Streams

Please Explain: Radiation

Friday, March 25, 2011

The crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant following the earthquake and tsunami in Japan has raised many questions about what kind of radiation is leaking and what the health risks of it are. Kenneth Mossman, Professor of Biomedicine and Biotechnology at the University of Arizona, and radiation physicist Jacqueline Yanch, senior lecturer at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, explain radiation—from nuclear fallout, to airport body scanners, to x-rays and medical treatment. 

Guests:

Jacqueline Yanch and Kenneth Mossman
News, weather, Radiolab, Brian Lehrer and more.
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Comments [10]

Peter Talbot

With respect, Michael from New York is speaking hearsay without data support. The US advised 50 mile limit and the much smaller Japan government advised 30 kilometer limit are not based on good data either, but the US navy fleet ran around the west side of Japan to avoid prevailing winds and escape very large consistent radiation levels at 50 miles off shore to the East. This is Japan's most important fishery, which means that for now and the foreseeable future Japan will be catching and buying fish from Western/China Sea waters and further afield. This is sure to bode ill for overfishing (Japan is not good at respecting fish catch limits outside their immediate waters) and the potential for increased friction with China and the Koreas. If the core is actually breached at reactor 3, the result will be more or less equal to that of Chernobyl with the exception that the densest radioactive airborne plumes will head out over the Pacific to be dampened and rendered more harmless. The immediate area of Japan as far North as Sendai is, however, uninhabitable and will be so for at least a generation.

Welcome to the post nuclear world.

Mar. 26 2011 02:50 PM
Gerald from Urayasu, Japan

Leonard wondered whether the surgical masks worn by the Japanese will protect them from radiation. But the Japanese are not wearing surgical masks to ward off radiation. They wear masks to deal with allergies (this is cedar pollen season), to avoid spreading or catching influenza, or (these days) to avoid breathing the dust in quake-hit areas.

Mar. 26 2011 03:21 AM
Michael from New York

In all likelyhood, there is zero threat to Korea or China from the Fukushima plant's release.

The gaseous and vapor releases from the Fukushima plant's releases have all be low-level radiation, which would be incredibly thinned out by the time they reached South Korea or China.
That said, Japan's one enormous lucky break in this catastrophe is that winds have mostly been blowing the radioactive steam released from the plant out over the Pacific Ocean, not towards the Korean peninsula.

Mar. 25 2011 02:15 PM
Scott from Baltimore

In response to Doug's question, the US allows workers to be exposed to 5 rems of radiation per year in their jobs.

Mar. 25 2011 01:57 PM
Elaine from baltimore

How dangerous is a Gallbladder radionuclide scan?

Mar. 25 2011 01:54 PM
Amy Heller from Harrington Park, NJ

Could you ask the experts about mammograms. In addition to yearly mammos (which usually involve at least eight or so xrays), I also have had MANY in association with biopsies. My last biopsy involved something like a dozen additional mammograms. Is there a danger from all this radiation, especially as I am already in the high-risk category for breast cancer?

Mar. 25 2011 01:53 PM
John A. from Westchester

Note:
The Leonard Lopate Show
WNYC
NPR
all Radio

are sources of radiation.
(Longwave is seldom considered dangerous, however)

Mar. 25 2011 01:45 PM
Gary from Upper Left Side

The New York Times did an expose on CT scans regarding hospital lab techs not properly calibrating the CT machines and then blasting the patients with 10x the amount of radiation, resulting in horrific
consequences. (The doctors were on the golf course.)

What is it the true risk of CT, PET and MRI scans?

Mar. 25 2011 01:45 PM
Scott from Baltimore

A new study in JAMA found that the average US child has 8 imaging tests by age 18. The excessive use of these tests could lead to cancer and other health conditions later in life. Certainly, the fee-for-service health care system is putting children (and adults) at risk since doctors receive no disincentives for ordering unnecessary tests.

http://jama.ama-assn.org/content/305/5/456.full

Mar. 25 2011 01:43 PM
Jason

In light of the radiation fallout in Northern Japan, what dangers, if any, does this situation pose to China and Korea in terms of possible unsafe radiation levels??
Please let me know if it is safe to travel to near by South Korea?
(I ask because I need to make a decision whether to travel there next month later TODAY)

Mar. 25 2011 01:42 PM

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