Radiophobia – Morbid fear of radiation, as from x-rays or nuclear energy. (

We have been seeking a non-scientific term for phobic fear of radiation exposure…one that fits our goal of keeping website terminology in “everyday language” as much as possible. Unfortunately, the best available word seems to be the medical term “radiophobia”. For many members of the general public, this might be judged “too scientific”. If any reader can find (or create) a better, less-scientific term for radiophobia, please let us know through the “contact” form listed in the site menu at the left.Radiophobia has become the main focus of the news coming out of Japan. Here are several examples of radiophobia since Wednesday…

  • The Japan Tourism Agency (JTA) has begun the attempt to reclaim some of the tourism business which has been lost due to travelers fearing radiation. At Wednesday’s Japan Travel Mart, the JTA posted radiation readings of high-volume Japanese tourist cities and compared them to natural background levels found in other cities around the world. Their data shows that Sapporo, Chiba, Tokyo, Osaka and Okinawa, all have levels below that of New York, Beijing, Berlin, Seoul and Singapore. “Many people still believe Japan is dangerous but it’s not true,” said JTA director Shuichi Kameyama, “We must change the misconception.” (Travel Weekly) This is an example of international radiophobia negatively impacting a nation’s economy. We again applaud the comparison to natural background levels around the world.
  • Initial decontamination work on a few residences in the mountainous eastern wards of Fukushima City has generally reduced exposure levels 70%. However, further reducing the general area radiation levels seems unlikely since the exposure is being generated from the surrounding forests. High-pressure spray washing of porous materials such as roofing tiles and asphalt driveways has only lowered contact readings 25-30%. Replacement of roofing tiles and asphalt is an option which would eliminate the problem. While what level of decontamination is “good enough” has not been determined, a significant problem is finding companies that are willing to do the job. The prefecture’s plan for decontamination is to hire 19 companies, but only two have been found. The numerous companies refusing the business say they fear for their worker’s safety. (Asahi Shimbun) If this radiophobic trend continues, what should take a few months couldwell last for years. This shows the paralyzing impact of radiophobia with respect to recovery efforts in Japan.
  • A resort spa more than 130 kilometers from Fukushima Daiichi is trying to sue TEPCO for a downturn in income since March 11. The attorneys for the spa admit the loss of business is due to fear of radiation. They say the root of the problem is fear that the spa’s ocean front and seafood (their biggest menu seller) might contain Fukushima Cesium. The lawyers say, “With radiation still spreading from the nuclear plant and no clear sign of an end, it is understandable that prospective customers fear for their health. Their anxieties are not caused by simple rumors.” (Mainichi Shimbun) Since there are essentially no further airborne releases from Fukushima and all leaks to the sea have been contained since late April, the radiophobia exhibited by prospective customers is clearly the cause of anxieties. Litigious exaggerations only exacerbate the debate and rumors have nothing to do with it.
  • In a desperate move to soothe radiophobic fear, the Ministry of the Environment has created an agency for the study of the long term health on of Fukushima residents due to Fukushima radiation exposure. The
    Ministry says they need to do this because no-one knows the risks of very low level radiation exposure. The new agency will have about 500 employees responsible for monitoring residents’ radiation exposure levels, effect epidemiological studies to create a database, research the effect of radiation on the population and establish appropriate environmental standards for radiation protection. The Ministry does add that no specific health damage arising from radiation leaks at the Fukushima nuclear plant has been confirmed. They say it is unknown whether or not there will be such cases and, if there are, how serious they will be. Medical responses will be taken only after actual health problems have come to light, and if such damage could be recognized as a “pollution-caused” disease. (Yomiuri Shimbun) The agency’s alleged reason for existence is a radiophobic fiction. Extensive epidemiological studies following Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, which continue to this day, clearly show no evidence of negative health effects due to low exposure levels. In fact, they show some statistical evidence of improved health in the exposed populations, which is precisely what radiation hormesis theory predicts for such doses.  What’s worse is the creation of an unnecessary bureaucratic fiefdom that, once entrenched, will be impossible to eliminate.

Now, for other updates…

  • An Asahi Shimbun headline says the operators for unit #1 shut off the only cooling system (IC) for their RPV for several hours on March 11. In the article itself, they mention the operators cycled the IC on and off. TEPCO says the system’s cycling didn’t speed up the onset of meltdown. However, once again TEPCO fails to do their homework and creates another informational gaffe. They say that constant operation of the IC would have delayed the meltdown, which is probably wrong. Control room records show the IC was being cycled on and off, by procedure, in order to keep from dropping the water level inside the RPV
    dangerously close to the top of the fuel cell. In other words, continuous IC operation would probably have uncovered the fuel cell much sooner and sped up the time-table for meltdown. Who’s minding the informational store at TEPCO? Speed Racer? Ultra Man?
  • Kyoto University and the University of Tsukuba have reported the Abukumagawa River is exhausting “billions of becquerels per day” into the Pacific Ocean. The river runs from near Fukushima City to its
    mouth in Miyagi Prefecture, with a watershed of ~5,400 km2. Run-off due to rain since March 11 has brought to Cesium to the river. As the river slows its flow entering the sea, the heavier Cesium-containing particulates precipitate out and concentrate on the immediate sea floor. Since 90% of the Cesium is contained in particulates, 10% goes out to sea. (Asahi Shimbun) This makes for great scary news reporting, with frighteningly huge numbers to increase anxieties in their readers. Whether or not this ought to be a cause for concern is not the issue. Nuclear numbers are necessarily huge because they are based on incredibly tiny sub-atomic events, and big numbers are necessarily frightening to the general public. It should be noted, the river’s contamination is not because of continuing releases from Fukushima. Airborne releases essentially ceased weeks ago. But The Asahi article says airborne releases are continuing…food for thought.