Opinion

Japan's nuclear crisis: 6 reasons why we should – and shouldn't – worry

Japan’s nuclear disaster is not as bad as Chernobyl, but it’s the worst since. The recent 8.9-magnitude earthquake and tsunami that followed have severely damaged the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. It has suffered two explosions, with warnings of a third possible, and fuel rods are exposed. Over 20,000 people have been evacuated from the area. This crisis raises important questions about the future of nuclear power and our failures not just to prepare for natural disasters but also possible failures in nuclear security. Harvard Kennedy School's Matthew Bunn gives us six key points to consider, originally published on the Power & Policy blog.

5. Psychological impacts probably most widespread

There may be several people who die or who are severely sickened by this accident – though that should of course be placed in the context of the more than 10,000 that are feared dead as a result of the quake and tsunami themselves. But the broader impact is likely to be psychological – from the stress and fear that tens or hundreds of thousands of people are suffering.

I would argue that the biggest health impacts of Chernobyl, despite the substantial radiation doses that some people received, were the stress, depression, and alcoholism that followed. The average person’s great fear of radiation can have real health consequences.

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