Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Who Decides Level of Risk?

Nuclear power's popularity has waned significantly in post-Fukushima Japan. Japanese citizens near nuclear power plants have used the court system to challenge efforts by the national government and nuclear industry to resume nuclear power plant operations.

Recently a judge ruled that nuclear power constituted an acceptable level of risk:
Court rejects appeal to halt operations of Sendai reactors April 6, 2016 THE ASAHI SHIMBUN

MIYAZAKI--A high court here rejected an appeal by Kyushu residents seeking to shut down the only two nuclear reactors operating in Japan, ruling that it is impossible to secure absolute safety with nuclear energy.  Presiding Judge Tomoichiro Nishikawa of the Miyazaki branch of the Fukuoka High Court said April 6 that current science and technology standards cannot reach a level of safety in which no radioactive materials are emitted regardless of the severity of the accident at a nuclear plant.

“A judgment has to be made based on the standard of what level of danger a society would be willing to live with,” Nishikawa said.

The judge's decision is not necessarily representative of majority public opinion in Japan given polling results conducted by Japan's mainstream news media.

Japan's political and legal bureaucracies may give judges the authority to make this type of decision, counter to public will.

This may be legally sound, but still morally inconsistent with democratic ideals, including human rights.

Who decides when the potential consequences of a decision are catastrophic?

This question about who decides is illustrated in another recent news story, wherein we were causally informed that workers at the Daiichi plant's new exposure level is 1,000 millisieverts, or a full sievert:
Fukushima No. 1 workers who got maximum radiation dose at start of crisis can now return to plant Kyodo Apr 1, 2016

But Tepco said it will not push them to return and said those who wish to go back will be managed under a new exposure regime designed to limit a worker’s lifetime radiation dosage to 1,000 millisieverts in line with recommendations made by the International Commission on Radiological Protection.
In 2015, the exposure level had been raised to 250 millisieverts a year. Now its 1000? Who made that decision?

Hiromi Kumia, “Nuclear Watchdog Proposes Raising Maximum Radiation Dose to 250 Millisieverts,” The Asahi Shimbun, July 31, 2015, accessed August 1, 2015,

“Gov't to Raise Maximum Annual Radiation Exposure Ahead of Restart of Nuclear Reactors,” The Mainichi, June 30, 2015, accessed July1, 2015,



  1. we're so clever playing w/numbers, be the death of us... ty Majia, also wondering if you have any documenting links on exactly when & how our SECSTATE upped the post-Fukushima level of Cesium currently allowed in the U.S. food, milk and water supply to 1,200 becquerels per kilogram, when Japan’s limit is set at 100 ?


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