Thursday, 24 March 2011

Comment To I-Fan Lin

The following is my second comment to I-Fan Lin (on her piece entitled "The Reassurance Of Nuclear Safety Is Not Convincing") which has been awaiting moderation for well over a full day now, which I consider long enough for a decision to have been made on whether to publish it or not. My quotations of her in italics, my responses in regular typeface:

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“…less than 20km away from the first and second nuclear power plants…”

Granted. My mistake, I had wrongly assumed the comment was in reference to the fourth plant only since your article begins with a focus on that. I would agree that the two aging plants in Taipei County (Xinbei) ought to be closed down; it would be better if they could be replaced with newer, more efficient and safer plants in other locations further away from residential areas but I don’t know whether that would be possible.

“…too high for infants…”

Interesting that that BBC report fails to mention the actual becquerel value recorded in the water and the difference between that value, and the range of values normally found in Tokyo tap water, though isn’t it? No matter, the value is given here in this report as a concentration of 210 becquerels per litre – this is a trace amount. To add a little more context, the highest reported dose level (background rate - ed) of radiation at the edge of the 20km evacuation zone (never mind Tokyo) was 0.16 millisievert/hour – which is similar to that of two dental X-rays (per hour - ed). Why do you think the BBC report only alarming descriptions of the radiation without any supplementary data and explanation of that data?

“I do not know how much risk you want to take, but others may consider something like this as risk.”

Of course, and I wouldn’t dream of telling people what risks they may and may not take. Yet these risks are being deliberately presented in exaggerated form by the mainstream press agencies (and other media) and those who stand to benefit from the political destruction of the nuclear power industry by encouraging psychological panic among the public. This is extremely irresponsible.

“For people in Fukushima, the radiation pollution they face will last much longer.”

Do you have any actual evidence to support that claim?

“Regarding the review for the energy policy, I think any citizen in a democratic country can do it whenever they find it is necessary.”

You call it a “review” of energy policy and I have no argument with a “review” per se. In fact, I am all in favour of further rational criticism and re-think of nuclear plant design. Yet I suspect that what environmentalists really have in mind when they speak of a “review” is an outright demand for abolition of nuclear power in Taiwan. Is that not so I-Fan?

“It is definitely not decided by you.”

Of course not, but it will definitely not decided by you either. And I note that that is the second time you have been rude to me.

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  1. Mike, I want to draw your attention to this line:
    "To add a little more context, the highest reported dose level of radiation at the edge of the 20km evacuation zone (never mind Tokyo) was 0.16 millisievert/hour – which is similar to that of two dental X-rays."

    The comparison of a background RATE with dental X-rays (a DOSE) is not meaningful without understanding that the rate of radiation you cited (0.16mSV/hr) means that you have a specific dose (0.16mSV) delivered over a specific time period (1 hour).

    If I am to understand that a dental X-ray delivers 0.8 mSV in a single dose, then the rate of radiation cited is equivalent to two dental X-rays EVERY HOUR.

    It's quite common in the news when reporting on anything technical, both here and abroad, to be completely confused about their units and the meaning and it merely adds to panic and fear on the part of the generally misinformed public.

  2. Yes, fair point: I ought to have substituted the word "rate" for "dose", given that "0.16 millisievert/hour" is a ratio.


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