists’ perceptions.

        All these relevant questions are not easy for the average person to find out.

        As it is very difficult to prove “conspiracy”, we attorneys must rely on circumstantial evidence.

        We look at motives, connections, what is said, and what is not said, who benefits from the statements, etc. And it is perfectly legitimate in this case to give lower weight to the statements of a scientist living in Geneva, than to a scientist actually living in Fukushima with his or her family.

        As you said, fear statements don’t help the economy. I would add to that, that nor do they assist in the proliferation of lucrative nuclear reactor construction deals around the globe. Hence there certainly is a possible economic motive for downplaying this disaster. Such motive can not be dismissed simply by waving the “science” banner.

        Scientist are perfectly capable of lies and deception. See the Tuskegee Experiment: http://www.npr.org/programs/morning/features/2002/jul/tuskegee/

        And I don’t think people should unquestionably accept a “scientific” statement merely because it is “scientific”. Science is only as good as the scientist interpreting the data. Data may be impartial, but human beings interpreting that data typically are not.

        Mr. Victoria has in fact reacted…and perhaps retreated as well. And I don’t know what he really is or is not interested in. But such actions do not necessarily defeat the point he was trying to make.

        You are right to draw conclusions from his actions or inactions as others are also right to draw conclusions from the “reputable” scientists’ actions or in actions or from where they live or don’t live. It’s all fair game.

        The point is, all these sides are worthy of debate and discussion.

        And many of you here (yourself included) do quite an excellent job of doing just that.

        I step in when I feel the debate is going too much in the opposite direction (e.g., “science-is-great-and-must-be-worshiped-and-obeyed-unquestioningly”) in order to add a little balance.

        I have no agenda, other than that…mostly.

  • Miamiron

    I love how a 2012 summer student says that they have headaches and nosebleeds, so this teriary teacher with no medical training diagnosed this student as having an illness from radiation exposure.

  • Nabucco Donosor

    Considering that cows are rarely seen swimming in the Pacific ocean, has Mr. Victoria considered beef as alternative feed for the summer students? THAT could save the program…

    • It wouldn’t matter, they are feeding the cows straw that has been horribly contaminated with, err, something scary sounding. Starts with a “C”… Canola, perhaps?

      In any event, merely by being in Japan we are apparently all, as my man Frazer would say, “doomed”.

      • lionsandbears

        No, they aren’t. That stuff is long gone. No one’s eating cattle in the contaminated area, which is why the government keeps trying to slaughter them, setting off animal rights activists.

      • B. Gette

        The Cesium is not “long-gone.”
        Cesium has a half life of 30 years.
        Cesium is just one of hundreds of radionuclides that were released into the environment from the meltdowns.
        Other radionuclides that were released from the meltdowns last hundreds to thousands of years.
        This radiation can be in the air, water, soil, food supply, etc. for a looooooong time.

      • lionsandbears

        The contaminants are actually heavier than air and having been driven to the ground by rain, which means they get washed into rivers or pile up in corners, in drains. They get washed into the ocean where they get dispersed so that the real problem is when they are present in large amounts.

      • Starviking

        Cesium 137 has a half-life of 30 years, Cesium 134 one of 2 years.

      • tau_neutrino

        Cesium-137 has a biological half-life of 70 days.

  • tau_neutrino

    Yellow Springs, that explains it. His students would get greater exposure on the flight to and from Japan.

    • B. Gette

      Flying doesn’t expose you to the same type of radiation that nuclear meltdowns do.
      Radianuclides created from nuclear meltdowns are highly dangerous, cancerous and destructive to human DNA.

      • Ionizing radiation is ionizing radiation is ionizing radiation. Solar and cosmic radiation is highly dangerous, cancerous and destructive to human DNA. Without the Earth’s magnetic field and the atmosphere surrounding the Earth, this would just be a barren rock like the moon, incapable of supporting life. However atmospheric protection decreases markedly with altitude, due to the thinning of the atmosphere, and anyone flying at commercial altitudes or higher is exposed to measurable, although not life-threatening, levels of ionizing radiation.

      • jmdesp

        They are three types of radiation, gamma, beta and alpha.

        In an airplane you receive only gamma, because alpha can be received only on contact, breathed or ingested, and beta travels only a short distance.

        But in Japan, most of the exposure is also gamma, coming from the cesium that has deposited in many places, so is very hard to remove, and will expose you even at a distance.

        Comparatively, to avoid the beta and alpha you just need to make sure your food is not contaminated.
        When contamination of food was found, it was in the low hundreds of Becquerel which is a very small amount. In Europe, we still sometime find foodstuffs that are at this level of contamination from Chernobyl more than 25 years ago. They were at a much higher level just after Chernobyl. It didn’t cause a sanitary crisis in France and Poland that did little to avoid it. Some food like banana and some nuts have a similar level of Becquerel coming from naturally radioactive potassium. Actually at 1500keV each Becquerel of potassium has about 2 times more energy, so more potential risks, than a Becquerel of cesium.

        Because they are chemical analogs, radioactive potassium and cesium *do* stay in your body the same length of time. When your body sees a cesium atom, it believes it’s a potassium atom since they’re so chemically similar, and it travels the same path in your organism. Therefore a given level of exposure to cesium in your
        food can not be more dangerous than the same level of exposure to the natural radioactivity of potassium, opposite to what some “alternative” source of information have claimed, people who are actually so ignorant they didn’t know cesium and potassium are so chemically similar that their pharmacokinetics is just the same.

        Those people have also claimed that there was many alpha particles emitted, that nobody detected, either because of a government conspiracy, or because the right tests were never done. OK, let’s assume this somehow could have happened, despite the many independent radioactivity testing by citizens. Whilst ingested alpha radiation is indeed proportionally more dangerous, a low dose still is a low dose. In the US and many other countries, about half of the yearly exposure to radiation, that’s around 3 mSv per year, comes from exposure to radon. That’s alpha particules. As it’s a gas, it gets directly in your body, inside your lung. 3 mSv is an average, some people get much more than that because the radon concentration varies a lot from house to house. However studies have shown that the counties in the US with the most radon actually have less cancers, including lung cancer, than the other. There could be several explanation for that. In average they are at a higher altitude, so the air is saner. They also could be away from the most polluted cities. But in any case, this demonstrates that the effect of the alpha particles of radon is low enough that it is easily negated by differences in lifestyle. So much for the utterly destructive effect of alpha particles even at extremly low doses.

        Radiations damages DNA by ionizing it. But ionization
        is a phenomena that constantly happens in your body, caused just by heat, by free radicals, by UV rays. The difference with radiation is that radiation causes many ionization in a straight line which makes it much more likely to cause a double strand break that’s much harder to repair. But double strand breaks do happen anyway, and they are repair mechanisms for them. At low radiation doses, the number of double strand breaks caused is comparable to the number you get naturally, which explain that the cancerous effect is very low, and hardly detectable, many times lower than the one of tobacco and alcohol, 2 substances that Japanese abuse of quite a bit.

        So here are the real facts about radiations, which are not that complex after all despite being not known enough, and that the professional fear sellers making a living of touring the world to sell them have made the choice to ignore.

        They are good reasons to reduce radiation exposure if reasonably possible. They is none to ignore that many things in your lifestyle can easily be several times more dangerous than a minor amount of radiations. Like too much salt and conservatives in food, namely shoyu and tsukemono that made until recently Japan the undisputed world record for stomach cancer, Korea being a distant second, claiming tens of thousands of life each year (the effect was so strong it made stomach cancer the deadliest cancer in Japan, an exception in the world), see http://www.livestrong.com/article/361804-japanese-diet-stomach-cancer/. Had you ever heard about it ? Why is there comparatively so much more concern for radiations ?

      • tau_neutrino

        Cesium is actually eliminated from the body after about 13 days.

      • C.J. Bunny

        Not sure what “Radianuclides” are and it’s obvious you don’t either.

        But for the same energy, cosmic gamma radiation is effectively the same as gamma radiation from a terrestrial source. Both are carcinogenic and destructive to DNA (not just human) and could be highly dangerous depending on dose. They are not “cancerous”. Here is a list of other things that are also DNA-damaging and carcinogenic http://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancercauses/othercarcinogens/generalinformationaboutcarcinogens/known-and-probable-human-carcinogens. Good luck avoiding them.

        However for a trip to Japan, the dose from cosmic radiation would be higher than the dose from the Fukushima meltdowns, assuming normally activities. Neither of these doses is significantly harmful to human health.

        I didn’t get where I am today without know that one man’s garbage does not a summer make.

  • Brian Victoria

    Dear Commenters,

    Thank you for taking the time to comment on my article. In particular, I would like to let “Mori-san” know that no students have been denied the right to study in Japan because of my personal decision. This is because the university employing me did not accept my recommendation and intends to bring students to Japan in September as planned, having hired another program director.

    I fully respect the right of students to make their own decisions about the level of risk they feel comfortable with. Toward that end I strongly support the website of a former program participant who now maintains an excellent website devoted to informing all English-speaking students considering study in Japan of the current situation at Fukushima Daiichi and the possible risks involved. If interested, the website is available here: http://japansafety.wordpress.com

    My position has been, and remains, that I cannot, in good conscience, accept responsibility for the health and welfare of students studying in Japan given the ongoing, and actually increasing, dangers of radiation contamination associated with Fukushima No. i. That said, I realize that not everyone will share my opinion. But whether you agree or not, I urge you to pay close attention to the evolving situation at Fukushima No. 1. Your life may even depend on it.

    Even Tepco now belatedly admits the situation with regard to the radioactive contamination of the Pacific is out of control. Please join me and many others, inside and outside Japan, in demanding that substantive, even massive, effective measures be taken NOW! No company or nation has the right to poison the ocean and its sea life, not to mention human life, for hundreds of years. I would like to believe this is something all of us can agree on.

    Best wishes,

    Brian Victoria

    • Sam Gilman

      Brian, I looked at that blog you cite. As a test to see how wacky it was I did a search for the conspiracy theorist Helen Caldicott. Bingo. Arnie Gundersen as well. I half expected to find Chris Busby, but I think his flush was busted marketing overpriced mineral supplements to the “children of Fukushima” before the blog started.

      By the way, I can find no record of a NYAS seminar on Fukushima related issues in March 2013 on their website. Can you give me a reference?

      Here’s the thing. Your students go to Kyoto, according to your faculty’s website. Kyoto. it’s in an area where there wasn’t even an uptick in radiation levels at all. This information is available online. I would have thought given your faculty’s connection, you would have been aware of this.

      You had a student whom you thought was suffering from radiation sickness. Did you not think of alerting health authorities in Japan? If you did, what did they tell you? No one even working at the plant has suffered radiation sickness. it takes a hell of a lot of radiation to get radiation sickness. Again, this is something you could have checked on line, going to mainstream sources rather than weird blogs and conspiracy theorists.

      When it comes down to medical science, “my opinion is as valid as yours” doesn’t hold water. You have a special responsibility to get things right. It’s part of your job.

      • “By the way, I can find no record of a NYAS seminar on Fukushima related issues in March 2013 on their website.”

        Perhaps because it was not held at the NYAS, but rather at the NYAM (New York Academy of Medicine), put on the the Helen Caldicott Foundation (surprise, surprise), and starring Ms. Caldicott and Arnie Gundersen as well as a lot of others with impressive-sounding titles that they have chosen to tarnish by appearing in public with Caldicott and Gundersen.

        Here: http://www.nyam.org/events/2013/2013-03-11.html

      • Brian Victoria

        Dear Sam,

        Thanks for taking the time to respond to my recent clarification. Interested readers can listen to the two day seminar on the medical consequences of the Fukushima Daiichi disaster at the followings website: http://www.totalwebcasting.com/view/?id=hcf#

        By the way, the seminar was opened by an address on the part of Japan’s former Prime Minister, Naoto Kan.

        What saddens me the most about your post, Sam, was the fact that you failed to even mention the ongoing massive radioactive contamination of the Pacific Ocean, the collective, priceless and irreplaceable treasure of all humankind. Even Tepco now admits the situation there is out of control. Doesn’t this bother you?

        And shouldn’t we be collectively demanding that every possible action be taken to end the contamination now?

      • lionsandbears

        You could come up here and try various ways to stop the contamination from trickling into the ocean. It’s certainly not spewing. It may suddenly pour in, but there is still a finite amount.

      • JS

        Tepco and the Japanese government have themselves stated that 300 tons of radioactive water is flowing from the Daiichi nuclear plant into the ocean DAILY, and that this has been going on for the last two years.

        Japan’s Kyodo news agency’s Website has the story with the following headline posted on its Website (Dated, Aug. 7, 2013):

        “300 tons of toxic water flowing into sea from Fukushima plant daily: gov’t”

        Oh, yes, a mere trickle!

      • Enkidu

        Again, JS, all water is radioactive. Also, a volume equal to an olympic swimming pool a week into the Pacific Ocean is, by nearly any definition, a trickle. The key issue, though, is how contaminated it is. So, please let us know.

      • JS

        I guess the only thing I can say in reply to you is, to each his own. We all make our own choices and decisions in life, and we alone bear the consequences of these choices and decisions.

        As far as I’m concerned, I don’t want my kids, my family and myself to be exposed to any radiation from the Daiichi nuclear plant in Fukushima. There is no safe amount of exposure to this radiation. You may have a different threshold for exposure to this radiation, and I respect your right to make your own choices and decisions in this regard.

        I do not think it is rational or logical to make comparisons between the radiation escaping from the Daiichi nuclear plant to things like naturally occuring radiation or other contaminants found in our environment, since the type of radiation leaking from Daiichi and its magnitude are at a very different scale.

        By the way for your information, I also don’t eat excessive amounts of tuna due to concerns about Mercury, and take other appropriate precautions to safeguard against various known pollutants.

        This is my own informed opinion based on months of research and study into the ongoing accident at Daiichi in Fukushima. Again, I respect your right to form your own conclusions about this issue.

      • Enkidu

        JS, I do appreciate your opinion on this. If there is no safe amount of exposure to this radiation, then there is no safe amount of driving a car, walking on a street or riding a bike. In fact, “safe” has lost all meaning.
        And yes, we can and MUST compare the radiation leaking from Fukushima to other forms of radiation and environmental contamination. This point is absolutely critical. Otherwise, we cannot make reasoned choices as to how to expend our limited resources protecting the public from these scourges. Are we better off if we spend 10 million dollars cleaning up Cesium in Tokyo or if we spend the same amount cleaning up hexavalent chromium (with which Tokyo is riddled)? In your world, we cannot make that choice on a reasoned basis.
        This is why we spend a lot of time and effort coming up with Hazard Indexes, Toxic Equivalencies and other comparison techniques for various bad stuff. This is why the “Sievert” even exists. I could send you links to the Records of Decision for some of the Superfund sites I worked on so you can see just how much effort we put into this.
        As for my opinion, it reflects years of technical study and practice in cleaning up environmental messes. I bet I was one of the few people in Tokyo on 3/11 who already had a textbook on radioactive waste sitting on my bookshelf. There are surely many more now.
        I am glad that you are putting time and effort into understanding the situation–I will never argue with more environmental awareness. But, I think you should try to think critically about the health risks and how they fit into the various risks that you subject yourself and your family to every single day.

      • JS

        I don’t agree with your risk assessment since I think it is flawed. When it comes to the other types of risks you have cited, I can make informed choices to avoid, mitigate and minimize these risks. However, this is not possible (or, at least, much more difficult) when it comes to the effects of nuclear radiation from the Fukushima nuclear power plants. Let me explain below:

        When I drive a car, I make sure that I am not intoxicated or inebriated, am not sleep deprived, drive carefully and practice defensive driving. I also make sure that my car is well maintained for safety purposes, and I always wear a seat belt. I make it a point to always wear a helmet when riding a bike. If I were pregnant, I would make sure that I refrain from consuming too much Mercury-tainted seafood, avoid alcohol, coffee and tobacco. When I cross a street, I make sure that there is no oncoming traffic, I look both ways, and try not to jaywalk. In short, I take commen sense precautions in everyday like, as I am sure most other rational people do.

        In contrast to these risks, the problem with nuclear radiation escaping from Daiichi in Fukushima is that Tepco and the Japanese government have not been transparent and forthcoming about the extent of radiation leaking from the power plants there. This makes it much harder, if not impossible, to make informed decisions about how to avoid exposure to this radiation. It is analogous to playing Russian Roulette with your own and your family’s health. This is made worse by the fact that the effects of such radiation exposure may not show up for many years.

        I hope the above clearly illustrates the critical diffence in the very different nature of common everyday risks vs. the significantly higher risk posed by the radiation leaks from Fukushima.

      • Enkidu


        Ah, I see, so it’s not the actual risks to your health; rather it is your ability to feel as though you have some control over these risks. Now that’s a different argument, and not an entirely invalid one. People often fear flying for this very reason–they sense that they have no control over the risk–even though flying is much safer than many other forms of transportation.

        As for making choices about how to protect your family from Fukushima, there’s lots that you can do. I would advise, for example, against eating wild boar or mushrooms from the heavily contaminated areas. I also wouldn’t spend a lot of time in the exclusion zone. If you’re really worried about it, you could leave Japan or start sourcing all of your food from overseas. In other words, there are all kinds of informed choices you could make depending on your risk threshold. As for me, I think the first two options would be akin to putting on your seatbeat and making sure your car is well-maintained. As for the last two, that would be closer to wearing a helmet while driving and building a defensive frame around your car (in other words, excessive).

        As for your final sentence, I think it sums up the issue very well. You state: “I hope the above clearly illustrates the critical diffence in the very different nature of common everyday risks vs. the significantly higher risk posed by the radiation leaks…” after providing zero evidence of the “significantly higher risk” posed by radiation leaks. You think that because you do not have satisfactory control over the situation that it must therefore have significantly higher risk, which is clearly flawed logic.

      • JS

        Please do not twist, mischaracterize and misrepresent what I have said.

        I am extremely concerned about both, the very real and significant dangers resulting from the radiation escaping from the Fukushima nuclear plants, as well as, the inability to make informed decisions about these due to misleading information provided by Tepco.

        As for your suggestions about how to live with the risks of this radiation, you seem to be highly misinformed about the dangers this type of radiation from Fukushima poses to our health, the environment, and its long term implications for all of us. So, I clearly do not agree with you.

      • lionsandbears

        There’s one of those articles right here: http://www.japantoday.com/category/national/view/abe-orders-govt-to-help-contain-toxic-water-at-fukushima-plant
        Enkidu responded correctly. It is contaminated water, but it is not toxic water. They did note that if they can somehow manage to divert the groundwater so that it flows around the plant rather than where it pushes out contaminated water, that will help. Ah, the logistics.

      • JS

        Furthermore, CNN reported just last week that fish that was purchased in fish markets as far away as Hokkaido and Kagoshima was found to be contaminated with radiation.

        If fish sold in the fish markets in the very north and southern tips of the Japanese archipelago is contaminated with radiation, what does it say about the food safety in places like Tokyo, Osaka and Kyoto?

      • Enkidu

        JS, I hate to break it to you, but all fish is contaminated with radiation, and has been since before Fukushima. Your statement is simply a tautology.

      • JS

        If you must split hair, what I meant and what was reported by CNN, is that higher than normal amounts of radiation (including cesium) were found in fish purchased recently in the fish markets in Hokkaido and Kagoshima in Japan.

      • Enkidu

        JS, I did not say that all radiation is the same. The key questions are: (a) how contaminated is it and (b) what is the risk to human health? So, with respect to the fish caught in Hokkaido and Kagoshima, please let us know your thoughts on both (a) and (b). It sounds like it was “higher than normal amounts”, which I wouldn’t find surprising, but is that worth worrying about? The problem is that all of the food you eat, the water you drink and the air you breathe is contaminated with some pretty bad stuff. How worried should I be about the PM 2.5 I breathe everyday? How about the residual pesticides that I eat on vegetables? The mercury I consume in fish? The list goes on and on and the answers aren’t easy…

      • JS

        According to your logic, if all fish is contaminated with radiation and all radiation is the same, then why has the Japanese government itself banned fishing off the coast of Fukushima?

      • Eric

        Was the fish caught locally?

      • Enkidu


        It may help if you could provide some numbers to explain why you are so worried about this “ongoing massive radioactive contamination” of the Pacific Ocean. What trends are you seeing
        in ocean water monitoring? What radioactive isotopes are being released into the ocean, and just as importantly, how much is being leased? How does this compare to past releases? That information could be persuasive.

        As for the video, if there was anything in there that caused you to worry about your health or the health of your students, please let me know. I spent more time that I would have liked watching the video and reviewing the materials today, and I have to say that I didn’t see anything worrisome. Mostly, it amounted to “radiation can cause cancer and kill you”, which
        I don’t think anyone disagrees with, but then it completely dropped the ball when trying to explain the corresponding risks to human health and safety to people on the ground here in Japan.

      • Sam Gilman

        Brian, are you accusing your university of sending students to Japan not to study in Kyoto, but to swim in the sea directly next to Fukushima Daiichi???

        No, of course you’re not. It’s therefore really disappointing that your response to my questions was to change the subject via a bizarre ad hominem attack on me, seeking to portray me as not caring about ocean leaks. Pull yourself together. You’re a serious academic. You’d be hauled over the coals for treating your students’ questions with such little respect.

        The thing is, and your evasive response only reinforces this impression, it looks like you’ve fallen foul of what is essentially a pseudoscience cult. It’s a cult that has been parasitic on the nuclear disarmament and environmental movements for sometime. The list of speakers at your symposium is truly A-list. It struck me that a bomb destroying the venue would have wiped out very much the larger part of the scientific facade of the anti-nuclear power movement, reliant as it is on an incredibly small number of “experts”. If those speakers, with their track records of invention, inaccuracy and sheer made-upology, were promoting a medicine or a therapy, you wouldn’t hesitate to call them quacks and shysters.

        For example, there is the queen of the anti-nuclear movement Helen Caldicott. Here’s what happened when a well-known environmentalist journalist smelt a rat about her claims on nuclear. She is a New World Order conspiracy theorist, a 9/11 truther whose involvement in such matters has seen her invited to speak at meetings of the far right in Australia. She promotes the nutty conspiracy theory that the World Health Organisation is secretly controlled by the nuclear industry.

        Then there’s Joseph Mangano, co-author, along with his research associate Janet Sherman, of an absolutely shockingly dishonest piece of research that massaged and cherry-picked and data mined its way to an extraordinary claim of 14,000 child deaths in the US in the months directly following Fukushima. Anyone engaged in this kind of research should be treated with utter contempt. They’re propagandists, not researchers.

        You have Timothy Mousseau, who works with convicted academic fraudster Anders Pape Moller to produce research on Chernobyl that other collaborators have been forced to disown on the grounds that M&M manipulate research for political purposes, and whose research on Fukushima is incredibly ropey. Sure, M&M gets press coverage: what should alert you to how the press works in their fear sells agenda is that very few articles mention Moller’s record of academic fraud.

        Uniting Caldicott, Mangano’s collaborator Sherman, and Timothy Mousseau, is their husbandry of one of the weirdest attempts to masquerade as science in the area of nuclear power on its path to publication in English. This is the book by another symposium presenter Yablokov. It claims 1,000,000 deaths from Chernobyl so far, in contradiction to mainstream estimates of 4,000 over the next 50 years. How does it do this? The book explicitly rejects the scientific method (I’m not joking – I’ve read the methodology chapter), deliberately rejects through tortuous reasoning any dose-response relationship between radiation and cancer (ie that more radiation means a higher chance of cancer, and less, less) in favour of any dose of radiation having an equal chance of causing death, and blames things like deaths from cirrhosis of the liver directly on radiation. Unsurprisinglyscientific reviewers found it to be a pile of horse dung. Well, all qualified reviewers everywhere except, er, Iain Fairlie, another one of the symposium speakers, a green party activist whose endorsement of Yablokov’s work rather undermines his own reputation. Fairlie was one of the authors of a Greenpeace report on Chernobyl directly commissioned in order to get higher death figures than the reports coming out of mainstream science as summated in the UN and WHO reports. That’s a hell of a way to do “proper” research.

        I could go on – Gundersen and Alvarez in particulary – but I hope you get the point. These people do not have the track records that top level scientists should have.

        It is incredibly important, and I find myself repeating this point on these comment pages again and again and again, that people do not simply go with the evidence that matches their beliefs when it comes to science. You have to use the best quality sources, and base your scientific beliefs on what they tell you. Unfortunately, it looks like you’ve been doing the opposite. Do you have the courage to reassess your views?

      • Brian Victoria

        Dear Sam,

        On the one hand, I deeply appreciate the time you are investing in responding to persons like myself. That said, it appears that you dismiss everyone, whatever level of expertise they may have, if they disagree with your position.

        And, by the way, we have yet to learn what your position is with regard to the ongoing situation at Fukushima Daiichi. Please tell us, Sam. This is a request, not an ad hominem attack.

        In the meantime, all of us who are concerned about this issue continue to read and learn what we can about the dangers in involved. Here is yet another article that paints a very grim picture of what the future may hold:


        Once again, Sam, please don’t just attack others but tell us what your solutions are.


      • Starviking

        Just chipping in here, but do you check the expertise of the experts presented in the articles you link to? Articles such as the one you link to above may seem to come from a position of authority, but when the expert is investigated you find that they have little in the way of credentitals.

        For example, “fallout researcher” Christina Consolo has no apparent qualifications in fields relevant to the Fukushima disaster. The best that can be gleaned from the web is that she is a biomedical photographer, with a speciality in photography of the eye.
        Google scholar shows no academic or professional publications from her in any field, let alone radiation effects or reactor design.

      • Sam Gilman


        Permit me to divide this reply into two halves. You should keep reading to the second part, as it’s directly about you.

        part one – who to trust?

        You say about me:

        it appears that you dismiss everyone, whatever level of expertise they may have, if they disagree with your position.

        No, that’s not only wrong, it’s the exact opposite of what I said. I read what you write carefully. Please do the same for me. To be clear: I check the reliability of the source (qualifications, publication track record, reception by the scientific community, and where possible, evidence or otherwise of blatant falsehoods) and then listen to their conclusions.

        My reasons for rejecting Helen Caldicott is that she is not a recognised or qualified radiation or health physics specialist, and has no proper peer-reveiwed publication record; she says things without proper evidence or sourcing; she has a history of making statements which are palpably false; and she’s also clearly considered a crank by experts if they bother to pay her any attention.

        I know Caldicott’s a friend of yours and has flattered you with an interview, but as Monbiot shows, she is evasive when challenged, and when her paper trail of “sources” is tracked down to their origins, one fins that she has misread, misinterpreted or simply made things up. To be vulgar, she talks b****cks.

        Of course, if Caldicott had a history of published, well-received research into health and radiation, I would listen to her. But she doesn’t.

        Similarly, I reject Mangano’s research because his and Sherman’s methods have been shown to be so foully corrupt it’s truly breathtaking (do you know anything about stats? Even a little knowledge should leave you shocked at how deceitful their Fukushima study was). When I describe this pseudoscience movement that you’ve got involved in as a “cult”, it’s partly the scientology-like manipulation of reality of Mangano and Sherman that I have in mind. The movement doesn’t kick them out; it defends and embraces them.

        I reject Yablokov because the methods are so surreally bad and so clearly set up to produce the result he wants, the book is utterly meaningless.

        I also reject all three because against this minority viewpoint they present that a single drop of radiation is fit to kill half the planet, there is the overwhelming consensus of scientific research, involving thousands and thousands of researchers, that radiation is, despite Hollywood conceits, a relatively weak carcinogen, and that the levels of radiation outside the exclusion zone (which is nowhere near Kyoto, Brian, you professor of Japanese studies, you) will have no meaningful impact on health whatsoever.

        You ask who I do trust? The World Health Organisation. The United Nations Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation. Why? For two simple reasons. The people writing reports for WHO and UNSCEAR are recognised in their field as supremely competent, and if you read the scientific literature on radiation and health, the work of these two bodies is taken as fully mainstream if not simply definitive. Like you, I don’t have a degree in radiology or health physics. Unlike you, I don’t pretend to know better than the proper experts. I have no other conscionable choice, but to trust them.

        You, on the other hand, appear to have looked for whoever will confirm your prejudices about the disaster. That is, you seek out your “experts” to justify your prejudices. Their validity in your eyes stems not from their established expertise, but because you like what they say. There is no other rational reason for supporting the work of someone like Caldicott. The science simply does not support what she claims.

        part two – can we trust Brian Victoria?

        Brian, you’re a serious academic. People who read your work, or who study under you, or who pay your university for you to teach their children, trust you to care about accuracy and reliability.

        People who publish your books and articles, and people who employ you, have to take substantially on trust that you are scrupulous in how you marshal evidence and sources.

        Beyond all of that, you have a vocation: what you owe to yourself. It’s best typified by this idealised sitution: when faced with a choice between evidence that contradicts your favored theory, and the theory itself, as an academic you are duty bound to choose the evidence. Of course the temptation is to ignore the evidence, but it’s your professional duty to go with the evidence.

        I hope you can find nothing controversial in the previous three paragraphs.

        Yet here’s the thing. When faced with very clear evidence that the sources and “experts” upon which you have based your attempt to disrupt the lives of the students in your care are variously unreliable, deceitful, inexpert or just wacky, you don’t bat an eyelid. You try to change the subject; you try to put the burden of proof onto everyone else.

        Brian, this is cult-like behaviour. It is certainly not the behaviour of a university educator. Remember that as an academic you do have the right to change your mind in public.

      • Brian Victoria

        August 21, 2013

        Dear Sam,

        In principle, Sam, you seem to have a compelling argument, but then “reality” comes along to prove otherwise. Please tell the families of the children described in the following article from NHK on 20 August 2013 that “there is the overwhelming consensus of scientific research, involving thousands and thousands of researchers, that radiation is, despite Hollywood conceits, a relatively weak carcinogen:

        “Thyroid cancer found in 18 Fukushima children

        Medical examinations in Fukushima Prefecture following the nuclear crisis of 2011 have detected 18 children with thyroid cancer.

        The finding was reported on Tuesday by a prefectural panel examining the impact of radiation on the health of local residents.

        The prefecture is giving medical checkups to all 360,000 children aged 18 or younger at the time of the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi plant in March 2011.

        That’s because radioactive substances released in the accident can accumulate in children’s thyroid glands, possibly increasing their risk of developing cancer.

        Some 210,000 children had been tested by the end of July.

        Besides the 18 minors diagnosed with cancer, 25 others are suspected to have the illness.

        The incidence rate of thyroid cancer in children is said to be one in hundreds of thousands. In Japan, 46 people under 20 were diagnosed with thyroid cancer in 2006.

        The panel says it cannot determine if the accident has affected the incidence of cancer among children in Fukushima. But it has decided to set up an expert team to look into the situation.

        Panel chief Hokuto Hoshi says they will carefully examine the accumulated data and individual cases so they can give explanations to residents in a responsible manner.

        Aug. 20, 2013 – Updated 22:55 UTC [End]

        Once you let me know that you have informed the families of these children (and the children themselves) that they really have no need to worry about the effects of radiation, then Sam I will be happy to continue our conversation.


      • C.J. Bunny

        Your compare and contrast “reality” with Sam’s statement doesn’t really follow. You’re again comparing apples and (radioactive) bananas.

        Of course the early thyroid examination data could be worrying, but it’s difficult to discuss without seeing the primary data. A couple circumstantial reasons for not jumping on the link come from comparing with Chernobyl disaster – thyroid cases didn’t really start to increase there until 4 years later or so and the main cause of these cancer there didn’t happen in Fukushima. So they don’t think it’s necessarily linked, but they are very correctly looking into it.

        The other issue with this sort of data is that routinely this sort of examination of large populations of asymptomatic people isn’t done. So it is hard to compare these data to the normal incidence data. Again comparing apples and (radioactive) bananas. For example, the screening effect here could lead to the rare children’s cases being spotted much earlier than usual, creating an artificial spike in incidence, which will normalise out over time. Or maybe it will turn out to be a measurable effect of the disaster, then this and ongoing screening programmes are the right way to go and allow early detection and the best treatment. For screening basis – remember all those horror stories floating around with 50% of 100,000s of children having thyroid cancer? This was from people comparing the screening with known incidence of thyroid nodules (and comparing studies that used different criteria of nodule size, banana-sized or apple-sized?). Interestingly, those authors don’t seem to be retracting their earlier articles to these new follow up figures that now define the thyroid cancers and have a much much lower incidence.

        In any case, these data aren’t really relevant to your fears for your youngsters, the isotopes that may cause thyroid cancer are long gone and never made it to Kyoto anyway. Again this is comparing apples and (radioactive) bananas.

        In summary – it’s bad for those kids, probably isn’t to do with Fukushima disaster, but more study is needed, and has nothing to with justifying your attempts to stop students going to Japan. I didn’t get where I am today by comparing apples to lychee ripple.

      • Starviking

        This really seems to be an example of the “Two Cultures” the Arts and Sciences, as promulgated by CP Snow.

        You post things which appear definitive from an Arts background, but from a scientific perspective are hightly flawed.

        For example, this paragraph:

        “The incidence rate of thyroid cancer in children is said to be one in hundreds of thousands. In Japan, 46 people under 20 were diagnosed with thyroid cancer in 2006.”

        Coming from a background in science, the first thing I note is at this is the normal incident rate – without screening. i.e. these sufferers get symptoms, are checked, and are then diagnosed.

        This is not the case in Fukushima. Here all children are scanned with the latest ultrasound scanners, which are capable of finding more and smaller anomalies than the usual ‘by hand method’. *See reference at end.

        Now the above case should produce more “victims” of thyroid cancers in their age group because:

        1) they will find smaller anomalies, anomalies which by the usualy method would have turned up later in life – when the incidence rate for thyroid cancer is much higher.

        2) they will find many incidentalomas, that is tumours which are so non-agressive that they pose no risk to the patient over the duration of the patient’s lifetime.

        One more point of note, checks on children in Aomori, Yamanashi and Nagasaki using the same scanners as the Fukushima effort found little difference between the 3 areas and Fukushima.


        Reference: “Very high prevalence of thyroid nodules detected by high frequency (13 MHz) ultrasound examination”, S. Guth et al.

      • Sam Gilman

        Although I come from a non-science background, I have to regretfully agree that there has been a very unpleasant arrogance on the part of many people in the media with an arts/humanities background to pronounce The Truth on scientific and medical issues over Fukushima.

        It’s as if “science” for them is merely a rhetorical performance unconstrained by what actually happens in the material world.

      • Starviking

        True, and with that outlook many don’t even bother to question, dig deeper, or even look for the original reports on the matter. Most seem to google, pick from a splurge of EneNews posts, confirm their preconceptions and that’s it: nothing will change their minds.

      • Sam Gilman


        First of all, it’s good that you are now looking at the work of actual scientists such as the team from Fukushima medical university, rather than cranks. I certainly agree that these are people we should listen to. We’ve moved away from the ridiculousness of someone visiting Kyoto now getting Acute Radiation Sickness or risking the health of their unborn child and onto the very real concern about the raised risk of thyroid cancer in children who were close to the plant in the days after the initial releases. This is progress.

        Secondly, you have to understand: the problem with your original statements is not that they state a negative health impact of Fukushima and that we’re all rushing to deny anything bad will result. It’s that your original statements contain wild and unfounded exaggerations about the health impact of the sort that can cause real damage to people’s lives. Fear does literally harm and kill people. People here have genuine contempt for Caldicott, Mangano etc because their wild fearmongering genuinely constitute threats to public health in terms of the profound psychological impact of fear on populations at no risk at all from radiation.

        Anyway, although you’re now looking at proper expertise, I’m afraid that yet again you’re falling into bias, possibly because you thought it was a really grown-up thing to do to accuse me of not caring if children get cancer because of Fukushima. (I can only presume you don’t have children of your own). The NHK story you copy-pasted here reports that the panel states that it is not clear whether there is any connection between these cancers and the nuclear accident.

        That these cancers may not be connected to Fukushima may sound crazy given what your NHK article says about the normal incidence of thyroid cancer. Unfortunately, the reporting on this panel’s press conferences has often been incomplete. Here’s a fuller report:


        You’ll see Dr. Suzuki’s reasoning for saying there is very probably no connection: these cancers are simply too big to have started developing after Fukushima; thyroid cancer is known to develop slowly. Bear in mind that in Chernobyl, where the average radiation dosage of children was several times higher than the highest dose received in a couple of hotspots in Fukushima, an increase in thyroid cancers was only detected 4 years after the accident.

        So why the higher rate? The thing is, and here’s what you as a researcher should be aware of: the method of counting affects the number you get. The rate cited by NHK is the number of cases of thyroid cancer developed enough for a patient to report symptoms to a doctor, for the cancer to be recognised as such and then to be reported to the appropriate data gathering authorities each year.

        When we instead try to count thyroid cancers by diligent screening of all individuals, these factors increase the score:

        1) Cancers at any stage of development are picked up, that is, before they cause symptoms. In effect, we find several years’ worth of cancers in one go.

        2) Cancers that will never turn into problems for patients are included. How many cases this will probably add I’m not sure is known. Mass screening of thyroids in children hasn’t been done on a systematic basis before.

        3) Reporting of this specific type of cancer is done systematically, meaning far fewer cases are missed bureaucratically.

        In other words, an epidemiologist would be highly surprised if we didn’t produce a higher rate through systematic scanning rather than the non-focused gathering of reported cases.

        This is not to say that there will be no rise in thyroid cancers due to Fukushima. The evidence suggests that it is likely there will be a few extra cases. However, given the nature of thyroid cancer, it is highly unlikely we will see any of these cases just yet.

        By the way, I wanted to deal with this:

        However, to my dismay I recently learned, from an article published by the Fukushima Minpo newspaper on Jan. 24, that the Japanese government plans to purchase contaminated rice grown in Fukushima Prefecture (providing it contains less than 100 becquerels/kg) and later sell it nationwide.

        Do you know what the general US limits for radioactive food is? 1200 Becquerels per kilo. Twelve hundred.

        Ask yourself honestly: when you panicked about rice of less than 100 becquerels per kilo being sold, did you actually have any idea what a becquerel is, and what levels of becquerel per kilo present an actual danger? (Don’t say zero: your own internal organs are more radioactive than that.)

      • Starviking

        As for Mangano and Sherman, their fact-twisting can be found for all to see in his response to criticism from experts contained in “Fukushima Update: Radioactive Fallout and Mortality Increases in the United States: Is there a correlation?”

        They write this: “a recent report found that 573 deaths in 13 municipalities in the evacuation zone have been attributed by officials to radiation exposure from the meltdowns.”

        Of course, their reference* says nothing of the sort, instead the deaths are attributed to evacutation stress. Proof of their mendacity.
        *Report on 573 deaths “related to nuclear crisis.” The Yomiuri Shimbun. February 5,

      • thedudeabidez

        “the nutty conspiracy theory that the World Health Organisation is secretly controlled by the nuclear industry.”

        Actually, that is your smear attack insinuation. What she, and many others have pointed out, is that any WHO report regarding nuclear issues is subject to review and advice from the IAEA, whose brief is to promote nuclear power. This is not a conspiracy theory, but known fact, clearly stated in documents of cooperation between U.N. agencies.

      • “any WHO report regarding nuclear issues is subject to review and advice from the IAEA”

        And vice versa.

        Yes, it is clearly spelled out in the WHO – IAEA Agreement:


        Article I – Co-operation and Consultation

        1. The International Atomic Energy Agency and the World Health Organization agree that, with a view to facilitating the effective attainment of the objectives set forth in their respective constitutional instruments, within the general framework established by the Charter of the United Nations, they will act in close co-operation with each other and will consult each other regularly in regard to matters of common interest.

        2. In particular, and in accordance with the Constitution of the World Health Organization and the Statute of the International Atomic Energy Agency and its agreement with the United Nations together with the exchange of letters related thereto, and taking into account the respective co-ordinating responsibilities of both organizations, it is recognized by the World Health Organization that the International Atomic Energy Agency has the primary responsibility for encouraging, assisting and co-ordinating research on, and development and practical application of, atomic energy for peaceful uses throughout the world without prejudice to the right of the World Health Organization to concern itself with promoting, developing, assisting, and co-ordinating international health work, including research, in all its aspects.

        3. Whenever either organization proposes to initiate a programme or activity on a subject in which the other organization has or may have a substantial interest, the first party shall consult the other with a view to adjusting the matter by mutual agreement.”

        Read the *entirety* of the above carefully.

      • Sam Gilman

        Mr Abidez, I’m afraid your confidence in your “known fact” is misplaced.

        The thing is, you and I both know you haven’t actually read these “documents of co-operation” yourself. What Helen Caldicott does is take a gamble on your gullibility: she quotes from one part of a document and then bets on you not actually going to read the source material. She bets that because what she says confirms her audience’s prejudices, they’ll dispense with their critical faculties and swallow whole what really is a ridiculous conspiracy theory. With you, it appears, I’m afraid she’s won the bet – at least hopefully until now, when you read what follows.

        Here is an excerpt you may have seen from a document entitled “Agreement Between the International Atomic Energy Agency and the World Health Organization”. It goes like this:

        In particular, and in accordance with the Constitution of the World Health Organization and the Statute of the International Atomic Energy Agency and its agreement with the United Nations together with the exchange of letters related thereto, and taking into account the respective co-ordinating responsibilities of both organizations, it is recognized by the World Health Organization that the International Atomic Energy Agency has the primary responsibility for encouraging, assisting and co-ordinating research and development and practical application of atomic energy for peaceful uses throughout the world

        Wow. That certainly sounds like the WHO is controlled by the IAEA when it comes to nuclear power!! Except that if you look closely, there’s no full stop in the original. What Helen Caldicott and other conspiracy theorists conceal from you is the end of that very same sentence:

        …without prejudice to the right of the World Health Organization to concern itself with promoting, developing, assisting and co-ordinating international health work, including research, in all its aspects.

        Let’s emphasise those two key phrases: without prejudice, and in all its aspects. To put it simply: Caldicott is talking utter, nasty, hippocratic-oath-breaking tripe.

        What makes Caldicott’s madness a true conspiracy theory is that for it to be true, one would need not a small group of people in power being corrupt (which happens a lot), but very large numbers (thousands and thousands and thousands) of medical researchers and workers all around the world deciding to keep absolutely silent about the WHO being controlled by the IAEA. After all, not a peep of her madcap conspiracy theory is found anywhere in the professional literature.

        I have been on the Internet too long to believe that presenting someone with evidence will always change their mind. However, I would welcome it honestly and openly if you did. I am against what Caldicott does with this passion not because she is anti-nuclear – that is someone’s democratic right – but because I believe she spreads nasty and vicious lies and mistruths (and she’s been confronted about them many times) just when we have some very serious decisions to make about the future liveability of our planet. I hope you can understand that.

      • “By the way, the seminar was opened by an address on the part of Japan’s former Prime Minister, Naoto Kan.”

        Who knows little to nothing about nuclear powerplants, how they work, and how to fix them when they break. Not to mention he spent a good portion of the crisis doing his best to get in the way of people who were trying to do their jobs.

        The fact he was the opening speaker doesn’t add one iota of gravitas or believability to the seminar.

        “you failed to even mention the ongoing massive radioactive contamination of the Pacific Ocean, the collective, priceless and irreplaceable treasure of all humankind.”

        About that “ongoing massive radioactive contamination”:

        “/Turns on reverse fear-mongering mode.How much water is 300 tons? One ton of water is equivalent to 224 imperial gallons. One imperial gallon is equivalent to ~4.5 liters. This makes the daily leakage roughly equivalent to ~300,000 liters. Still sounds like a lot. Let’s continue.

        The typical Olympic-sized swimming pool contains 2,500,000 liters of water. Thus, the daily leakage is equivalent to one-eighth that of an Olympic-sized swimming pool. That’s not too bad.

        If we assume the rate of flow has been constant, then the total of amount of water which has flown into the Pacific Ocean amounts to 0.000000000492% of the total volume of the Ocean. If the rate of flow continues unabated, it would take 5 trillion years to fill the Pacific Ocean with radioactive water. That is more than 338 times the presently known age of the entire universe. Okay, that’s a ridiculously small amount.

        To make matters even more awesome, Cs-134 has a half-life of 2 years, and Cs-137 has a half-life of 30 years. It’ll all long dissipate before it can fill the Pacific Ocean.

        OMG! We’re all going to live!

        /Turns off reverse fear-mongering mode.”

      • Starviking

        I shall skim the webcast for the contributions of Ken Buessler and Dr David Brenner, from past records they should be noteworthy. Buessler, from past comments, does not believe the oceanic contamination to be hazardous.
        For the others, I think it would be a waste of my time.

    • lionsandbears

      Son, I live two hours north of Tokyo. 147 or so kilometers south of Daiichi. Inland, so was never directly effected by the tsunami. I have had no symptoms whatsoever, nothing visible and thus far nothing invisible to worry about. I am the owner of a geiger counter. It generally reads in a range from .07 to .122 depending on the moment. I’ve driven up to Nasu Shiobara where the readings are higher. Good thing I didn’t scrape up the dirt and eat it. I hope your student is getting actual medical observation to find out what might really be wrong. For all you know, she’s got illegally disposed of radioactive materials under her house. Or perhaps she ingested poisonous mushrooms.

      • Eric

        I live 80Km south of Daiichi and my geiger counter reads .06 at the moment.

      • lionsandbears

        Clearly you and I work for Tepco!

    • C.J. Bunny

      That’s a rather dishonest omission, Victoria.
      Shirley with this information a more accurate title could have been chosen.

      Something like – “Unsupported radiation fears led me to try unsuccessfully to postpone Japan visit by U.S. students, but more informed minds overruled me and dismissed my nonsense.” Not so snappy, I agree, but I’m sure the editor do could a better job than me had he been given all the facts in the first place.

      If you really had any legs to stand on, you should write not to the Japanese Minster for Education, but someone in your own country for your superiors allowing something that you think is so dangerous to happen to people in their charge. I hope you can come back to us when they return from their interesting study trip and maybe write a paper describing the presence or absence of pathology. I think that it’s an ill wind that butters no parsnips.

  • Fitza

    The New York seminar Mr Victoria attended was sponsored by a collective of anti-nuke American doctors. They are hardly partial and their pseudo “science” you will find has been discredited by a vast body of respected scientists.

    • B. Gette

      The doctors and intellectuals who spoke at the “Symposium on the Medical and Ecological Consequences of the Fukushima Nuclear Accident” are top-notch and brilliant.
      They are not “anti-nuclear.”
      They are pro-truth and they are uncorrupted by the nuclear industry so they are free to tell the truth about the dangers of nuclear energy.
      Many of them do their research with little or zero funding.
      There is a wealth of knowledge in their presentations and I highly recommend everyone watch them.

      • Starviking

        “Many of them do their research with little or zero funding.”
        Possibly because you don’t need much funding if you just make stuff up?

  • Scott

    Wow Brian are you ever misinformed and an alarmist! This is a university? Wow, can you say big brother? Mr. Victoria is using his own hysteria to make decisions for others? #epicfail #lowinfo

    • Speedygonzales

      Thanks Brian. Don’t you think you should have mentioned in the original article that your recommendation was rejected by the university? This is important information that, as a reader, I would expect to be told. It makes me wonder whether there are other half-truths or distortions in your article and posts.

      • Brian Victoria

        Dear Speedygonzales,

        You are quite right that it would have been best to mention that the university did not accept my recommendation. And in fact, I included that information in the first draft of my article. The problem was that the ‘complete’ version of the article amounted to a little more than 1,000 words while the upper limit for this column is set at 700 words. Something had to be cut, and from my point of view whether the university accepted or didn’t accept my recommendation was of lesser importance than sharing what I consider to be the dangers facing students coming to Japan this fall.

        In this I am in complete agreement with JS below who so very correctly points out the potentially great danger facing Japan in November when the removal of (already likely damaged) nuclear fuel rods from Spent Fuel Pool No. 4 is scheduled to begin.

        This is one of those times when, considering the consequences of the worse case scenario, I would happily be proven wrong. That said, especially people living in the Tokyo area should take whatever precautions they can, e.g. securing a supply of iodine tablets, etc. just in case, including the possibility of evacuating the area.

        I, at least, would feel much better if I knew that the best and most knowledgable nuclear experts in the world were directly involved with this project and all aspects of abating this ongoing disaster. This is not the case at present when even members of Tepco’s advisory board have criticized their performance. Do you or anyone else disagree that additional expertise should be brought in?

      • Enkidu

        Brian, As I pointed out below, that Reuters articles was a joke. The authors don’t know what radiation is and in order to make up for this they spoke with non-experts like Arnie Gunderson, Mycle Schneider and Antony Froggatt. Arnie Gunderson at least has a nuclear engineering degree, but left the field in 1990 and feels that this experience entitles him to be an expert on structural and environmental issues, for which he has zero expertise. Mycle and Antony don’t have any applicable education or training in this. In general, the reporting on these issues is seriuosly deficient and you really have to be careful and think critically about what is reported.

      • Brian Victoria

        Dear Endiku,

        Let me share with the highlights of yet another newspaper editorial on the ongoing crisis at Fukushima. This editorial appeared in today’s Asahi Shimbun. Is it a “joke,” too?

        EDITORIAL: Clearer government role needed for Fukushima cleanup

        Source: Asahi Shimbun

        Date: August 17, 2013

        The crisis at [Tepco]‘s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant is far from over.

        The government has yet to call off the state of nuclear emergency it declared on March 11, 2011 […]

        This fact clearly shows that the nuclear disaster is still going on. […]

        The government’s move to step in and get involved in the efforts to sort out the problem [of radioactive leaks into ocean] came far too late. […]

        Given the urgency of the situation, the [industry] ministry’s commitment to tackling the situation is far too weak. [End]

        Please tell us, Endiku, what you disagree with in this editorial? Further, please tell us what you believe needs to be done with regard to Fukushima, nothing???


      • Enkidu

        Brain, I said that the prior article was a joke (which it was); I did not say all articles are jokes. I also did not say that I believe nothing needs to be done at Fukushima. On the contrary, an incredible amount remains to be done. Are you conflating my views with someone else’s?

        As for the editorial at hand, I whole-heartedly agree with a stronger government role in the clean-up. Trust me, my contempt for Tepco and the previous nuclear regulator runs deep. I note, however, that the article makes no mention of environmental impact or risks, which makes it impossible to determine how “urgent” the situation is. However, as this is an editorial and not a feature article, I’ll give them a pass.

      • Brian Victoria

        Dear Endiku, Thank you for your thoughtful response, especially as it reveals we do have areas of agreement regarding the need for a stronger government role in the clean-up effort plus our shared deep distrust of both Tepco and the previous nuclear regulator. This is a good start!

        Thus, I hope you, I and many others can join forces to call for the Japanese government to do whatever has to be done to bring this situation under now.

        With that I’ll say goodbye to you and all other commenters. Let me once again thank everyone who cared enough about this situation to share your views. Sadly, there will no doubt be occasions in the future when this issue will have to be addressed once again. Until then, my best wishes, Brian

      • jmdesp

        The removal of the Spent Fuel is not particularly more difficult than what Areva does constantly at La Hague in France, when transferring the used fuel it received to special pools for reprocessing and isolating the plutonium, removing it from it’s protective casing. The Russians are doing it also.

        I hope Tepco does request helps from all those that have expertise to contribute, but there’s no reason to believe this is not happening. This is not an operation Tepco has expertise in, so it’s clearly obvious they needed to hire subcontractors who haves the experience to help them devise the proper procedure.

  • JS

    Many commenters here are assuming that the worse is behind us, when it comes to the accident at the Daiichi nuclear plant. However, the fact is that we are not out of the woods. Far from it, the most dangerous phase is actually going to start in a couple of months.

    Many news agencies around the world, including Reuters, have been reporting that the most dangerous phase of the cleanup will start in November 2013 and will last at least a year.

    According to these reports, Tepco is preparing to remove 400 tons of highly irradiated spent fuel from the damaged reactor building. This is a dangerous operation that has never been attempted before on this scale.

    Containing radiation equivalent to 14,000 times the amount released in the atomic bomb attack on Hiroshima, more than 1,300 used fuel rod assemblies packed tightly together need to be removed from a building that is vulnerable to collapse, should another large earthquake hit the area.

    This operation is fraught with danger, including the possibility of a large scale release of radiation if a fuel assembly breaks, gets stuck or gets too close to an adjacent bundle. That could lead to a worse disaster than the March 2011 nuclear crisis at the Fukushima plant.

    The fact is that no one knows how bad it can get, but independent nuclear scientists have stated that it could cause by far the most serious radiological disaster to date.

    Let’s all not collectively have a George W Bush “Mission Accomplished” moment, since it may be a little premature (to state it mildly).

    • Enkidu

      That Reuters article was a joke. They didn’t even use the word “radiation” correctly in the first sentence! Anyone who thinks the most dangerous part of this is yet to come wasn’t here on March 11, 2011.

  • B. Gette

    Thank you Mr. Victoria for your courage and intelligence.
    You made the right decision.

  • B. Gette

    *** “Nuclear Radiation: There is No Safe Dose”

    By Romeo F. Quijano, M.D.

    Quote from the article:

    “The “small” amount of radiation, claimed to be “safe” by authorities, added to our increasingly fragile environment will cause serious harm to the health of human beings and other living organisms all over the world. Radioactive particles, especially Plutonium, Strontium, and Cesium are bioaccumulative, extremely persistent and highly toxic. They travel long distances and will contaminate all regions on earth. ”

    Highly recommend everyone read this:


  • nukeroadie

    I was ready to comment on the absurd assertion by you that one persons ailments solidified in your mind that she had radiation poisoning. But I see that most everyone else here already had. This article is full of misconceptions ,assumptions and a lack of understanding of the subject. To patently attempt to deny others the right to their own decisions based on your limited understanding of radiation and its effects is simply arrogant. I applaud the board for dismissing your phobic demands. I would continue but I have a headache now …….must be the background radiation levels here .

  • baoxian

    The accusations and denial here are rather shocking. Especially in light of the continuous and ongoing cover-ups and downplaying of the danger involved by TEPCO and the Japanese government (who are constantly walking back their claims). This situation has been a slow-motion train wreck now playing out over two years, and the plant is still spewing radiation into the environment uncontrolled, and is not even close to being stabilized.

    We just learned Aug 20 of a massive release of highly radioactive water from a compromised storage tank (which has certainly not been repaired since). The level of groundwater or water cycle contamination is anybody’s guess, as TEPCO or the government certainly can’t be relied upon to provide accurate figures. I can’t imagine why anybody would assume this situation is safe and consider sending their child to Japan for a long period of time.

    • Sam Gilman

      No one is saying that the situation very close to the Fukushima Daiichi plant is safe. From my point of view, this is not about denial, but about combatting really quite insane levels of fearmongering driven by a small of highly corrupt media-savvy individuals. Many of them make a living out of it, preying on people’s lack of scientific knowledge. Acute Radiation Syndrome in Kyoto? This is like someone breaking their leg in Boston because of a car crash in New Mexico.

      The mis-step I think you’re making with the ocean leaks (and it’s entirely understandable given much press coverage) is seeing all the scary numbers thrown around by journalists and getting scared, even though you don’t actually know what these numbers mean.

      The problem is that journalists have a habit of writing about radiation as if it’s an evil spirit or a communicable disease. Actually, it’s a well understood phenomenon. Of course highly radioactive material is dangerous, but it’s dangerous in its immediate vicinity. For someone any reasonable distance from the Fukushima, there is no danger from these leaks.

      There are going to be problems with fish in the immediate vicinity that we might normally catch for food, (so fishing is banned and food is monitored) but radiation is not a disease nor a toxin nor witchcraft. The ocean is far and away large enough to render these leaks harmless to health and the environmemt. I’m not saying dumping in the sea is great; what we’re dealing with here is what the unintended and unwanted leaks actually mean. Restrictions on radiation in food are ten times stricter than in the US and EU. Moreover, these restrictions are based on regular (ie daily) high levels of consumption, so while it is very important to make sure that the restrictions and monitoring are enforced, it is not as if occasional lapses are going to kill people. The biggest impact is on the welfare of those who made their livelihood from fishing in the area.

      The only people meaningfully at risk now from radiation exposure are those working at the plant. TEPCO’s weak management is a real cause for concern here. It is highly likely that at least some workers will develop cancers as a result of their work.

      This limited impact is difficult for the media to process. It’s not exciting, it requires both the journalist and the reader to grasp a complex situation, and I think it challenges deeply held preconceptions that any and all radiation = death and deformity.

      • baoxian

        Really? Talking about statistics and science by saying “the ocean is large and far away?” That same mindset was used regarding the oceans and pollution, and now we have vast dead zones and phenomena like the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

        Cesium-137 (the main pollutant coming out of Fukushima) has a half-life of 30 years and is highly water-soluble, meaning it will remain in the ocean for a very long time.

        The only counterargument is that it may on fact be safer in Southern Japan than on the US West coast before long, as that is where Fukushima radiation is being deposited by Pacific currents.

        There is already scientific documentation of widespread thyroid damage in the Western USA as a result of airborne radiation from the initial meltdown.


        But sure, blame the media. Saying only plant workers are at risk is simply stupid, as you have absolutely no evidence to back it up.

      • tau_neutrino

        That’s report is in a non-peer-reviewed journal by the same Mangano who’s been discredited up the thread.

      • C.J. Bunny

        Exactly, Tau_n

        A quick look reveals to me (even as a non-expert in this field) many problems a non-biased reviewer would pick up on. Due to a lack of detail, it is hard to make a judgement on how they are obtaining and using the data; there is no description of the type statistical test used (which is incompetent at best or just dishonest), so again impossible to judge just what the data really mean. The data set is small and comparing limited time periods, and I cannot believe that those data are genuinely strongly linked.

        I fail to see how anyone could read that paper and cite it as supporting their argument, unless they didn’t really understand how to critically read a report and instead just went with the what the title said?

        Although it looks like the authors are affiliated to an impressive sounding institution, they use an aol email and are based at a residential address – not sure how all the many directors of Radiation and Public Health Project fit in that little house.

      • Sam Gilman

        Don’t be so naive, Baoxian. I have lots of evidence. Levels of radiation exposure and their meaning for human health are dealt with briefly here.

        Details of the World Health Organisation reports are here. They show a slight probable increase in two small populations of people who received high exposure in March 2011.

        Details of the development of thyroid cancer following Chernobyl are within here, and serves as one of the foundations for predictions about thyroid cancer following the Fukushima. It also contains information about the devastating psychological harm of wild exaggerations of the sort that you and Brian insist on re-broadcasting despite being asked not to. Examples of this harm in Fukushima are here.

        Details of how Mangano and Sherman have a track record of producing fearmongering research so corrupt that if they had university jobs, they’d quite possibly be fired for it are here, and here and here.

        Details of why the publishing house the journal your “evidence” is published is incredibly suspect are here. It’s the research equivalent of vanity press.

        I could give a hundred links all written by different people from different organisations all broadly giving parts or whole of the same consistent story. It’s called relying on the scientific mainstream. Whatever disagreements there are between these people, they’re on a rather small scale.

        Here’s why I don’t understand about someone like you, Baoxian, and I keep meeting your type online.

        For information on Fukushima, I go to the best journals, the most trusted organisations like the WHO, to people with qualifications and excellent reputations who enjoy the general confidence of their peers. Whatever they say, be it “no one will die” or “millions will die”, I accept it because of the quality of the source – I, like you, am not an expert in these matters. When I read articles like your link, I ask “who are these people and are they trustworthy?

        You, on the other hand, turn up with articles by two famously awful and compromised researchers and tout it as “evidence”. For pity’s sake, you even exaggerate what they claim.

        Why do you do this? I’m genuinely fascinated. I look at the best experts and think “they are the best people to analyse this and phew, we’re lucky it wasn’t worse”. To me it seems that you, on the other hand, look at these recognised experts and say, as far as I can see, “sorry, not enough adults and children are dying so I don’t believe them”.

        Baoxian, I’m not saying you actively want large numbers of children to die, but there does appear to be some kind of need on your part for more devastation, death and misery to occur before you’ll believe it. You’re not alone: it’s how people like Mangano, Sherman, Caldicott, Busby, Gundersen, etc. make a living: they sell people like you nightmares that make you feel better. They’ve found a market for fantasies of mass death.

        Why? Why do you choose to believe these clearly untrustworthy people?

        Oh, and by the way, please don’t follow Brian Victoria’s habit of misrepresenting what I say or trying to change the subject. i did not say the oceans are “far away” (a weird idea), nor did I say that regular ocean emissions of nuclear waste are a good thing (I said the opposite), and nor does this topic having anything to do with the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. People here are bending over backwards to provide a scientific critique of yours and Brian’s views; please do us the respect of reading what we say carefully.

      • Per Christer Lund

        Following up on Sams comment about oceans being large, lets make a “back of the envolope” calculations. The reported amount of radioactive emissions since March 11 is in the order of 10-40 trillion bequerels. Lets assume that the contaminated water has been dispersed into the upper 100 meters of 1 percent of the Pacific ocean (which may be reasonable given the fact that traces are now being detected down the coast of California). The area of Pacific is 165 million sq meters, so the tens of trillions bequerels from Fukushima has been diluted in the order of 100 trillion qubic meters of ocean water. Which makes a concentration of less than 1 bequerel per ton water. Compare this to the human bodys normal concentration of about 500-1000 bequerel (tritium) per ton, or rainwater at 1-3000 bq per ton, I feel confident that the emission from Fukushima into the Pacific will have no effect on ocean life nor humans except from the very close vicinity of the Fukushima PP

      • qwerty

        wow – you’ll even defend tepco – i thought you were just misled or slightly delusional but now i think you have a serious problem

      • Sam Gilman

        What part of “TEPCO’s weak management is a real cause for concern here. It is highly likely that at least some workers will develop cancers as a result of
        their work.” is a defence of TEPCO?

  • Glen Douglas Brügge

    Seriously? These foreign “experts” irk me. While the matter is serious, I believe a lot of it is based on hype. Reality is a lot different. As long as the reactors remain as they are, people are not receiving doses above and beyond what they might in a normal setting. While the reactors were cooking off I didn’t bother watching the foreign media outlets, because they feed on fear (particularly the stations in the US). What I saw on the ground in Japan was a lot different from what they were reporting. I believe he is prescribing to the school of unfounded findings. Many of these “experts” do little more than hypothesize, without ever having set foot in the country, let a lone the plant itself. I went to Yamagata this month, and the north is very much alive, and foreign tourists are still visiting. This guy did nothing but ruin many children’s dreams, and undermine the goodwill of this program through his unfounded paranoia. Let them weigh the facts for themselves and make their own decisions.

  • Christopher-trier

    How many people have been murdered in the USA this month? How many people have been killed in the USA because of traffic accidents? How many people in the USA have died of illness and health-related issues? Mr Victoria is well out of order, especially considering the hazards to be found in his home state of Ohio, much less the USA.

  • Firas Kraïem

    “Thus, one reasonable response would have been to forbid 2013 students from traveling anywhere north of Tokyo.”

    I don’t see how that’s reasonable given that a large part of northern Japan (Iwate, Akita, Aomori and Hokkaido) are farther away from Fukushima-1 than Tokyo is…

  • I’m not sure what the author of this article was expecting to accomplish with this, but it’s interesting he would jump to the conclusion that one student would have a radiation-related illness just from a few symptoms. It sounds like he made a very scientific conclusion there. What about all the other thousands of students who haven’t had any health issues and are doing perfectly fine in Japan? I was living in Tokyo this past year and I didn’t have any problems to my health and even if radiation did affect me, I probably won’t notice it for many years to come since cancerous cells have a long incubation period. Besides, being away from Japan won’t protect anyone, since the radiation will inevitably spread to the rest of the world and we’re all going to be screwed.