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Toward an Honest Debate on Fukushima

In the aftermath of the Fukushima accident in Japan, there has been renewed interest in nuclear energy safety. Some of the debate and observations online have led to a healthy, robust discussion—regardless of your position on nuclear energy. Other sources have exaggerated or distorted facts or have been just plain wrong. An example of the latter is a new video posted by Brian Rich at called “Dial ‘M’ for Meltdown.” In the interest of getting things right, we examined some of the claims in the video.

Here is a sampling of the video’s claims versus the facts:

Claim: One million people died across the world from Chernobyl, including 40,000 rescue workers.

Fact: According to the World Health Organization, fewer than 50 deaths have been directly attributed to radiation from the Chernobyl accident, almost all those being highly exposed rescue workers who worked at the disaster site.

Claim: The hydrogen explosion at Unit 3 at Fukushima Daiichi triggered a “small nuclear explosion.”

Fact: It is impossible to have a nuclear explosion at a nuclear energy facility. A nuclear explosion requires highly enriched (weapons-grade) fuel. Uranium fuel used in commercial reactors is enriched at such a low level that a nuclear explosion is impossible. The explosion at the Fukushima reactors was the result of hydrogen gas igniting.

Claim: The Environmental Protection Agency “stopped monitoring fallout from Fukushima in late April 2011.”  

Fact: EPA’s RadNet system monitors the environment continuously using more than 100 radiation air monitors in 48 states. The RadNet monitoring system runs 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, and transmits near real-time measurements. RadNet identifies trends in the concentrations of radionuclides in precipitation, drinking water and milk.

Claim: “Radioactive iodine, cesium, zeon and uranium were measured in the U.S. at hundreds of times the legal background limit.”

Fact: Radiation levels detected in the United States from the Fukushima accident were thousands of times below government limits and “remained well below any level of public health concern,” according to EPA.

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Activity ID: 1002943 Activity Name: NEI Remarketing Safety Activity Group Name: Remarketing Safety First