Physicist discusses how many nuclear fear mongering statements are mathematically correct but silly and misleading

A physicist discusses Fukushima.

There was no Fukushima nuclear disaster. Total number of people killed by nuclear radiation at Fukushima was zero. Total injured by radiation was zero. Total private property damaged by radiation….zero. There was no nuclear disaster. What there was, was a major media feeding frenzy fuelled by the rather remote possibility that there may have been a major radiation leak.

Certainly from the ‘disaster’ perspective there was a financial disaster for the owners of the Fukushima plant. The plant overheated, suffered a core meltdown, and is now out of commission for ever. A financial disaster, but no nuclear disaster.

Recently some water leaked out of the Fukushima plant. It contained a very small amount of radioactive dust. The news media quoted the radiation activity in the physics measure of miliSieverts. The public don’t know what a Sievert or a milliSievert is. As it happens a milliSievert is a very small measure.

Doubling a very small amount is still inconsequential. It is like saying: “Yesterday there was a matchstick on the football field; today there are two matchsticks on the football field. Matchstick pollution has increased by a massive 100% in only 24 hours.”

The statement is mathematically correct but silly and misleading.

At Fukushima a couple of weeks ago, some mildly radioactive water leaked into the sea. The volume of water was about equal to a dozen home swimming pools. In the ocean this really is a ‘drop in the ocean.

The radiation content was so little that people could swim in the ocean without the slightest cause for concern. Any ocean naturally contains some radioactivity all of the time anyway. There is natural radiation around us all of the time and has always been there since the birth of the earth.

Understandably the general public do not understand nuclear radiation so the strangest comments occur. On an internet blog some person stated that people on the north coast of Australia must be warned about the radiation in the sea coming from Fukushima. Good grief!

Quite frankly, scientifically speaking, the best thing to do with the mildly radioactive waste water would be to intentionally pour it into the sea. The water which is currently in the new Fukushima storage tanks has already been filtered to remove radioactive Caesium.

All that is left is a bit of radioactive Tritium. Tritium is actually part of the water molecule anyway…so what we really have is…well, water in water. The Tritium atom is a hydrogen atom, Hydrogen Tritiumwhich has two neutrons in its nucleus which is a normal but rare variation in the hydrogen atom. Most hydrogen atoms have only a single proton in the nucleus and no neutrons. A rare hydrogen variation is called Deuterium and such atoms have one proton plus one neutron. Even rarer than Deuterium is the Tritium form of hydrogen which has one proton plus two neutrons. These variants are known as isotopes. Water is H2O and water molecules in which the Tritium isotope of the hydrogen atom is found are molecules referred to as ‘Heavy Water.’ It really is just water, so you can’t filter it out of the normal ‘light water.’

The Tritium heavy water is very mildly radioactive and is found normally in the sea all over the world all of the time. This Tritium concentration in the one thousand storage tanks at Fukushima is higher than that found naturally in the sea, but is still so low as to pose no real danger at all.

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