Tuesday, 21 August 2012

The Panic Over Fukushima

a must read: The Panic Over Fukushima: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10000872396390444772404577589270444059332.html ...physicist Richard Muller (University of California, Berkeley) write in WSJ that Japan's government overreacted to the Fukushima nuclear disaster evoking the natural radiation levels in Denver, Colorado, which are high enough to trigger the immediate evacuation of the city - at least if guidelines from the International Commission on Radiological Protection are strictly applied! and in case you are wondering Denver has lower-than average cancer mortality... "The tsunami that hit Japan in March 2011 was horrendous. Over 15,000 people were killed by the giant wave itself. The economic consequences of the reactor destruction were massive. The human consequences, in terms of death and evacuation, were also large. But the radiation deaths will likely be a number so small, compared with the tsunami deaths, that they should not be a central consideration in policy decisions.
The reactor at Fukushima wasn't designed to withstand a 9.0 earthquake or a 50-foot tsunami. Surrounding land was contaminated, and it will take years to recover. But it is remarkable how small the nuclear damage is compared with that of the earthquake and tsunami. The backup systems of the nuclear reactors in Japan (and in the U.S.) should be bolstered to make sure this never happens again. We should always learn from tragedy. But should the Fukushima accident be used as a reason for putting an end to nuclear power?
Nothing can be made absolutely safe. Must we design nuclear reactors to withstand everything imaginable? What about an asteroid or comet impact? Or a nuclear war? No, of course not; the damage from the asteroid or the war would far exceed the tiny added damage from the radioactivity released by a damaged nuclear power plant.
It is remarkable that so much attention has been given to the radioactive release from Fukushima, considering that the direct death and destruction from the tsunami was enormously greater. Perhaps the reason for the focus on the reactor meltdown is that it is a solvable problem; in contrast, there is no plausible way to protect Japan from 50-foot tsunamis. Do we order a permanent evacuation of the coast to 20 miles inland? Do we try to build a 50-foot-high sea wall all around the eastern coast, including Tokyo Bay?
Looking back more than a year after the event, it is clear that the Fukushima reactor complex, though nowhere close to state-of-the-art, was adequately designed to contain radiation. New reactors can be made even safer, of course, but the bottom line is that Fukushima passed the test.
The great tragedy of the Fukushima accident is that Japan shut down all its nuclear reactors. Even though officials have now turned two back on, the hardships and economic disruptions induced by this policy will be enormous and will dwarf any danger from the reactors themselves."

Isn't science always better than hysteria???

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