“During April, The People In Seattle Could Have Just As Easily Been In Tokyo For The Amount Of Hot Particles That Were There”

Nuclear expert Arnie Gundersen said recently:

During April, the people in Seattle could have just as easily been in Tokyo for the amount of hot particles that were there.

(For background on “hot particles”, see this and this.)

Of course, radiation monitoring in Seattle may be kept secret. As that Washington Department of Health notes:

A helicopter flying over some urban areas of King and Pierce counties will gather radiological readings July 11-28, 2011. [Seattle is in King County.] The U.S. Department of Energy’s Remote Sensing Laboratory Aerial Measurement System will collect baseline levels of radioactive materials.


Some of the data may be withheld for national security purposes.

Indeed, the EPA has drastically reduced its radiation reporting to the public (which was never great), and has tried to raise acceptable radiation standards.

But isn’t the amount of radiation Seattle residents are being exposed to safe? No, say many top experts. See this, this, this, this, this and this.

As David J. Brenner, a professor of radiation biophysics and the director of the Center for Radiological Research at Columbia University Medical Center, wrote recently in The Bulletin of The Atomic Scientists:

Should this worry us? We know that the extra individual cancer risks from this long-term exposure will be very small indeed. Most of us have about a 40 percent chance of getting cancer at some point in our lives, and the radiation dose from the extra radioactive cesium in the food supply will not significantly increase our individual cancer risks.

But there’s another way we can and should think about the risk: not from the perspective of individuals, but from the perspective of the entire population. A tiny extra risk to a few people is one thing. But here we have a potential tiny extra risk to millions or even billions of people. Think of buying a lottery ticket — just like the millions of other people who buy a ticket, your chances of winning are miniscule. Yet among these millions of lottery players, a few people will certainly win; we just can’t predict who they will be. Likewise, will there be some extra cancers among the very large numbers of people exposed to extremely small radiation risks? It’s likely, but we really don’t know for sure.

Hat tip: ENE News and Forbes’ Jeff McMahon, two of the best energy-related news sources on the web.

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