Sunday, 14 October 2012

The tragedy of radiation phobia

A great read: The Tragedy of Radiation Phobia
"This week there was an absolutely heartbreaking story in Business Week about Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda ‘s trip to Fukushima. His visit was intended to show the Japanese public that things are going well at the reactor. Also on the agenda was a ceremony honoring the “Fukushima 50,” the brave Tepco workers who stayed on the job during the worst of the accident and risked intense doses of radiation to try to bring the reactor under control.
Now in any other country you’d think that this heroic bunch would be given a ticker-tape parade, appear on talk shows and be feted at the centers of government. Here they’d be signing book contracts and negotiating with Hollywood about a movie. When 33 miners were trapped for a week underground in Chile in 2010, the whole world held its breath and they were celebrated in New York after their rescue.
What happened in Japan instead is this. Only a handful of the Fukushima 50 showed up and most of those who did stood with their backs to the cameras and refused to show their faces. Why? Because they were afraid their relatives would be shunned for somehow being indirectly exposed to the horrifying dangers of nuclear radiation.
This is the fruit of 50 years of the “no safe dose” hypothesis run wild. Anti-nuclear activists have been so successful in preaching that even the minutest exposure to radiation is some kind of death ray that people are now afraid of anyone and anything that is even association with nuclear energy. Radiation has become a kind of international cooties that not only infects a person but can be “passed along” by touch or contact with someone else who has been exposed. The Fukushima 50 are afraid that children and grandchildren will be shunned by other young children at school simply because they are related to them. Such is the power of the dreaded word “radiation.”
This is a contemporary tragedy and one that no one seems very inclined to do anything about. All over Japan people who have been forced to evacuate from Fukushima are being denied basic services because they are “radioactive.” Families have been denied admission to hotels, people are denied jobs, their children are shunned in school by their classmates. The pattern actually goes back to people who were exposed to high doses of radiation at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. They were given a special name – hibakusha – the explosion-covered people” – and have spent most of their life trying to hide their identity. In a recent NPR interview, one woman revealed to her sister for the first time that she had been affected by the blast in 1945. The Fukushima 50 knew what they were talking about. "
More on Fukushima 50: it has made the top of the article listing 5 Big News Stories That Left Out the Most Important Part: "The "Fukushima 50" Sacrificed Their Lives to Prevent Disaster (also, They're All Still Alive): t was one of the truly inspirational stories that came out of the horrific Japanese earthquake/tsunami and subsequent meltdown at the Fukushima nuclear power plant: A group of heroic workers colloquially known as "The Fukushima 50" stayed behind to try to bring the reactors under control. It was reported that the workers had received lethal doses of radiation, but that -- although they expected to die within weeks -- they would carry on as long as necessary to try to protect Japanese citizens.
But They Forgot to Mention ...
They're fine.
You have a right to be surprised; to provide a point of comparison, during the cleanup of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in the 1980s, 134 "liquidators" were diagnosed as having radiation poisoning, and 28 of them died within two months of the accident. On the other hand, over a year after the Fukushima disaster, the number of workers who have died from radiation poisoning is ... zero.
Not a single worker has died from radiation-related causes, and in fact none of the workers have even shown symptoms of radiation poisoning. But what about the report from the workers that they were prepared to die from radiation poisoning? Well, that claim came from a single worker who yanked his hypothesis straight out of his ass and told his mother about it, who then passed it on to reporters. That's right -- all the news reports you heard about Fukushima workers expecting to die within weeks or months literally stemmed from the claims of one worried mom. But that's just short-term risks. Surely we can expect to see that Big C asshole popping up over the long term, right? Probably not. A panel of experts found that the average cancer risk for the workers is 0.002 percent higher than the normal population. Even the most exposed worker (who received a dose of 670 millisieverts, over twice the emergency limit of 250 mSv) only has a 6.7 percent higher chance of getting cancer.
So why all the panic? Well, the effects of different types of radiation are difficult to explain to the layperson, and when you have the queen of the Uruk-hai (aka Nancy Grace) belching out a cloud of undiluted, pants-shitting sensationalism, it's easy to see how misinformation can spread so quickly. But while the press had a field day comparing the accident to Chernobyl, in reality it wasn't nearly as bad. As a matter of fact, Japanese officials are already starting to permit people to return to their homes and businesses, and looking back now, it turns out that the workers were never really in much danger.
Now, don't get us wrong -- each and every one of those workers is a hero and stood tall in the face of disaster. But why not reward them by gaping in awe of their badassery and not by looking at them with solemn pity, waiting for the next one to keel over?""

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