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Nuclear Power/Nuclear Concerns


QUESTION: Hi Steven,

Not sure if you can help but I have been absolutely paranoid about everything that's been going on in Japan at the crippled nuclear facility. I live in Atlanta, GA and have a ski trip planned in Whistler, BC in February and am considering cancelling due to the proximity to the Pacific and the elevated radiation in the atmosphere. I have stopped eating fish, am starting to supplement with iodine and purchased some extra bottles for emergency reserves. Everything I read is scaring me and it looks like there is no end in sight and I feel its all a big cover up and that the general public is being lied to and that we are all dying a slow death.  If you can please shed some light on this I would appreciate. Happy Holidays!


ANSWER: Are you kidding me?!  Do NOT cancel your trip.  Do you have any idea how much horrible news has been posted about that?  I follow that story regularly because I'm asked about it all the time and I *AM* an expert in the field.  Go back to eating fish, do NOT supplement iodine (it won't do any good and the side effects will actually harm you).  And STOP READING NEWS ARTICLES JUST CONSULT EXPERTS HERE.

Your problem is one of perspective.  I've taught this for many years, actually, so you came to the perfect person.  I'm adjusting how I teach it for my new job involving non-experts who need serious answers when something goes missing in Mexico.  We have unlicensed radioactive sources that are millions of times more radioactive than even local Fukushima fish.  I put them in my pocket (not for long periods, but I know the difference between safe and literally billions of times that which is used all over the place all the time) and handle them all the time.  

Microcuries of radiation, that's why the sources don't need a license.  That's right, micro version of the common US unit of radioactivity, meaning millionth.  A curie is significant, but not extremely dangerous.  A millionth of that...I mean, since you live in Atlanta you take far less background radiation than people living at higher altitudes like Colorado.  Detectable radioactive material?  We can detect billionths of what I would consider minimally significant amounts with ease.  Detectable sells papers and keeps people like you scared crapless.  ANY good scientist with an actual radiation background will agree with that.

You're worried about Fukushima, a ski trip for a few days, and eating fish?  Let me ease your mind and let you know what you should worry about for perspective.  Eat fish.  Go to Vancouver, you'll be up in the mountains anyhow.  So you'll be taking far more radiation from outer space being there at altitude and taking a plane than by being in a place that is near the Pacific Ocean.  Don't go anywhere near a hospital, you'll probably end up accidentally with a lot more dose from someone who had some kind of scan.  None of it adds up to a dental x-ray, which is also safe.  

Getting the perspective I talked about?  You've been over-hyped.  It's not your fault for being literate and staying informed.  Thank God you came here and asked someone who knows.  But the chemical damage you take every day from living in Atlanta...that's far worse than any radiation you could possibly take going on your ski trip.  DO NOT change your plans, or idiots win.

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QUESTION: Hello Steven,

Thanks so much for getting back so quickly and I do appreciate the time you took to answer all my questions.  I guess my primary concern is the fact the disaster has not been contained and does not look like it will be for some time. Also since the region is prone to seismic activity everyone is flipping out and saying one more earthquake will completely annihilate the entire world.  There are now also reports of an increase in thyroid disease in babies and infants on the west coast. Thoughts on that?  Lastly please have a look at this site. There are many similar videos up on youtube as well where people are measuring the background CPMs and showing how they are between 600-1200 cpms, which far exceeds the normal background atmospheric radiation of 200-400 cpm and they are attributing it to Fukushima.

Would appreciate your input on this as well. I know is Xmas so no rush getting back to me and again thank you so much :-)

Best Regards,


PS. I have always been fascinated with nuclear physics even though I went on to study biotechnology, so nice to be able o chat with someone about this :)


And...apparently...they got their way with misleading and inaccurate reports and misdirection.

Yes.  They have had their way with your brain.  I'm almost certainly too late to help you, but I would like one last try.  I'm sorry if this makes you feel foolish...but you got taken and fooled by some of the best.  Straight-up taken by their stories.  Read them, saw their ads, paid their salaries...after what I wrote you.

The could bulldoze the entire complex of reactors into the ocean and it wouldn't make one last bit of difference for your ski trip...not one.  The reports are at the very best statistical anomalies and at the more probably worst outright muckraking lies...very very especially if they're all the way across an ocean of water!  Have you ever tried calculating the volume of water in the pacific ocean and converting it into metric tons?  It's...staggering.  Absolutely staggering.

And no, the counts per minute on the west coast are not up from Fukushima, that's straight-up lies.  We have radiation detection capability there and everywhere that proves different.  Ask anyone who has an actual radiation detector.  They don't tell you at all if it's the same detector, the same size, the same anything...this is no controlled study you're quoting, it's misdirection and panic-mongering.

I hate people at times like this when they just lie.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------


Yep they kinda got to me, but I can be swayed back to the path of rational thinking thanks to you :-)  You seem very knowledgeable in this area.  What are your predictions for the future assuming that they cant seal this thing up in the next few years? Also since the area is prone to earthquakes do you foresee a greater disaster on the horizon if the island got another 8 or 9er? One person mentioned the possibility of a sinkhole swallowing up the entire site.  

The focus now appears to be relocating all the spent fuel rods but I wonder if they are reinforcing the foundations with concrete.  Seems like those facilities were constructed poorly.  Anyway, thanks for all the great information and clarifying stuff for me.

Kind Regards,


Seriously, a sinkhole in Japan?  The geology is just...all wrong for the usual process...I'm not a geologist, but I looked around and that seems true.

Anyhow, it also makes no sense to reinforce foundations.  The nuclear material needs to be isolated until it can cool down, which happens quicker than you'd think...but in a rational world they'd just bulldoze the whole thing into the ocean and be done with it.  Billions and billions of dollars would be saved and seriously...for all the scare warnings the radioactive material would be almost nonexistent after getting down to a deep ocean crevasse. I'd still eat the sushi myself, and that's rational (not some statement of bravado).  But a lot of rational things are scary, when they're phrased the wrong way...

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Dr. Stephen O. Nelson


I was at a branch of the University of Texas of the Permian Basin for seven years working on an advanced nuclear reactor. Generation IV nuclear reactors. Radiation safety. Nuclear fusion. Since moved into government nuclear work.


Drew the laboratory design for a Generation IV nuclear research reactor Doctoral research on stellar nuclear fusion reactions if your question is on fusion power.

Ph.D. in physics (nuclear physics), Duke University. Taught physics, radiation safety, and nuclear engineering courses at UTPB for 7 years before moving into government work.

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