It is now more than 30 years since the Chernobyl explosion and fire, and almost six years since the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station in Japan was engulfed by a tsunami. These two events saw the release of radiation into the environment, and studies carried out on the local population in both areas have provided greater understanding about the impact that low and moderate doses of radiation have on human health. Reassuringly, these studies suggest that radiation at low to moderate levels has negligible effect on health, yet we still fear radiation. It is becoming more and more apparent that the worry of being subjected to radiation can sometimes cause more health problems than the exposure.
At a lecture at the University of Cumbria on 26 January, Reuben Holmes of the National Nuclear Laboratory explored how and why careful consideration must be given to communicating information related to radiation in order to avoid psychosocial consequences that often end up causing more harm to human health than the radiation itself. Reuben also talked about the work that is being done in the UK following the valuable lessons learned from Fukushima.
Reuben comments: “It is important that we learn how to put exposure to man-made radiation in perspective with the natural background radiation that we are all subjected to every day. This will help society better deal with the anxiety and distress caused by our fear of radiation.”