Japan's disaster has raised many questions regarding safety of the public. It has served as a wakeup call to the agencies tasked with protecting the public. Not least of these questions, but certainly the most far-reaching is the question of the safety of nuclear power and radiation contamination of air and water.
Way back when nuclear power was first established, in the 1960s public opinion was sharply divided. The widely disparate viewpoints were that nuclear power would be cheap and the best thing since sliced bread with the opposing view that it was simply a catastrophe waiting to happen.
Now, after several nuclear disasters such as Chernobyl and Three Mile Island we are again faced with the questions. Is it worth it? If it is then how do we protect the public if something should go wrong, such as a release of radiation into the atmosphere that has the potential to circle the globe and affect everyone and everything on earth?
This is not a technical article. The answers to these questions can only be answered on a technical level, but still, there is some logic to common sense answers. For example, we know that monitoring and detection are key components to public safety.
A recent article in the Los Angeles Times noted that the current warning system in California for airborne radioactive material is sorely lacking. How can this be, when state of the art instrumentation is available for such a critical role?
Real-time continuous monitoring for radiation contamination in both air and water are currently available and yet are they in use? If the EPA is charged with protecting the citizens of the United States why is there not an updated system already in place? A system with real-time radiation monitors feeding continuous data to a dedicated nationwide early response system? Perhaps the budget needed to implement such a system has been denied the EPA in trade for more immediate needs. I would say the priorities need to change and financing to upgrade an archaic system that serves to protect the population of this country needs to be moved to the top of the government's capital investment list.
A lot of questions and few answers. After fifty years of nuclear power you would think that 'they' would have established this type of system once real-time continuous monitoring instrumentation became available.