Japan Disaster: Worried about radiation reaching us?

https://readthespirit.com/ourvalues/wp-content/uploads/sites/17/2013/03/wpid-0329_ov_Watching_a_nuclear_bomb_at_the_Nevada_Test_Site_in_1962.jpgWATCHING A NUCLEAR BLAST IN THE DESERT: In 1962, benches were set up (at left) and other observers stood to watch the 1.65-kiloton Small Boy nuclear bomb detonated at the Nevada Test Site.

Our hearts go out to the people of Japan. The news today is even worse than yesterday, which was worse than the day before. Now, there’s evidence of plutonium leakage, and a partial meltdown might be under way. At the same time, it’s hard not to be concerned about radiation reaching the U.S., especially the west coast. Are you worried?

About four of ten Americans are at least somewhat concerned, according to a just-released poll by Rasmussen Reports. Fifteen percent are really concerned. It surprised me to learn that the level of worry now is lower than it had been last week. Even more surprising, Americans who live on the west coast—Oregon, California, and Washington—are a bit less concerned than Americans living in the rest of the nation.

Americans have been affected by radiation before. Those born in the wrong place at the wrong times died from leukemia and other cancers at rates higher than the rest of the population. Starting in the early 1950s, hundreds and hundreds of nuclear tests were held at the Nevada Test Site. This was before we understood the dangers of radioactive fallout. At the time, tourists would flock to Nevada to see the mushroom clouds.

The so-called downwinders—especially children living in Utah and born between 1951 and 1958—suffered a pronounced increase in cancer deaths. (Click here to read more about the Nevada Test Site and see a national map of the exposure area.)

This, of course, is an entirely different situation from the tragedy in Japan. But it goes to show that we have a lot of evidence—and a lot to think about—when it comes to reliance on nuclear power.

Are you worried about radiation reaching American shores?

Please, Comment below.

(Originally published at www.OurValues.org, an online experiment in civil dialogue on American values.)

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