A quick link to a good overview/opinion piece in the Economist
today about Fukushima. Nearly a week after the start of this nuclear nail-biter, it looks like the severe catastrophe people feared early on will not happen. At this stage, there is not a large scale health crisis. Local radiation levels (very near the plant) spiked and no doubt a group of people has been or will be affected by the exposure. This is very regrettable and sad. But, thank goodness, Fukushima is not a second Chernobyl.
There is fear still amongst the general population, here as well as in Japan. With the conditions as they are, we do not run any risks. Even if radio-active gases are blown in our direction, by the time any of them reaches our shores, the radio-active levels will be so low that it won’t affect anyone. Remember that we are exposed to radiation every day: the earth is radio-active. We also happily submit ourselves to X-rays and CT-scans. Whatever can reach us at this stage, will add just a tad, if anything, to our normal background radiation exposure. So, you can fully relax about it. Also in Japan, outside the safety zone, there is currently no need for concern. Radiation levels measured in Tokyo are a bit above normal, again not posing any threats at this stage.
Many people find nuclear energy scary. You cannot see it, cannot smell it, the science behind is is hard to understand and perhaps too closely related to nuclear weapons, and the radiation exposure can lead to cancer, which is also a very scary illness. But put all the dramatic news coverage about Fukushima in some perspective. This is an industrial disaster, not a large scale health crisis. The real crisis at the moment is with the people who suffered the tsunami, the high death toll, the displaced and those without sufficient food and water who try to survive in the shelters.