An Alternative to “If It Bleeds, It Leads”

“If it’s radiating, we’re bloviating.”

Fukushima Radiation Not As Bad As Feared

Two years ago yesterday, the Honshu Earthquake, along with the subsequent tsunami, devastated the north shore of Japan.  At the time, I wrote a series of articles on the earthquake, tsunami, and the subsequent major accident in the Fukushima Daiichi and Daini reactors.

The first of those was called “Fear the Media Meltdown, Not the Nuclear One“. In this series, I made the point that the actual damage from the radiation would be relatively minor, with few or no long-term health effects — after all, there had been no observable long-term health effects except for plant workers at Chernobyl, and this was never going to be as big as Chernobyl.

Here’s a quote:

And what of the lasting threat from radiation? Remarkably, outside the immediate area of Fukushima, this is hardly a problem at all. Although the crippled nuclear reactors themselves still pose a danger, no one, including personnel who worked in the buildings, died fromradiation exposure. Most experts agree that future health risks from the released radiation, notably radioactive iodine-131 and cesiums-134 and – 137, are extremely small and likely to be undetectable.

Even considering the upper boundary of estimated effects, there is unlikely to be any detectable increase in cancers in Japan, Asia or the world except close to the facility, according to a World Health Organization report. There will almost certainly be no increase in birth defects or genetic abnormalities from radiation.

Even in the most contaminated areas, any increase in cancer risk will be small. For example, a male exposed at age 1 has his lifetime cancer risk increase from 43 percent to 44 percent. Those exposed at 10 or 20 face even smaller increases in risk — similar to what comes from having a whole-body computer tomography scan or living for 12 to 25 years in Denver amid background radiation in the Rocky Mountains. (There is no discernible difference in the cancer rates between people who live in Denver and those in Los Angeles or New York.)

Rather than stand as a warning of the radiation danger posed by nuclear power, in other words, Fukushima has become a reminder that uninformed fears aren’t the same as actual risks.

There are few joys in life comparable than being able to say “I told you so.”

He said, smugly.

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