Thursday, April 21, 2011

ANS Nuclear Cafe - “Why is there irrational fear of radiation?”

A number of folks at the Cafe have contributed thoughts on why the public fears radiation and nuclear energy. Much of the fear, they discuss, could be caused by the confusing number of different radiation units that are communicated in the media. Dan Yurman started it off:

The crisis at the Fukushima nuclear reactor complex in Japan, caused by a record earthquake and equally record shattering tsunami, has created a maelstrom of fear, uncertainty, and doubt (FUD) when it comes to radiation measurements.

For instance, the importance of distinctions between fast and slow decaying isotopes of iodine and cesium are sometimes lost on media and the public.

Worse, the differences between accounting for the sheer amount of radiation and giving an assessment of the potential health effects of uncontrolled releases takes place using different sets of measurement units. Is it any wonder that mainstream news media editors get headaches when their reporters file stories about radiation?

It hasn’t helped that Japanese and American nuclear experts have called for different distances for evacuation zones around the plant site. Can we fault the public for concluding that any report about radiation at a nuclear reactor is bad news?

The rest of the discussion will keep your attention.


Dougtheheadhunter said...

I think there are a number of reasons for the fear of radiation. Not the least of which is an ingnorance or misconception of what that word means in concert with the term "nuclear". Because of senstional media reports, movies since the 1950's and even tv shows like the Simpsons, people assume that being exposed to radiation means three-headed fish or five pound tumors. Fear is typically born of ignorance. So I think education is the key to people having a more realistic understanding of things.

Anonymous said...

You may be interested in this video from UCLA with commentary from Albert Carnesale:

Free video, feel free to embed it.