Going nuclear

The continued outpouring of radiation from the Fukushima power plant makes me very nervous. Radiation has been pouring into the ocean for two years now and continues to do so. The first wave of radiation will float all the way to the US coast by next year. In the meantime it has changed all life in the Pacific ocean forever.
I know that forever is a rather big time unit, but the half life times of radioactive materials are in the tens of thousands of years, so measured by the average human lifetime it is pretty accurate.
Radiation will burn organisms on a cellular level. Radiation gets into everything and everybody. It will turn your cells into crazy cancer machines, and it will kill you. And it will not go away. What is happening in Fukushima is changing the world as we know it.
And guess what? Nobody talks about it.
There are blips about it on the news every now and then, yes. But there is no public outcry. There is no scientific enlightenment campaign to tell people about certain risks or facts.
We hav learned that the company lied about the initial contamination and that the actual contamination is much worse than previously said. We nod to that, because we have become used to companies doing this after environmental disasters.
We had some hero stories of workers going in and shutting down parts of the plant and facing deathly radiation levels while doing so. We did not get any follow up on those.
I remember Tschernobyl. After the accident it was on the news for months. Fukushima? Not so much.
Could we please have an informed debate about this? I have many questions. For example, is it still somehow safe to swim in the pacific next year, or is this going to be a deadly radioactive bath? Do we need Geiger counters when we eat fish from now on? Would it make sense to give little kids iodine to protect their thyroids? How does the amount of radioactive contamination compare with the ones of Tschernobyl or the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki? How much of a real threat is this and where does the hype begin?
I think it is important to remember that this is a human problem. It is not an environmental problem. It affects us. If we don’t have food anymore and if we don’t have clean water anymore, we will become extinct. I would rather have that not happen for a long, long time. Earth will adapt to going nuclear. It has done so before.
Or like George Carlin said: “Don’t worry, the planet’s fine.”

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About scratchingcat

Writer, mother, friend.
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One Response to Going nuclear

  1. Yes Ute, Fukushima is an unmitigated environmental disaster that is on going and probably going to get worse before its going to get better. The media (apart from a very good article in a recent New Scientist magazine) that I read seem to be pretty much ignoring it.
    I think incidents such as this and Chernobyl underline the serious costs of nuclear power generation. There is presently much political pressure in this country (UK) and many others to build more nuclear power stations to offer an alternative to the extremely damaging fossil fuel power stations. How do you cost the effect of polluting the oceans with toxins that will go on killing for geological time scales? I personally believe we should follow the German example and phase out nuclear power a soon as possible. It is unaffordable by any measure.
    The danger is that if this generating capacity is replaced by coal and gas its likely that even more people will die than if we were to be totally nuclear. The number of deaths from air pollution today and the number of deaths from climate change will be far in excess of any likely deaths from nuclear accidents.
    As for your present day safety concerns as a direct result of what’s going on at Fukushima, I think the added risks to you and your family, even if you swim in the ocean and eat the occasional Pacific fish will be fairly minimal, at the distance you are from Japan. The effects on the local population in Japan will not be so insignificant.
    Everyday we are all exposed to small amounts of radiation. Sunlight; the rocks beneath your feet; the computer you are sitting at reading this; all emit radiation. Its a mildly radioactive world in which we live. The risks of exposure have to be kept in some kind of perspective. If you were to fly to Fukushima and visit the nearest town and then fly home again, you would be exposed to far more radiation as a result of the airplane flight than you would be from you time on the ground in Japan.
    All this personal safety reassurance does not negate the fact that the nuclear industry is monstrous hideous legacy we are creating for future generations. We should close it down at the earliest opportunity.

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