You can trust Japan’s radiation data, says Greenpeace

(March 30, 2011) Greenpeace and the Japanese authorities should be providing the public with both sides of the radiation debate, to let them decide for themselves if they are best off evacuating their homes.

Greenpeace’s independent radiation monitoring teams have confirmed that the Japanese authorities are not lying about the extent of radiation released from the Fukushima nuclear plant. At a press briefing today in Tokyo, Greenpeace radiation safety expert Jan van de Putte stated that “our measurements verified the authorities’ data,” news that will be welcome to those who have been suspicious about the data on radiation leaks that the Japanese government has been relaying to the public.

In fact, the Japanese authorities throughout the tragedies that have befallen the country have been reporting daily the radiation in the air and in drinking water in all 47 prefectures, showing radiation levels every 60 minutes. These reports are posted on the web in Japanese, Chinese, Korean and English. For those who want to see yesterday’s report in English, click here for radiation in water and here for radiation in air and here for hourly readings.

Greenpeace believes that the current levels of releases are extremely dangerous, saying that “It is our moral obligation to report our findings now. Anyone spending just a few days in these contaminated areas would be exposed the maximum allowable annual dose of radiation.”

Greenpeace here is in step with official belief in warning of the dangers from radiation. According to the basis of this belief – the Linear No Threshold Assumption, which Greenpeace and most government agencies uphold — all doses of radiation, no matter how small, convey health risk. Yet the assumption about radiation’s danger is highly controversial. In fact, the very scientists who believe radiation in all doses is dangerous freely admit that they are unable to prove their belief, and that they will never be able to prove their belief, because the risk is too small to measure statistically. Moreover, as I have recently written here and here, many studies of the actual effects of radiation on the general public as a result of the fallout after Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the accident at Chernobyl, indicate health benefits from low levels of radiation.

“The government must act immediately to evacuate the most contaminated areas, with a priority for children and pregnant women,” Greenpeace stated today. “We will return to the Fukushima area this week to continue bearing witness and providing independent analysis to the public of the impacts caused by the nuclear crisis.”

To perform an even better public service to the residents in areas that have received fallout from the Fukushima reactors, Greenpeace and the Japanese authorities should be providing the public with both sides of the radiation debate, to let them decide for themselves if they are best off evacuating their homes. Studies of the survivors of the atomic bombs at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, for example, showed their children to have suffered no genetic defects, even in highly irradiated populations. Studies of those irradiated as a result of Chernobyl showed them to suffer fewer cancers than their countrymen.

Information is a wonderful thing if its reliability can be verified, as Greenpeace has done, and if it is complete, as neither Greenpeace nor government authorities have yet done.

Lawrence Solomon is executive director of Energy Probe and the author of The Deniers. Energy Probe works with Greenpeace Canada in opposing the expansion of nuclear power and in arguing for the privatization of Canada’s nuclear industry.

About Lawrence Solomon

Lawrence Solomon is one of Canada's leading environmentalists. His book, The Conserver Solution (Doubleday) popularized the Conserver Society concept in the late 1970s and became the manual for those interested in incorporating environmental factors into economic life. An advisor to President Jimmy Carter's Task Force on the Global Environment (the Global 2000 Report) in the late 1970's, he has since been at the forefront of movements to reform foreign aid, stop nuclear power expansion and adopt toll roads. Mr. Solomon is a founder and managing director of Energy Probe Research Foundation and the executive director of its Energy Probe and Urban Renaissance Institute divisions. He has been a columnist for The Globe and Mail, a contributor to the Wall Street Journal, the editor and publisher of the award-winning The Next City magazine, and the author or co-author of seven books, most recently The Deniers, a #1 environmental best-seller in both Canada and the U.S. .
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