In the Wake of Fukushima’s Waste Water Release, Public Perception on Nuclear Power Could Face a Roadblock



The fear and misinformation surrounding radiation has long loomed large in the public imagination. This is thanks to sensationalist portrayals and misunderstandings about its actual risks. With Japan recently deciding to release Fukushima water, there is even more global concern and more misinformation. That’s evidenced with China’s ban on the country’s seafood. When fear meets lack of familiarity it turns into a breeding ground for misjudgment. Yet, what’s often lost in the uproar is the role of rigorous scientific analysis. 

Global organizations and the Japanese government have been careful to scrutinize the safest means for the release. This means adhering to both national and international safety protocols. With the imminent challenges posed by climate change, it’s crucial that public perception of nuclear power isn’t swayed by misinformation. Instead, facts need to lead the conversation. Nuclear energy remains a vital, low-emission source of baseload power. Its responsible use should be part of a diversified strategy to tackle challenges ahead.

Amir Bahadori, an Associate Professor at Kansas State University, weighed in with his analysis on the safety of this move from the Japanese government and the ripple effects from the collective response. His expertise lies in nuclear engineering, particularly in radiation environments, the effects of radiation exposure on humans and electronics, and radiation imaging.

Nuclear energy’s importance needs to be at the forefront of discussions, said Bahadori, further adding that continued misinformation can have some dire consequence in the use of nuclear power.

Bahadori’s Thoughts on Nuclear Fear and Misinformation

On Public Fear and Misinformation

“I think it’s important to acknowledge the fact that there is a lot of fear, a lot of confusion, some misinformation out there regarding the issue of the Fukushima water release.”

“There’s a lot of fear out there regarding radiation due in part to a lack of public familiarity with radiation exposures. And there probably are also groups that may be trying to sort of take advantage of the situation and fear monger.”

Assessment of Actions by TEPCO, the Government of Japan, and the IAEA

“In my opinion, I think that TEPCO, the government of Japan and the International Atomic Energy Agency have all done a really good job of running the issue to ground, trying to figure out all the different options there are to deal with this issue.”

“In looking at the IAEA report, it’s very comprehensive on how they did their analysis. The considerations that they had were well in line with radiation protection practice that is accepted both nationally and internationally.”

“Ultimately, the levels of tritium that are going to be released are actually well within compliance of the releases when the Fukushima plant was operating normally. So I think it’s safe.”

On Geopolitical Relationships and Public Sentiment

“There are a lot of complex geopolitical relationships that come into play when you see other nations objecting to the decision that was made.”

“In looking at the levels, the plan for release, the safety sort of strongholds that they have in terms of ensuring that it doesn’t go awry, the measurement, the follow-up. I think that we should really be focused on the issue at hand and understanding that the release is necessary and that the parties involved are doing everything they can to ensure that it is done in a safe manner.”

On Varied Public Opinions and Nuclear Power

“There are a lot of voices out there and there will always be voices that fill the void saying, you know, one thing and others that say the complete opposite.”

“The push toward nuclear power, at least the broad scale recognition that it’s going to be required for our future power needs is really an imperative that’s brought on by the recognition of the effects of greenhouse gasses on our world.”

“We know that we need power in order to maintain standard of living, to improve standard of living. And in order to generate that, we need to be using the methods that have the least environmental impact. And nuclear is one of the best ways to generate consistent baseload power.”

On the Importance of Accurate Information

“If we don’t get out there and combat misinformation and try to communicate in a measured way what the actual implications are, that there is a danger that it could lead to reduced support for nuclear power.”

“That’s where outlets like yours are so important to get facts out there, to talk to people who have worked in this field for many, many years and who are trying to communicate facts where they’re needed.”

On the Decision to Release Water at Fukushima

“Well in line with that international system and well within international norms, I think there will always be those that try to raise concern.”

“But the bottom line is that this decision, as it’s currently structured, to release the water is a safe one and I think will be beneficial just overall in terms of assisting with the cleanup and the decommissioning that’s necessary at Fukushima.”

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