The radiation from the Fukushima nuclear power plant failure in Japan has turned out to be less of a problem than predicted.

Pioneer cover

From the press release: From the moment he is handed a possibility of making the first alien contact, Saunders Maxwell decides he will do it, even if doing so takes him through hell and back.

Unfortunately, that is exactly where that journey takes him.

The vision that Zimmerman paints of vibrant human colonies on the Moon, Mars, the asteroids, and beyond, indomitably fighting the harsh lifeless environment of space to build new societies, captures perfectly the emerging space race we see today.

He also captures in Pioneer the heart of the human spirit, willing to push forward no matter the odds, no matter the cost. It is that spirit that will make the exploration of the heavens possible, forever, into the never-ending future.

Available everywhere for $3.99 (before discount) at amazon, Barnes & Noble, all ebook vendors, or direct from the ebook publisher, ebookit.

The radiation from the Fukushima nuclear power plant failure in Japan has turned out to be less of a problem than predicted.

[O]utside the immediate area of Fukushima, this is hardly a problem at all. Although the crippled nuclear reactors themselves still pose a danger, no one, including personnel who worked in the buildings, died from radiation exposure. Most experts agree that future health risks from the released radiation, notably radioactive iodine-131 and cesiums-134 and – 137, are extremely small and likely to be undetectable. Even considering the upper boundary of estimated effects, there is unlikely to be any detectable increase in cancers in Japan, Asia or the world except close to the facility, according to a World Health Organization report. There will almost certainly be no increase in birth defects or genetic abnormalities from radiation.

Even in the most contaminated areas, any increase in cancer risk will be small. For example, a male exposed at age 1 has his lifetime cancer risk increase from 43 percent to 44 percent. Those exposed at 10 or 20 face even smaller increases in risk — similar to what comes from having a whole-body computer tomography scan or living for 12 to 25 years in Denver amid background radiation in the Rocky Mountains.

The entire article is worth reading, as it outlines in detail the less than deadly consequences of both Fukushima and Chernobyl. This is the kind of information we should use to rationally decide whether we want to build more nuclear power planets.


Every July, to celebrate the anniversary of the start of Behind the Black in 2010, I hold a month-long fund-raising campaign to make it possible for me to continue my work here for another year.

This year's fund-raising drive however is more significant in that it is also the 10th anniversary of this website's founding. It is hard to believe, but I have been doing this for a full decade, during which I have written more than 22,000 posts, of which more than 1,000 were essays and almost 2,600 were evening pauses.

This year's fund drive is also more important because of the growing intolerance of free speech and dissent in American culture. Increasingly people who don't like what they read are blatantly acting to blackball sites like mine. I have tried to insulate myself from this tyrannical effort by not depending on Google advertising or cross-posts Facebook or Twitter. Though this prevents them from having a hold on me, it also acts to limit my exposure.

Therefore, I hope you will please consider donating to Behind the Black, by giving either a one-time contribution or a regular subscription, as outlined in the tip jar below. Your support will allow me to continue covering science and culture as I have for the past twenty years, independent and free from any outside influence.


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  • wodun

    LFTRs look appealing.

  • Pzatchok

    All is fine until Godzilla comes up out of the ocean and goes for Tokyo.

  • Jim

    Thanks for posting…certainly Robert Gale is one of our experts on radiation, and the article is a must read. I think I may have a different take on the results from Chernobyl, however. It was indeed catastrophic, particularly for those assigned to clean-up. 28 workers died from radiation within 4 months of the event, and 19 more within 8 years. And the fact that the fatality rate is low for thyroid cancer is little consolation for the 4000 people who contracted it post-Chernobyl, of which 9 died.

    I’m not sure we have the full details worked out yet about Fukushima…not enough years have passed. Gale did kind of post one word of caution, it seems to me. He says:

    “Why are the anticipated risks from Japan’s nuclear accident so small? Perhaps the most important reason is that about 80 percent of the radiation released was blown into the ocean. Radioactive contamination of the sea sounds dreadful, but because oceans naturally contain large amounts of radioactive materials, the net increase in oceanic radioactivity is minuscule.”

    Not much help if your nuclear reactor is built surrounded primarily by land.

  • Pzatchok

    I think a lot of bad things came together at one time to create Fukushima.

    The tsunami was just the trigger.

    They had a slightly high reliance on having external power from an outside power plant to provide power in case their generators all went down at once.
    Then they relied on an emergency generator that was diesel powered and they didn’t have a lot of fuel for it.
    Then they relied in an outside source for that fuel if they needed more.

    All three of those relied on an intact infrastructure which after the TSHF situation they had was for all intents and purposes gone.

    I do think that another one of their MAJOR failures was a national law they have dictating what the military is allowed to do. ( I have only heard of this law and not seen evidence or proof of it)
    Which because of WWII their military has very restricted powers and fields of operation. Their military is not allowed in ANY situation to operate for ANY reason in civilian areas or emergencies. Even if their military had the equipment, or could have found it, they were not allowed to move it to the sight.
    This is probably exactly why even the US aircraft carrier that was close could not render any assistance. Either military could have moved several generators and fire equipment into that area by helicopter.
    I do believe that the Aircraft carrier was less than a mile away from the plant and could have provided direct power to the plant if enough wire could have been found. An operation they have done before in that other tsunami.

    Weeks of damage could have been averted if their national laws would have allowed it.

    What happened in Japan could never happen anyplace else.
    Especially in America. Unless something like a HUGE meteor hit and wiped out half the nation. And at that point I could care less about nuclear fallout. Even if a tsunami hit us like it did Japan we have different laws and a far larger infrastructure to support its rescue. Even if our federal government did nothing we have enough civilian and local government equipment to handle a nuclear plant emergency. We would find civilian helicopters and pilots willing to fly in any needed equipment. Just look at 911 in NY. Hundreds of pieces of equipment and thousands of volunteers were turned away because we just had to many. Even for a job that big.

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