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The role of fear in the nuclear debate

By Noel Wauchope - posted Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Now that two years have passed, the Fukushima disaster has largely faded from the mainstream media. However, just lately, there’s been a resurgence of interest, as the issue of Fukushima radiation is being examined in a new light.

That new light focuses on the new argument in favour of the nuclear industry ― overcoming the fear of radiation. Forget cancer, birth defects, genetic instability ― the real handicap to developing nuclear power is simply that fear.

There have been a spate of headlines carrying reassuring news along these lines: “Japan’s radiation disaster toll: none dead, none sick” (The Age, 4/6/13) and “No Fukushima radiation problems: report”(AAP, 31/5/13).


The essential message is conveyed in this headline from the World Nuclear News (31/5/13): “Fear and Stress Outweigh Fukushima Radiation Risk”.

WNN goes on to say:

“The most extensive international report to date has concluded that the only observable health effects from the Fukushima accident stem from the stresses of evacuation and unwarranted fear of radiation.”

The Energy Collective carries the message further – “Nuclear Energy –Truth vs Fear” (3/6/13). The author, Milton Kaplan, goes on to give the benefits of nuclear power to society and concludes that the big task is to overcome this unwarranted fear of radiation.

John Gibbons, writing in The Irish Times (6/6/13), emphasises the danger of people’s fear of radiation:

“People have been quite literally frightened to death by radiation scare stories.”


He gives no evidence and no source for this.

Now, how can the World Nuclear Association and media be so confident that the main task is to overturn that unwarranted fear?

They are relying largely on phone interviews with some members of the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR) ― notably UNSCEAR chair, Wolfgang Weiss. On 31 May, UNSCEAR released ― not an extensive official report ― but a brief preliminary report on Fukushima radiation and health ― the full report will be presented at the United Nations in October this year. The world press has been quoting this statement from this unofficial UNSCEAR press release:

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Article edited by Neil Thomas.
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Originally published online by Independent Australia on 11 June 2013.

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About the Author

Noel Wauchope taught science before switching to nursing. She has several post-graduate qualifications, in health informatics, medical terminology and clinical coding. She is a long time anti-nuclear activist.

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