Apr 302012
 
Authors: Thomas E. Johnson

I read with great interest the opinion column by S. Jacob Stern on April 30, 2012 on the Fukushima accident. Unfortunately, he appears to be a victim of the “Google search” research method. It is also unfortunate that he did not check here at CSU for information on radiation effects, where we have some of the premier radiobiologists in the world.

CSU has an amazing group of researchers who are members of the National Council on Radiation Protection and Measurements (Drs. Thomas Borak and F. Ward Whicker) and the National Academy of Science’s Board on Radiation Effects (Dr. Joel Bedford), among others. Furthermore, Drs. Whicker and Borak are also world-renowned researchers for their work on the effects of Chernobyl. We do not have sufficient room in this short note to delineate all of the outstanding work in radiation science and radiation protection that is ongoing at CSU, but a quick search of our University web pages should suffice. Finally, at least three of the graduate students in the Department of Environmental and Radiological Health Sciences were involved in the immediate Fukushima response.

As for the details of Chernobyl –– I would invite Mr. Stern to carefully read the report issued by the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation, 2008, Annex D. It provides details as to the 54 persons who died due to direct effects of radiation, and also notes that “…the vast majority of the population need not live in fear of serious health consequences due to the radiation from the Chernobyl accident.” This report, together with the Report of the Chernobyl Committee, would provide valuable information with regard to the effects of ionizing radiation for Mr. Stern’s column.

Fukushima is, indeed, a different situation. Mr. Stern’s comment that “…this situation could literally destroy all life on Earth” was an excellent example of collecting information on the Internet from sources that might include persons who have not received sufficient training in the field of radiological science to be able to assess the true radiation effects. We would hope that a credible journalist would also employ other resources, such as peer reviewed articles and reports, to build his or her case.

More than 15,000 people died (possibly many more, our data is incomplete), and many more were injured due to the tsunami in the wake of the Great East Japan Earthquake. To date, no deaths have been reported due to radiation. We expect that no deaths at all will be attributed to radiation from this disaster based upon the information currently available via MEXT (http://radioactivity.mext.go.jp/en/).

Based on our experience and calculations, we were unable to postulate a scenario wherein all life on Earth would be destroyed due to a reactor accident. We would welcome Mr. Stern to meet with us to discuss any scenario, including the “meltdown” of all 436 power reactors (Nuclear Energy Institute, March, 2012) in the world.

It is a pity, in my opinion, that Mr. Stern is an unknowing victim of the type of “journalism” which he so despises.

_Thomas E. Johnson is an associate professor of environmental and radiological health sciences at CSU. _

 Posted by at 2:32 pm

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