It wasn’t the radiation. It was the over-the-top response. So says World Nuclear News.
What turned Fukushima from a medium-ranking industrial accident, of the kind that happens perhaps eight or ten times a year, into a disaster, with a reported death toll among the evacuees of over 1000? It wasn’t the radiation, writes Malcolm Grimston.
In common with Three Mile Island, Fukushima doesn’t seem to have caused any deaths from radiation; even at Chernobyl the demonstrable death toll which resulted from radiation exposure was small compared to events like Bhopal or the Banqiao dam failure.
What created the human misery at Fukushima was the response – not the immediate precautionary evacuation but what followed and ironically what preceded. The only other area currently excluded because of human activity is Chernobyl. It follows, to the rational non-expert, that the levels of radiation throughout these exclusion zones must represent a higher risk than any other man-made threat on the planet.”
So what was their mistake? They got crazy because of the levels of radiation in the area, which, as it turns out, are less than the naturally-occurring background radiation in much of the world.
First and foremost, around 100,000 people were evacuated from a 20 km radius zone around Fukushima Daiichi and have not (except for a few hundred very recently) been allowed back into their homes for over three years, causing untold misery. In much of the zone doses from radiation (from all sources) are below 5 mSv per year, with fallout dose below 1 mSv per year.
Secondly, there are areas like Ramsar in Iran (average 130 mSv per year) and Guarapari in Brazil (peak levels on the beach equivalent to 350 mSv per year) which are not evacuated. Indeed, there are almost certainly places in Japan (e.g. Kyushu island) where natural doses are above the total dose in some part of the exclusion zone.”
I know what you’re gonna say. “There you go again, getting facts involved with the panic.” Guilty as charged.