Oh, get a grip

I guess panic just sells papers:

Here's the Daily Mail:

The moment nuclear plant chief WEPT as Japanese finally admit that radiation leak is serious enough to kill people

Now, this is not actually much of a surprise, and it goes with the announcement that the plant accident was being raised from INES level 4 (not as bad as Three Mile Island) to level 5 (as bad as Three Mile Island.)  We've had reports for a couple of days already that there were local radiation levels between reactor 3 and 4 of as much as 400 mSv/hour (40 rem/hour).

This is, indeed, enough to kill people: 15 hours at 40 rem/hr is 600 rem, the so called "LD 50/30" dose. That is, if you receive that much radiation, the chances are 50-50 that you'll die within 30 days. (You'll sometimes see 400 rem called the "lethal" dose, but that's the dose at which 50 percent die without medical treatment.)

But it's also like saying "the truck reached 40 miles an hour, enough to kill people."  It doesn't mean "people are dying", it means "get out of the way of trucks".

Since this rate was measured only in one small area of the plant, the solution is to keep people from spending a long time in that area of the plant -- which they are doing.  And possibly have a look at what IAEA said in the post Bryan was good enough to do for me while I was busy this morning.  The IAEA said particularly:

Clarification

Contrary to several news reports, the IAEA to date has NOT received any notification from the Japanese authorities of people sickened by radiation contamination.

In the report of 17 March 01:15 UTC, the cases described were of people who were reported to have had radioactive contamination detected on them when they were monitored.

Get that? "Contrary to several news reports...."

Plus: Daniel Kahl, an American living in Japan, begs the media to stop the hysteria.