Good science has its costs, but could it be that nature has finally given birth to an event, that human science fathered, that could end worse for humanity than any other to date? In March of 2011 (yes, this is old news, but more relevant now than ever), a tsunami hit Japan which caused catastrophic damage to the Fukushima-Dai’ichi nuclear power plant. This power plant was creatively placed on Japan’s unstable coastlines, for reasons still unclear. The words unclear, and nuclear should never co-exist, but here it is, folks, the ensuing nightmare.
Not to be a doom-crier with a soapbox, but it is worth mentioning that the entire West Coast is receiving massive amounts of radioactive debris by Pacific tradewinds, which include the highly-ionizing, short half-life Iodine-131 isotopes. This is cause for great alarm, but there’s almost no talk about it in the mainstream media which would rather focus on the shenanigans of coked-up ex-Disney queens than talk about something that could potentially be the greatest cause of cancer in America to date.
Let’s elaborate: the United States imports a great deal from Japan, but in a 20 kilometer radius all around the Fukushima-Daiichi area there are radiation levels of at least 300,000 becquerels of radiation. For the less scientific, a becquerel is one nucleus decay per second. That’s bad news for the economy of Japan, as South Korea has smartly put a trade embargo on the fisheries in the Fukushima area, and perhaps it would be wise if the United States followed suit if that isn’t already the case.
According to the Huffington Post, as of August 28, 2013, the incident has been upgraded to “level 3 severity,” which, in short, means, “this is really, truly some awful, bad, bad news on an international level.” Level 3, indeed.
To be completely honest, this is mostly Japan’s problem. It’s delivering a crushing blow to their economy, it’s hurting their international relations, and it’s just giving Japan a generally bad time. The United States on the other hand, while some sources are raising quite an alarm, it’s important to remember that several factors make for a dangerous situation, some of which are present in the United States, some are not. All in all, the only thing United States citizens can really do about this is to curb their sushi enthusiasm and stay away from the West Coast where radiation levels have been as high as 700 rads or the pretty-bad-but-not-generally fatal-in-the-short-term range.
Fortunately the deadly amounts of radiation in Japan’s water are not due to be nearly as high when the drift reaches the United States’ waters, according to NBC. Don’t let that translate out to the idea that no radioactive waste will hit our waters, but rest assured, most of the waste is trapped in the giant, perpetual whirlpool of garbage that is the Pacific Gyre, where it is doomed to live out its many half-lives far away from any place it could do a whole lot of damage.
The ultimate conclusion to be reached for someone like a Lewis and Clark student? Well, possibly reconsider transferring to Berkeley, CalTech, or anywhere on the West Coast, because let’s face it, the East Coast has more history anyway. Also, reconsider eating large amounts of sushi, or imported Japanese seafood, or even just Japanese food in general. For the really paranoid, consider a high iodine diet.