Hit & Run

Jon Utley on Terrorism and Panicked Responses to Radiation

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Radiation suits
ssoosay / Foter.com / CC BY

Japan's panicked Fukushima evacuation of some 130,000 persons was unnecessary, but it serves as a great warning for us. For most of the evacuees, their first year exposure was about 2 REMs of radiation, fifty times below where it causes illness. Some were exposed to 22 REMs, still far below the sickness level of 100 REMs. Yet the Japanese were basically following American civil defense guidelines. Irrational fear of radiation permeates Washington's civil defense and nuclear regulatory guidelines. That's a problem, writes Jon Utley, because the U.S. will eventually be targeted with a radioactive terrorist attack—and the greatest danger might be the government's response.