Radiation higher in Oslo than Tokyo

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A leading Norwegian nuclear physicist has criticized the Norwegian media’s “mild, collective psychosis” surrounding radiation since the tsunami in Japan threatened the Fukushima nuclear power station – and has added that radiation levels in Oslo were higher than Tokyo’s just last Friday, March 18.

The accident at the Fukushima I nuclear power point in Japan has caused much concern, something which Sunniva Siem thinks is a "mild psychosis". PHOTO: National Land Image Information (Color Aerial Photography), Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport

Sunniva Siem, leader of the University of Oslo’s Centre for Accelerator-based Research and Energy Physics (Senter for Akseleratorbasert Forskning og Energifysikk, SAFE), told forskning.no that she was less worried about those working at the Japanese nuclear facility, and “more worried for people in Norway that are exposed to the same radiation dose because they live in houses with a lot of radon.”

She explained that the maximum amount of radiation the workers in Fukushima would be exposed to is 20 times lower than a dose that would give a 50 percent chance of death, and that, while this was not without danger, there was only a “minimal” risk of cancer as a result.

Siem also criticized how the Norwegian media had addressed previous nuclear issues, particularly those related to the Chernobyl disaster. “It was predicted that 500 Norwegians were killed as a result of the accident, but the formulae that the radiation protection authorities used at that time are now rejected,” she said. According to Siem, the old method “took as its starting point that, for example, 100 paracetamol tablets are a deadly dose for one person. The reasoning was such that if 100 people received one tablet each, then one person would have died. We know today that this is wrong.”

The scientist told forskning.no that she was most concerned with the “hunger, cold, outbreaks of epidemics and power shortages” being suffered by the Japanese, and hoped that the radiation issues would not distract attention from the humanitarian situation. The president of the Norwegian Red Cross, Sven Mollekleiv, backed her up, commenting that it would be “unfortunate” if media attention in Norway on the nuclear situation distracted relief efforts.

Views and News staff