It is anticipated that for most locations the doses to humans from naturally occurring radionuclides, even for avid seafood consumers, will exceed those from the radionuclides released by the Fukushima accident. Near Sellafield, for example, doses to humans from naturally occurring radionuclides in seafood caught in the Irish Sea are about an order of magnitude higher than doses from artificial radionuclides. Total collective dose rates from natural radionuclides via marine pathways on a global basis are four orders of magnitude higher than collective doses from Chernobyl radionuclides. Even in the Baltic and Black Seas, the marine waters most contaminated by Chernobyl fallout, natural radionuclides provide a much larger collective dose to seafood consumers than do Chernobyl radionuclides.Amid all of the justified concern about the meltdown at the reactors, it's been easy to lose sight of the context. While the piece argues for a full scientific assessment of the release of radionuclides (and is a nice summary of what they are, and what the expected risks are), the paragraph above is a particularly helpful reminder of the natural background, and its relationship - for most people and places - with the reactor release.
Not that such context seems to have calmed the leadership in Japan and Germany. If the alternative was plentiful green (or fusion) energy, that'd be one thing. But as the alternative is likely to be fossil fuel energy, the rush to shove in the control rods is dangerously misplaced. While the connection between nuclear power and harm to humans is far more direct than that between climate change and the harm it causes (and will cause), this easy attribution obscures the vast disparity in the total magnitude of harm from these power sources.
It's been almost 66 years since the power of atomic energy was first revealed to the general public. One might think that this would be long enough a period for people to get over their instinctive reaction to this first demonstration. It would seem not.