Foreign Policy Blogs

Rad safety and the Fukushima Aftermath

Now that things are settling down a wee bit over in Japan – at least from what my NRC buddies tell me –  I thought it might be useful to focus in on the radiological situation which will determine which areas will be habitable, and when.

In that regard, I’ve come across a couple of articles I thought were reasonably accurate and instructive.  The first, from an unlikely source – Popular Mechanics – is written by Dr. Andy Karam, a health physicist with a Navy background.  He took rad counters over to Japan and walked across the “contaminated” areas around Fukushima to get readings for himself and then explains what he found and what it means.  Good piece.

Popular Mechanics

The second, which appeared in the New York Times on May 2nd, quotes a number of folks I know personally, and who have excellent rad cred, including Dr. Fred Mettler of the University of New Mexico and U.S. rep to the UN Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR), and Dr. Frank Von Hippel from Princeton.  Titled “Drumbeat of Nuclear Fallout Fear Doesn’t Resound with Experts”, Bill Broad draws from a range of expertise and information on other accidents and incidences to help put the readings at Fukushima into perspective.  For example, Broad quotes Japanese officials, who stated on April 12th that Fukushima had released about 10 million curies of radiation.  However, most of the radiation is believed to have been blown out to sea, which means the risk to the Japanese may  actually be less.  “By contrast, the 1986 accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant released about 100 million curies of the most dangerous materials” to say nothing of the releases and exposures from the era of atmospheric nuclear testing. And what about all of those CT scans and other medical uses?  According to the UN, Broad notes that “For several countries…..the doses from X-rays and CT scans ‘for the first time in history’ have exceeded the natural background radiation.”  A little context does indeed go a long way.

New York Times Broad Piece



Jodi Lieberman

Jodi Lieberman is a veteran of the arms control, nonproliferation, nuclear terrorism and nuclear safety trenches, having worked at the Departments of State, Energy and Nuclear Regulatory Commission. She has also served in an advisory capacity and as professional staff for several members of Congress in both the House and Senate as well as the Senate Homeland Security Committee. Jodi currently spends her time advocating for science issues and funding as the Senior Government Affairs Specialist at the American Physical Society. The views expressed in her posts are her views based on her professional experience but in way should be construed to represent those of her employer.

Great Decisions Discussion group