Japan Nuclear Disaster

Photo credit: BBC News/PA Wire

PSR-LA extends our deepest sympathy to the people of Japan. The world is still learning about the amount of radiation being released from the damaged nuclear reactors and we don’t know how long the releases will occur. We simply cannot predict what is yet to come or to be discovered. PSR-LA is deeply concerned about the threat this nuclear disaster poses to public health and the environment.

We do know:

  • According to the National Academy of Sciences, any exposure to radiation increases a person’s risk of cancer. “The scientific research base shows that there is no threshold of exposure below which low levels of ionizing radiation can be demonstrated to be harmless or beneficial,” said committee chair Richard R. Monson, Associate Dean for Professional Education and Professor of Epidemiology, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston.
  • Commercial nuclear reactors contain 1,000 times as much radioactivity as was released by the Hiroshima bomb, which if released from a nuclear reactor can cause short term and long term illness and death. See PSR’s publication Radiation and Public Health.
  • From a health perspective, the most important isotopes are iodine131, cesium137, strontium 90, and plutonium239. Radioactive iodine caused thousands of cases of thyroid cancer in children after the Chernobyl accident. Cesium and strontium cause a number of different kinds of cancer and remain dangerous for hundreds of years; plutonium causes lung cancer and remains deadly for hundreds of thousands of years.
  • Accidents are inevitable with technology as complex as nuclear reactors. Nuclear reactors built near fault lines, like our own San Onofre and Diablo Canyon plants in California, have special vulnerabilities. Three Mile Island and Chernobyl were nowhere near earth quake zones, and all nuclear plants are vulnerable to terrorist attacks.
  • The recent tragic accidents remind us that risks with nuclear power are unacceptable. We must halt all new reactor plans and instead prioritize building an energy system that is safe and renewable.

Listen to PSR’s Press Conference of March 16, 2011 on Radiation and Health

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