Tokoyo Exodus begins
Survivalists often refer to the “Golden Horde” - the mass of humanity exiting cities after a disaster, pushing out into rural areas along interstates, attempting to escape food shortages, infection, water supply issues and assuming there are more resources in rural areas.
To a lesser degree, this theory is evidenced in the exodus of Tokyo residents trying to distance themselves from the origin of their on-going nuclear disaster at the Fukushima Nuclear Plant.
Mid-March is not a high travel season for Japan, but as the nuclear emergency at Fukushima nuclear plant persists, the airports are growing clogged with passengers.
They’re primarily traveling one way: out of Tokyo.
Lines at Tokyo’s Haneda Airport weave back and forth across the departure terminal. Families fill the seats, awaiting flights to Japan’s southern and northern islands.
It’s a similar scene at Tokyo’s largest airport, Narita International, but with bigger crowds, numbering into the thousands.
The lack of communication, and mixed messages from the owners of the nuclear plant and what is being said by the government is also to blame.
But it wasn’t his government’s actions that led Delboe to want to leave Tokyo. It’s the lack of clarity about the future of the plant, he explains. “Two days ago, I thought there was absolutely no risk. But now I think it’s stupid to stay when you can leave.” Source
NPR also reported that lack of viable information is fueling uncertainty.
The uncertainty that has gripped Japan in the days since its nuclear crisis began is erupting into public and official anger over the lack of reliable safety information.
The Tokoyo refugee migration is very different than the mass, panicked exodus that might accompany a more severe disaster, but fully in line with the 137 mile (220 km) distance from Fukushima.
While fears in the US of radioactive fallout seem way out of proportion, if I were in Tokoyo, I’d definitely feel a lot more concern until it’s contained.
Many in US panic despite little danger
Sales of anti-radiation tablets soar as worried Americans confront fear by trying to prep at the last minute. Prices of Potassium Iodide tablets are seeing significant increase and orders placed since the onset of the disaster in Japan are sometimes being cancelled. Despite the fact that there is no expected health risk British Colombians are doing the same thing.
I have mixed feelings about the reporting on the nuclear disaster. The Mainstream Media source that I have been watching, CNN, has been very careful not to speculate about the severity of the situation until the story progressed. In fact, they seemed to downplay it, following the lead of the plant managers releasing information, and regularly reported it as being under control.
On the flip-side of this, some US survivalist websites and forums freaked out with arguments and debate about the threat raging.
Meanwhile countries all over the globe, including China, Spain, Canada, India, Germany, and states all over the US either put plans for nuclear plants on hold, review safety of existing plants, or question the sustainability of nuclear power.
Consider the following information, please, and quit freaking out.
Between 16 July 1945 and 23 September 1992 the United States of America conducted (by official count) 1054 nuclear tests, and two nuclear attacks. The number of actual nuclear devices (aka “bombs”) tested, and nuclear explosions is larger than this, but harder to establish precisely.
What is probably the most important study of the health effects of testing were announced by the National Cancer Institute in August of 1997, and released in October. The study report is now available on line: National Cancer Institute Study Estimating Thyroid Doses of I-131 Received by Americans From Nevada Atmospheric Nuclear Bomb Test.
The basic finding of the report is that internal exposures to radioiodine (I-131) in fallout from continental nucelar testing was the most serious health consequence. Radioiodine concentrates in milk when consumed by cows when grazing, and then concentrates in human thyroid glands when contaminated milk is ingested. This concentration effect is especially strong in children.
The NCI study estimates that the average American alive at the time received a thyroid radiation exposure of 2 rads, with some people receiving up to 300 rads. The effect of these exposures is to boost the chance of contracting thyroid cancer some time during a lifetime. This cancer is normally not very rare, and is highly treatable (as cancers go). It is possible to estimate the overall effect of the total radiation exposure of the American population. From the 380 million person-rads of total exposure roughly 120,000 extra cases of thyroid cancer can be expected to develop, resulting in some 6,000 deaths [See note]. For comparison, the worst industrial disaster in history (Bhopal, India; 3 December 1984) killed about 3000 people and injured 150,000.
People! Look. There were MUCH greater levels of radiation being deployed in the US, right in the middle of where you live, than anything we will see as fallout from Japan. Stop freaking out. Don’t believe the hype.
While I do not think we should panic in the face of the terrible tragedy in Japan, Richard Cole, in a humorous and sarcastic piece on Dscriber titled “Ten Reasons Americans need not fear the Japanese nuclear plant meltdowns”, lists some real concerns about the nuclear infrastructure in the US.
10) Japanese nuclear plants are still made with that same tin and cheap plastic they used for crumby toys after World War II. American plants use more expensive plastic.
9) Americans are bigger than the Japanese, so radioactive particles just bounce off us.
8) Japanese nuclear plants are always built on the ocean, whereas we sometimes build them on rivers, which don’t flood.
7) Japanese nuclear plants were never built to withstand a 9.0 earthquake, whereas U.S. reactors were never built to withstand a 7.0 earthquake.
6) Whereas Japanese have terrible security at their nuclear facilities, no terrorist would ever dare attack U.S. soil.
5) Their failed instructions on how to flood the reactor core in case of an emergency were written in Japanese, whereas our failed instructions would be written in English.
4) We don’t have earthquakes - we have temblors.
3) The Japanese people don’t have the same reverence for life that we Americans do – no wait, that’s the Muslims. Sorry.
2) Japanese nuclear plants are built to generate electricity, whereas U.S. nuclear plants mostly generate debts that are passed on to utility consumers.
1) And the number one reason we need not fear Japanese nuclear plant meltdowns – duh, we live in the United States.
Why US Nuclear Regulation needs more oversight
If you look at the history of safety concerns and documented issues relating to US nuclear power plants, you will find a long list of security risks, concerns about construction in seismically active areas, corporate cover-ups, and numerous accounts, including this one by the Government Accountability Office, of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) not taking threats seriously. The NRC did make an token effort to increase oversight and plant security in 2007.
In summary, the Japanese nuclear disaster has brought this very serious topic to the forefront of international scrutiny. The nuclear industry has seemingly gotten away with little oversight. While this disaster does not pose a threat to the US, there are just as many problems within our own infrastructure.
The Executive Summary from the Union of Concerned Scientists report titled “Regulatory Roulette: The NRC’s Inconsistent Oversight of Radioactive Releases from Nuclear Power Plants” released in September 2010 fully details the failure of the NRC to effectively provide oversight to US nuclear power plants. If you want the full description of the problems we’ve had in the US, be sure to read the full report.
Protecting People and the Environment is the tagline used by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). This report shows that the NRC is not living up to its self-stated mission when it comes to accidental releases of radioactive liquids and gases from nuclear power plants.
While it is not possible to eliminate the risks of radioactive releases, the NRC has regulations in place to reduce this risk. All releases must be monitored, controlled and not exceed specific limits. For each reactor, these regulatory requirements constitute three-way contracts between the NRC, plant owners, and the public. The contracts protect plant owners from the NRC imposing more rigorous, and costly, safety measures without first revising its regulations or amending the operating licenses through formal processes. The contracts also protect the public from the NRC accepting lower safety levels than those established by the regulatory requirements.
There have been more than 400 accidental leaks, some involving millions of gallons of contaminated water. Some of the leaks remained undetected for years. Nearly every nuclear plant in the country has experienced at least one accidental leak.
The NRC has breached its contract with the public by repeatedly tolerating unmonitored and uncontrolled leaks of radioactively contaminated water into the ground and nearby waterways. For years, the NRC sporadically sanctioned plant owners for violations of regulations. There was little correlation between the severity of the violation and whether a sanction was issued. But in all 27 cases in which plants accidentally released radioactive materials over the past four years, the NRC has allowed plant owners to violate these regulations with impunity.
While no fatalities have yet been linked to these recurring violations, people and the environment have already been harmed. For example, in 2005 is was reported that over six million gallons of tritium-laden water leaked from the Braidwood nuclear plant in Illinois, and the specter of radioactive contamination depressed the home prices of innocent families in the plume’s path.
The NRC must become the regulator the public deserves. The NRC cannot set the safety bar at acceptable levels and then meekly watch as plant owners limbo beneath it. The NRC must consistently and aggressively enforce its regulations to protect the public and environment from radioactive contamination.