Wednesday, 7 November 2012
Do you have a morbid fear of invisible radiation? Why not holiday in Denver?
Richard Muller, an A-list Physicist, gives a laymen-level explanation of radioactivity from nuclear reactors.
Forum on Energy: You’ve also talked about the Denver Dose and what that means for radiation dangers. Can you explain that idea?
Richard Muller: We are surrounded by natural radioactivity, which is no more or less dangerous than radioactivity from nuclear reactors. Depending on where you live, there may be more or less natural radioactivity. Denver is just a well-known location that happens to have high natural radioactivity. You might think this is a dangerous place to live because of that, but, in fact, the cancer rate in Denver is lower than the average in the rest of the country. It doesn’t mean that radioactivity is curing or stopping cancer. What it does mean is that at the level of natural radioactivity—the Denver Dose, as I call it—people simply shouldn’t be worrying about radioactivity.
Now, the fact is the Denver Dose is comparable to what most of the Fukushima region is now experiencing. We shouldn’t be evacuating that region if we’re not evacuating Denver. There’s really no difference. Likewise, much of the Chernobyl region is well below the Denver Dose. In fact, a study just a few years ago on the health effects of Chernobyl concluded that the major health effect came about from the panic and worry caused by the evacuation. There were places that should have been evacuated, but there were places that shouldn’t have been. It is conceivable that there were more deaths caused by excessive smoking and drinking caused by anxiety over what had happened.
This is what happens when there is meaningless exaggerated fear and overreaction. Meanwhile, there are so many things in our lives that are far more dangerous that we accept.