Home > Editorial, Media > Radiation From Japan Will Kill You, Your Family, Your Children & Your Babies

Radiation From Japan Will Kill You, Your Family, Your Children & Your Babies

The following piece was written on April 9th, 2011. Its goal is to examine the hysteria surrounding Nucear Energy and if its actually grounded in fact. Following the publishing of the piece, on April 11th, the Japanese Nuclear disaster was raised to a level-7, putting it on par with the the Chernobyl disaster. Currently though, the rating is only provisional since the level was raised by Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency.

In March 2011, the world was rocked by a disaster of unprecedented proportions that affected the lives of millions, leading to one of the worst natural calamities in recent memory. That’s right, “low levels of radiation” were found in Charlotte, NC. As it stands currently, unless another Earth-moving quake changes things, North Carolina is almost 7000 miles away from the site of the devastating Earthquake in Japan. Still, that apparently isn’t enough distance for local authorities as they have now begun daily testing for the radiation.

In California, the event turned into a state of emergency after harbors were “destroyed” and blamed on the tsunami over 5000 miles away. In a Los Angeles surplus store, Iodine Tablets flew off shelves in addition to gas masks. It doesn’t matter that said gas masks haven’t worked properly since 1987, the people want them. It doesn’t matter that public officials across the nations say that there is no public health risk, or that it would take some 2000 years of breathing the radiated air to equal the radiation of one X-Ray, people want to feel safe from the evil radiation making a bee-line of 7000 miles just to give their children cancer.

So, why is it that Obama’s attempts to revitalize nuclear energy is now dead, and people want to buy broken gas masks? The answer is two-fold: The media and people.

Now admittedly, finding out the truth of the effects of nuclear radiation has always been sort of a mystery only remedied by the research of time. In 1955, a pamphlet handed out by the government entitled “Facts About Fallout” stated that a shelter with 3 feet of Earth surrounding it would protect its inhabitants completely from radiation.

By the mid-70s, the anti-nuclear movement was in full-force as protesters searched for the next cause after the end of Vietnam. Since the 70s was the golden age of nuclear development, they made an easy target, even though neither side of the issue truly had a complete grasp of what they were dealing with. Still, 1979 saw the premiere of the political thriller “The China Syndrome,” which was a veritable god-send for the anti-nuclear movement. Upon viewing today, the film reads more like a badly-written propaganda piece stating that nuclear energy is obviously evil and highly mismanaged to the point of farce, which the film is with its gross scientific inaccuracies. Still, it had timing on its side as the Three-Mile Island incident happened mere weeks after the film was released.

Time Magazine During The Three Mile Island Incident

As it turns out, Three-Mile Island was not nearly as bad as it was portrayed in the media and public consciousness, since the most radiation anybody got from the incident was 100 millirem, or about 1/3 the background radiation we get each year. In fact, the average amount of radiation received was 8 millirem, or the amount of radiation found in a X-Ray. Still, the nuclear era was ended by public opinion, and the production of new plants quickly delved into the territory of non-existence before long.

In 1986, the worst nuclear disaster on record came in the form of Chernobyl, a nuclear plant in Russia. Due to a series of technical and human errors, 56 people directly lost their lives due to the accident, while millions were indirectly effected. Half of the affected were children, many abandoned by their parents in the evacuation, or given up for adoption as soon as they were born with their deformities, as their parents lacked the strength or the resources to care for them. One child caught cancer simply by going outside during a rainstorm in the days following the disaster.

A Baby Born With Its Brain Outside Its Body

The official scale for the Atomic Energy Agency in measuring nuclear power plant incidents is called the International Nuclear Event Scale, which goes from 1, being an anomaly, to 7, being a major accident. Both the Three-Mile Island incident and the recent Japan incidents rank as a 5. The Chernobyl disaster is the only one in the history of nuclear power to reach a 7.

In recent years, nuclear power has expanded its reach to provide around 14% of the world’s energy. This during the so-called “Nuclear Renaissance,” a renewed interest in nuclear energy spurred on by President Obama’s desire to expand the use of alternative energy sources. With this renaissance came a flurry of new proposed sites for plants, but with them came financial concerns with the economy, and as of 2008, only a 52% support rate for nuclear energy. Now, with the recent Japan Tsunami, it’s already clear to The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists that “the proposition of a global nuclear renaissance ended on that day.” Now support has turned into a disapproval rate of 60% for nuclear energy.

Alec Baldwin

Alec Baldwin certainly sees the risk too great for the acceptance of nuclear energy. In illustrating the dangers of nuclear energy, Baldwin tosses a hypothetical question at us, “If I told you that the chances that you would get AIDS from one act of unprotected sex with an infected partner were one in a million, would you do it?” He then gives us the answer to this hypothetical, “The answer is no. Because, if you took that bet and lost, you’d get AIDS.”

There’s only one problem with this analogy. Mr. Baldwin forgets, perhaps due to his various marriage trouble, which would actually explain a lot, that sex is by all means pretty awesome without protection. The reason that we have protection though is because society and authority has brainwashed us into thinking that we could be that one in a million. In actuality, as the Huffington Post corrects Mr. Baldwin in the article, the statistic is actually more like one in five million, if you’re a heterosexual male. So with those type of odds, would you do it? If you’re sexually active, you’re certainly going to protect yourself a lot, but sometimes you just want the full experience.

The same goes for nuclear energy. If in the long history of nuclear power plants, only one catastrophic disaster has occurred, does that mean we stop building them? Sure, we have several other minor incidents, but that’s compared the 442 plants that are currently running today. The ones with incidents are clearly outliers, while most nuclear power plants are well-run and by all means safe. Besides, as long as we don’t get AIDS, then it’s great for all parties involved, and we’re saving rubber. In nuclear terms, that means that the non-melting plants are actually helping the environment by helping take the burden off more harmful power plants such as Coal or Fossil-Fueled sources.

Granted, both AIDS and the aftereffects of a nuclear disaster should by no means be taken lightly, but we shouldn’t live our lives in fear because of them.

The problem is that nuclear has been, and always will be a mystery to most Americans. We don’t grill our hamburgers via Nuclear reactions. We grill using gas and charcoal. We can understand this pretty easily. We can see solar panels soak up the sun rays, and we can see wind turbines turn with the wind. You have to essentially go to science class to understand nuclear energy, or listen to experts talk about it when a plant is melting down. Since people naturally don’t like things they do not understand, they don’t care for nuclear energy very much, especially when news of it melting down is plastering the airwaves.

The media likes things that the American public doesn’t know. They love it when a new singing star is born on American Idol. They love it when a previously-unknown Senator from Illinois or Governor of Alaska go head-to-head in a Presidential race. It’s times like these when the Media gets to teach America about the new sensation or phenomenon, and get to bring in experts to talk about it and fill airtime. But more than anything, the media loves it when they have a story that could possibly affect you, because if it affects you, then you’ll be more likely to pay attention to the story, and therefore them. Therefore, reporting a possible nuclear disaster is a goldmine for the media.

The media can educate the public on something they know little about, and can mostly get away with any possible inaccuracies since there aren’t a lot of people to call them out on it, especially if they’re relying on the opinion of an “expert.”Granted, it does get tricky when you have to find out the names of all the nuclear power plants in Japan, and a certain nightclub in Tokyo has a name that sounds like it could be that of a nuclear power plant. And of course, since it is radiation and the severity of said radiation usually depends on things like the weather, you can never tell if it will affect you, but better be safe than sorry. So, coming directly at you, radiation that will make your kids look like the photo above. They plays off another tool the media frequently uses: fear.

Action in Belgium at the nuclear power plant inTihange on the 10th anniversary of the nuclear accident at Chernobyl in the Ukraine.

What’s unfortunate is that the people will listen, and since they don’t know exactly what is happening, they will prepare for the worst possible scenario given by the news. After all, if you can’t trust the media, who can you trust? After all, we’re busy American citizens working a honest job making an honest wage to bring home to feed our families. We can’t be bothered to research it ourselves, so we take the word of the news and Alec Baldwin, and since he’s citing statistics, he must be right. We must therefore protect our children from the Radiating menace. Nobody wants to experience the aftereffects that Chernobyl had, and they will do anything to prevent it, even it if it means hurting our planet in the long term.

So, as a result of bad research and bad publicity, nuclear power will slowly die because no political issue can survive very long when 60% of the nation is against it. It’s bad for political business. I can live with this, especially since I’m not as likely to experience the consequences to our planet in the near-future, but what I can’t live with is the reasons it’s dying. So, I urge you, take an opinion for yourself by researching it thoroughly, searching your moral code, and coming to a conclusion for yourself. You might come the same conclusion as me that the benefits of nuclear energy outweigh the risks, and that’s great. Or you could come to the conclusions of Kenzaburo Oe, writing in The New Yorker, and that would be fine too:

What did Japan learn from the tragedy of Hiroshima? One of the great figures of contemporary Japanese thought, Shuichi Kato, who died in 2008, speaking of atomic bombs and nuclear reactors, recalled a line from “The Pillow Book,” written a thousand years ago by a woman, Sei Shonagon, in which the author evokes “something that seems very far away but is, in fact, very close.” Nuclear disaster seems a distant hypothesis, improbable; the prospect of it is, however, always with us. The Japanese should not be thinking of nuclear energy in terms of industrial productivity; they should not draw from the tragedy of Hiroshima a “recipe” for growth. Like earthquakes, tsunamis, and other natural calamities, the experience of Hiroshima should be etched into human memory: it was even more dramatic a catastrophe than those natural disasters precisely because it was man-made. To repeat the error by exhibiting, through the construction of nuclear reactors, the same disrespect for human life is the worst possible betrayal of the memory of Hiroshima’s victims.

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  1. September 23, 2013 at 1:33 pm

    Thanks for writing this in depth article. You may want to read my story of how just 2 months in Tokyo affected my health due to radiation. Cheers.

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