The Hiroshima Syndrome is a largely un-recognized psychological condition which can be defined as a morbid fear of nuclear energy. Those afflicted suffer because of one or more of three fundamental misconceptions…
(1) Belief that there is a crucial similarity between reactors and bombs
(2) Bomb fallout and nuclear power plant releases are one-and-same.
(3) There is no safe level of radiation exposure.
This past Monday’s antinuclear rally in Tokyo demonstrates that most, if not all of those involved are Hiroshima Syndrome victims. Fear of a nuclear power plant based on comparisons to nuclear weapons is naïve, at best. There is, and never has been any education in Japan on the huge differences between nukes and bombs. If there were, this most fundamental misconception would be of little consequence. I am willing to bet my life savings that if a poll were taken of those attending Monday’s antinuclear gala, most would say it is possible for a nuke explode like a bomb. It is impossible because reactors use the wrong kind of uranium for a nuclear explosion. Uranium itself is not an explosive, but through a long, complicated, immensely-expensive transformation from its natural form, a weapon can be made. The best analogy is the nitrogen we breathe, which we all know is not explosive. However, through costly chemical transformation, nitrogen becomes the active ingredient in TNT and nitroglycerine. The weapon’s-level of weapon’s uranium is never used in commercial nuclear power plants. In addition, the technologies are entirely different. The similarities are few and far between. The differences are enormous. But, anti-nuclear leaders in Japan continually make a rhetorical connection, using national paranoia spawned by Hiroshima/Nagasaki to the fullest.
However, the bomb misconception is not the most prominent reason why multitudes in Japan are in morbid fear of nuclear energy. The primary reason is radiation exposure, and the level of ignorance on the subject is endemic. Is it fallout? No! While the popular Press and Tokyo government identify the releases from nuclear plants as fallout…it is not! Fallout is the dust and debris thrown into the air by explosions, the collapse of large structures (like the 9/11 catastrophe in America), and volcanoes. As the debris falls to earth, it is choking to the point of suffocation. The only fallout that is radioactive comes from the detonation of nuclear weapons. What makes weapon’s fallout more dangerous than all other forms? The levels of radiation being emitted by the debris, of course! But releases from nuclear plants, even in a multi-meltdown situation such as Fukushima, are largely noble gasses (like Krypton and Xenon) which have no biological impact, and barely-perceptible radioactive dust (like Iodine and Cesium). It is not fallout. It’s airborne contamination, not fallout.
But perhaps the most damaging and pervasive misconception has to do with radiation itself. When international standards on exposure were created, the limits were based on a faulty assumption – that even the most miniscule amount of radiation posed an infinitessimal risk of fatal cancer. This flawed assumption has been the foundation of all regulatory systems to this day. Why is it flawed? Because it was not based on evidence! Rather, it was created in anticipation of future evidence on the biological effects of low level exposure. Conclusive evidence for this assumption has not manifested over the past 50+ years. To the contrary, the past 30 years of international research has produced compelling evidence that low level exposure is not hazardous and, in fact, accellerates cellular and DNA repair processes. Populations around the world naturally exposed to radiation doses many, many times higher than with Fukushima evacuees have statistically longer life expectancies, lower cancer incidence, and generally better immune system function than their less-exposed countrymen! Any claims to the contrary are no more than agenda-fulfilling assumptions in themselves.
What expands the problem is the corrupt use of politically-based risk estimates as a tool to create fearsome death estimates. Public protective action trigger points are set using the flawed methodology mentioned above. The most recent studies out of America (BEIR) and the ICRP stress that these methodologies should never be used for epidemiological evaluations of risk. And, estimating cancer deaths in huge populations over extremely long time periods, using politically-correct regulatory methodologies as a basis, is scientifically incorrect. In fact, BEIR says, “Collective effective dose is not intended as a tool for epidemiological risk assessment, and it is inappropriate to use it in risk projections. The aggregation of very low individual doses over extended time periods is inappropriate, and in particular, the calculation of the number of cancer deaths based on collective effective doses from trivial individual doses should be avoided.” Unfortunately, this information is largely unknown to the Japanese public, Press, and politicians because there has never been even a smidgen of radiation education in their schools. Thus, the widely-publicized notion of “no-safe-level” of exposure has been used by foreign pseudo-experts who intentionally exaggerate and mislead for purely personal benefit. In essence, the Japanese nation has no idea that they are being used by rhetorical snake-oil-salesmen to try and boost their reputations, which were crushed when their “guaranteed” cancer epidemic from Chernobyl failed to materialize. Because of all this, Japan suffers abject radiophobia (mortal fear of radiation), and countless thousands quiver in mortal terror.
The extraordinary turn-out at last Monday’s antinuclear protest in Tokyo was comprised of those who are convinced that all radiation necessarily causes cancer and believe nuclear plant releases to be the same as bomb fallout. In addition, none would be able to explain the differences between a nuke and a nuclear weapon. All three misconceptions are held as paradigm – concrete belief used as an unquestioned gauge for judgment. Once an incorrect concept becomes paradigm, it is exceedingly difficult to correct. As long as Japan’s people remain ignorant of these misconceptions, the situation will digress from the irrational to the preposterous. The people of Japan run the risk of being the source in the world-wide contamination of the Hiroshima Syndrome.