[ RadSafe ] Fukushima and the Pacific - some calculations

Mon Jan 6 13:56:42 CST 2014

I've said several times that this was a quick and dirty calculation to try to get a feel for the magnitude of the (potential) problem. This was NOT intended to be submitted for peer review. There are many conservative assumptions built in and, in spite of that, the dose is many orders of magnitude lower than anything remotely harmful. The purpose of this was also NOT to reassure the public - if I wanted to do that then I would have posted this in a more public place and I wouldn't have asked for feedback from colleagues.

I agree that a formal dose assessment requires a lot more work than this simplistic approach. I would hope that everyone else can agree that a more formal dose assessment that takes into account all of the factors that you mention will still show the dose to be trivial. And yes, I have also done formal environmental dose assessments and I know what goes into them - and I know that the factors I've overlooked or simplified tend to make the dose smaller rather than larger.

I also have to confess that I'm not sure what you mean by the "real" issues. All I was looking at was whether or not there was the potential for high radiation dose to the public from an admittedly remote possibility that has nonetheless been bandied about in public - including on this list. Not every posting is going to discuss big-picture things like the future of nuclear power, the presence (or not) of vast national or global conspiracies, and so forth. 

Finally, I have to say that I'm not sure I completely agree with your tag line. Public communication is about trust. Risk assessment is about dose. We have to know what we're trying to communicate - and to whom - in order to know which of these should be paramount.


-----Original Message-----
From: radsafe-bounces at health.phys.iit.edu [mailto:radsafe-bounces at health.phys.iit.edu] On Behalf Of William Lipton
Sent: Monday, January 06, 2014 2:08 PM
To: The International Radiation Protection (Health Physics) Mailing List
Subject: Re: [ RadSafe ] Fukushima and the Pacific - some calculations

2 concerns:

(1) Having performed offsite dose calculations, I just wish it were that
simplistic.  I'm reminded of the initial offsite dose calculations for the
early bomb tests.  Everyone thought that I-131 would not be a problem - its
half life is only 8 days.  No one predicted its rapid travel through the
grass - cow - milk - child thyroid pathway.  While I-131 is probably not
the problem, here, you have not looked at other potential problems, e.g.,
the TRU, the Sr-90, and the I-129.  Basically, since you don't know what
you don't know, these simplistic "evaluations" are, at best, worthless, and
can be misleading.

(2) If the purpose of these "evaluations" is to calm public fears about
Fukushima and nuclear power, you're completely missing the point.  Public
acceptance of nuclear power depends on whether the "experts" can be trusted
to safely manage the technology.  So far, we've flunked, and the only thing
such simplistic calculations support is an unwillingness to face the real

Bill Lipton
It's not about dose, it's about trust.
Curies forever.

More information about the RadSafe mailing list