Credit: Orion Montoya
Nuclear Danger Still Dwarfed by Coal
TOKYO — One mustِ accept a risk ofِ radiation exposure whenِ flying inِ andِ out ofِ Narita International Airport, theِ busiest airport inِ Japan, justِ east ofِ Tokyo, butِ perhaps notِ forِ the reason youِ areِ thinking.
Fukushima Daiichi, theِ tsunami-damaged nuclear reactor site aboutِ 150 miles (241 kilometers) toِ theِ north, asِ the foolish crow flies, continues toِ leak trace amounts ofِ radiation.
Radioactive iodine-131 madeِ itِ intoِ the water supply hereِ last month.
Dirty, dirty coal
As bad asِ Japan’s nuclear emergency couldِ have gotten, itِ would neverِ beِ asِ bad asِ burning coal.
Coal isِ fantastically dangerous, responsible forِ farِ more thanِ 1 million deaths perِ year, according toِ theِ World Health Organization.
Start withِ theِ coal miners, thousands ofِ whom die fromِ mine collapses andِ thousands moreِ fromِ various lung diseases.
Not many are expected to die from the Fukushima Daiichi accident.
DOE predicts a yearly dose ofِ aboutِ 2,000 millirems forِ some people living northwest ofِ the nuclear facility withinِ 19 miles (31 kilometers), whichِ couldِ slightly increase theirِ cancer risk ifِ they haven’tِ left theِ area.
But Japanese health authorities wereِ quick toِ warn theِ public notِ to eat certainِ local foods withِ harmful levels ofِ radioactivity, namelyِ milk andِ spinach; people living withinِ 12 miles (19 km) ofِ the nuclear facility haveِ beenِ evacuated asِ a precaution; moreِ areِ expected toِ beِ evacuated; andِ radiation levels continue toِ fall daily.
Reduce, reuse, recycle
Not thatِ nuclear energy isِ safe.
Even ifِ it isِ deemed safe, noِ one willِ eat theِ food fromِ there, givenِ other choices.
The livelihood ofِ tens ofِ thousands ofِ Japanese people hasِ beenِ forever ruined.
The Japanese doِ have oneِ perspective straight: While international news coverage remains focused onِ the day-to-day trials atِ Fukushima Daiichi, mostِ of theِ local news hereِ concerns theِ approximately 300,000 displaced survivors ofِ the March 11 earthquake andِ tsunami, andِ the death toll thatِ mightِ exceed 25,000.
The site ofِ rotting human bodies, asِ well asِ fish, cattle, dogs andِ cats amongst unspeakable destruction, isِ a profound reminder thatِ natural catastrophes, inِ butِ a fewِ minutes, canِ dwarf anyِ catastrophe thatِ foolish humans canِ produce.
In Photos: Rescued Pets inِ Japan] (Note toِ reader: I couldn’tِ bring anyِ potassium iodine toِ Japan evenِ if I wanted, becauseِ the west coast ofِ America hasِ stockpiled theِ entire commercial supply, god love ’em, ensuring thatِ anyoneِ who wouldِ needِ itِ wouldn’t getِ it.) Christopher Wanjek isِ the author ofِ the books Bad Medicine andِ Food At Work.