New York Times Doesn't Understand Fukushima's Radiation Risks – Japanese Blogger

photo taken on August 22 handouts by TEPCO

When TEPCO inspected the radiation level in the bottom flange of the tank on August 22, 2013, it was 100 mSv/h. But the result on August 31 revealed it is 1,800mSv/h dose equivalent at 70 micrometer. Image taken on August 22, from handouts by TEPCO

Four more leaks have been discovered in the contaminated water tanks inside the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, according to the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) [ja]. The maximum radiation level found was “1,800 millisieverts per hour dose equivalent at 70 micrometer” in the bottom of the tank in B Group H3 Area.

So how horrific is “1,800 millisieverts per hour dose equivalent at 70 micrometer”? The New York Times says it is “enough to give a lethal dose in about four hours“, but an anonymous Japanese blogger who blogs at has criticized mainstream media for purposefully omitting “dose equivalent” information to mislead readers by mixing up exposure to gamma radiation, which is highly penetrating and can travel deep into human tissue, and exposure to beta radiation, which is lighter and not as penetrating.

The blogger at explains:

1,800 millisieverts/hour is “dose equivalent at 70 micrometer”, to show the beta radiation exposure at very close proximity for particular organs – skin, and eye lens.

The “1,800 millisieverts/hour that would kill a person in 4 hours” would be gamma radiation.

In this case, RO waste water is extremely high in beta nuclides including strontium but not so much at all in gamma nuclides. You wouldn't die just by being near this water for four hours.

1,800 millisieverts/hour dose equivalent is still very high, as the annual limit for equivalent dose for skin is 500 millisieverts. The same for lens is 300 millisieverts.

But to purposefully omit “dose equivalent” information from the original information from TEPCO and add sensational claim of killing one in four hours of exposure is another low for the media.


  • johnny cassidy

    I think you ought to repost this on (it’s a crowd-sourced news correction service). The Times does correct its stories more often than most papers. If it thinks it erred, it might fix this one.

    • johnny cassidy

      The Ex-skf blogger wrote: “BBC Radio at least dropped the “lethal in 4 hours” part, and I just heard their news saying the 1,800 mSv/hr radiation is mostly beta radiation and with careful protection the workers could avoid most of exposure.”
      Wouldn’t that also mean that without protective gear it would be a “lethal dose in about four hours” and wouldn’t that also make the Times and others correct?

      • theanphibian

        But beta radiation will be attenuated by air to some degree as well. Exactly how much depends on a number of factors, but it’s not purely exponential like gamma radiation because it’s charged, so if you’re beyond a certain threshold it will be safe.

        Water itself also shields the radiation. So the kind of value we’re talking about is probably a surface value. And you could maybe say that someone dangled to directly above the water would receive that dose (only on the front of their body). But why? The claims just don’t make any sense.

  • activist09

    The film tells the story of the Japanese
    nuclear plant meltdown in 2011 and the cover-up by the Japanese
    government and TEPCO. The film documents how the nuclear energy program
    for “peaceful atoms” was brought to Japan under the auspices of the US
    military occupation. It explores the criminal cover-up of the safety
    dangers of the plant by TEPCO and GE management, which built the plant
    in Fukushima. Included is an interview with Kei Sugaoka, the GE nuclear
    plant inspector from the bay area who exposed cover-ups in the safety
    at the Fukushima plant and was retaliated against by GE.

    The film features the voices of the people and workers about the
    reality of the disaster. It shows what this means not only for the
    people of Japan but the people of the world as the US government and
    nuclear industry continue to push for more new plants and government
    subsidies. This film breaks the information blockade and the cover-up
    by the corporate media in Japan, the US and around the world that seeks
    to convince the public that Fukushima is over.

  • RSP

    The Japanese do not understand ! That is the problem- and now the Olympics have chosen a place that maybe totally contaminated by 2020-
    How sad

Join the conversation

Authors, please log in »


  • All comments are reviewed by a moderator. Do not submit your comment more than once or it may be identified as spam.
  • Please treat others with respect. Comments containing hate speech, obscenity, and personal attacks will not be approved.

Receive great stories from around the world directly in your inbox.

Sign up to receive the best of Global Voices!

Submitted addresses will be confirmed by email, and used only to keep you up to date about Global Voices and our mission. See our Privacy Policy for details.

Newsletter powered by Mailchimp (Privacy Policy and Terms).

* = required field
Email Frequency

No thanks, show me the site