I would suggest that when examining such risks that there are actually two perspectives that need to be considered and that we must be especially aware of the reliability of scientific data in reassuring the public.
Fears of creating a "panic" are misplaced. Some people may over-react, but there is no justification for withholding information or generating a positive "spin" simply because of official concerns about population behaviors.
In the immediate aftermath of the crisis developing it is understandable that public and industry officials would be concerned about the overall events and assessing the risk/hazard would occur from the perspective of the reactors and those actively engaged in containing them. It is for this purpose that the INES (International Nuclear Events Scale) rating exists, so that accidents can be classified according to their overall impact. The difficulty here is that this rating is completely arbitrary until well after the incident because all the impacts cannot be evaluated effectively as they unfold. However, in this case the Fukushima incident is classfied as a 5 (or 6 depending on your source), whereas Chernobyl was the worst at a 7.
However, when it comes to assessing the risk to the general population there are different problems to consider. The first is how exposure will be measured over a larger geographical area, weather patterns that will influence radiation dispersal, and the accuracy of those doing the measuring.
As an example, I came across the following map and chart which obviously raises some questions. While I am not endorsing the accuracy of these, the point is to consider the degree of transparency that currently exists with respect to the data being evaluated. Of course, if someone has accurate information that can be confirmed, that would be greatly appreciated.
In addition, it appears that the current population risk values are being made using the ICRP (International Commission on Radiological Protection) risk model which has been argued as lacking a significant degree of accuracy regarding such assessments.
Instead there seems to be a growing consensus that the ECRR (European Committee on Radiation Risk) risk model be used because of it's higher degree of correlation with actual results taken from studies associated with Chernobyl.
So, in the end, the problem remains because the necessary scientific data to make an objective analysis isn't actually being provided, in addition to which there is no clear indication about the criteria being used by those providing assurances.
If people are to trust any official sources, then they must become whole orders of magnitude more forthcoming and transparent about their data, their methods, and their criteria. In short, whether anyone thinks that this is pro-nuclear or anti-nuclear is largely irrelevant. There are huge numbers of people that are being kept in the dark regarding the risks to themselves and their families, and it is only right that they should have the most accurate information at their disposal with which to determine their own fates.
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