PBS Frontline’s Miles O’Brien: Cheeseburgers and fries a much bigger risk to our health than cesium — Japan’s 20 milliSv/yr for evacuation “extremely low” (4 times higher than Chernobyl limit)

Published: January 18th, 2012 at 8:09 pm ET


Title: Live Chat Now: Nuclear Power in the Wake of Fukushima
Source: Wired.com
Date: Jan 18, 2012

Chat Transcript Excerpts

Comment From Nancy

Why wasn’t conservation mentioned in the piece? It could make nuclear unnecessary.

Jon Palfreman:
We did have a section in the program that illustrated examples of conservation – people in Japan wearing sandals and tee-shirts to work, using fans instead of AC. But this section was taken out due to time constraints. But we did take it seriously as a topic. It just didn’t end up in the film quite as much as we’d wanted.


Spencer Reiss:
Wouldn’t it be better for a whole lot of reasons to use conservation to replace, say, coal?

I think we have reached criticality in this live chat. More than 200 live readers! Not sure how many dead readers…

there is no question conservation is better than coal. Anything is better than coal. I repeat: anything is better than coal.

Jon Palfreman:
(To the previous question) We repeatedly requested on-camera statements from Westchester Co. officials to explain the evacuation plan in the event of a radiological accident at Indian Point, and were repeatedly denied. This suggests a lack of willingness/interest of public officials to talk to the media about emergency planning, specifically about Indian Point. What does this suggest about other emergency situations?


it probably has been overdone and the level at which a evacuation is triggered in Japan-20 Millisieverts of exposure per year is extremely low [ABC: “After Chernobyl anyone likely to be exposed to more than 5 millisieverts a year was evacuated, and those in areas of 1-5 mSv were offered relocation and bans were placed on eating locally produced food.”]. I am certain the government of Japan would like to walk that one back. But it’s impossible to do that. The truth is the stress and anxiety of dislocating 180,000 people will pack a much greater health risk over the long term than if they stayed in an area that was contaminated at those levels.


Comment From Jeffrey Hausaman
Miles, what would be the consequences for Fukushima prefecture long term if people went back to live there normally? Forget the official government policy, if people actually moved back into those ghost towns and went about their normal way of life would they be at significant risk?

Jon Palfreman:
All I know is that the levels are higher….I haven’t done the math. But if you go back where the levels are high, this would probably increase your risk of cancer over a lifetime.

it depends on who they are and where they live. If you’re a mother with young children who like to play in the dirt and maybe even little of it, you might rather live somewhere else. But if you’re older, you might rather be at home and except the slight additional dose of radiation over the remainder of your life. You might very well get cancer, but that could be from smoking or drinking or the big risk factor: obesity. So wherever you live, stay away from the cheeseburgers and french fries! They are a much bigger risk to our health than cesium.

Read the full chat here

See also: [intlink id=”pbs-frontline-fukushima-radiation-10-chernobyl-risk-of-getting-cancer-very-very-small-govt-limit-of-20-millisievert-very-conservative” type=”post”]{{empty}}[/intlink]


Published: January 18th, 2012 at 8:09 pm ET


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47 comments to PBS Frontline’s Miles O’Brien: Cheeseburgers and fries a much bigger risk to our health than cesium — Japan’s 20 milliSv/yr for evacuation “extremely low” (4 times higher than Chernobyl limit)

  • He can put that the same place that banana went !

  • NoPrevarication NoPrevarication

    “Cheeseburgers and french fries a much bigger risk to our health than cesium — Japan’s 20 milliSv/yr for evacuation “extremely low”

    Clearly, this man does not know what he is talking about! I just watched a video posted by (Whoopie?) this morning that stated in no uncertain terms that 20 milliSv/yr definitely causes cancer. I think the study was done by the American Academy of Sciences.

    Surely this man cannot defend the Frontline program. It was hopelessly misleading. One ought to be able to sue anyone who puts forward that much misinformation. It was disgusting.

    • i agree. total insanity and totally bogus, unscientific comparison. fact is the risks posed by Cesium-137 to human health are enormous and not to be discounted. and it is just plain wrong to assert that 20 mSv per year is nothing to be worried about. such incompetent dimestore blather for my money.

      • takedake

        What training and studies make this guy such an expert! His replies (never mind his flippant attitude–cheeseburgers har har har!) reveal him for what he is, a half-educated ignoramus.

        5 ms/yr or 20 ms/yr are just numbers. One hot particle stuck in your lung and you get cancer, just a matter of when. One hot particle swallowed that gets stuck in your thyroid, or bones, and you get cancer.

        I foolishly returned to live in Japan where I’ve been for years based on such misinformation, now I’ve got symptoms of exposure. I left last month and am now one of many nuclear refugees. So armchair QBs like this guy can stick it where the sun don’t shine.

  • PoorDaddy PoorDaddy

    Only if the beef and spuds were raised in Fukushima, idiot!!
    I second xdrfox banana/cheeseburger suggestion!

  • Miles O’Brien is a clueless schmuck. 20 mSv a year is NOT inconsiderably low, and an occasional cheeseburger and fries are most definitely NOT as dangerous to health as a steady daily diet of 10-50k becquerel in your green leafies plus strontium in your milk.

    Just parroting the propaganda he’s been told to parrot. This ‘live chat’ was a complete waste ofprecious time we’ll never get back, just the principals engaging in mutual back-patting while ignoring hundreds of very good questions submitted by the invited public they chose to ignore. Disgusting.

  • Bobby1

    Iodine cheeseburgers and cesium fries certainly are a health risk.

  • jec jec

    20 mSv a year is BAD, especially for children. So I guess Mr. OB (obituary?) figures if a child is there..they only get 1 mSv..because of their size? So 20 mSv will equal high levels of thryoid cancers, luekemia in children. Now how is the internal vs external radiation figured out. All they look at is external..the internal can be way way worse. His cheeseburgwer needs to go where the sun don’t shine..

  • many moons

    Talk is cheap. He wouldn’t set foot in Fuku prefecture!

  • LetThemEatYellowCake LetThemEatYellowCake

    As if cheeseburgers and fries are being shoved down our throats without choice…so cesium intake is by choice? what an idiot


      Exactly my take on his puerile statement. I hope he enjoys his California Merlot and Wisconsin cheese. Cheers Miles!!!

  • Heart of the Rose Heart of the Rose

    Miles used to work for CNN..
    because..he kinda screwed up… I guess..lol
    Methinks… Miles..has been told what to say..

  • slinky

    Where is the enhanced risk modeling that takes into account the MOX fuel and higher concentration of plutonium dioxide. My understanding is that 30-50 micrograms of Plutonium can cause cancer eventually and 8 milligrams is enough to kill you right away! Also where is the risk modeling that takes into account all the numerous other ailments induced by higher than normal background radiation besides cancer?

  • enoughalready45 enoughalready45

    The anti-nuclear organization Nuclear Energy Information Service (NEIS) in my area, Chicago, USA submitted comment to frontline regarding the show.

    You can read it here.

    The person who runs this organizatiuon, Dave Kraft, has been a stalwart of the anti-nuclear movement in Illinois. Illinois has the most nuclear reactors and stored nuclear waste of any state in the USA.

    I wish I could win the lottery and send him some big $$$. (and ENE News and Fukushima Diary).

  • dharmasyd dharmasyd

    Yeahz Milez, youz can haz all the cheezburgerz you wantz. But don’t eatz the snowz, okay?

  • Maybe he was referring to FUKU beef hamburgers and FUKU raised potatoes made into fries? Then he would be saying it correctly…

  • Chelsea Chelsea

    Darn, I was hoping my comment (not in the chat, but on the page abbout the guy who discovered Jogan) would make it on Enenews. And Enenews REALLY should post about Onkalo sometime… something positive here would be nice and the doc “Into Eternity” needs more publicity now more than ever!!!

  • Jake E

    Want to have a longer healthier life? Give up cheeseburgers, move to Fukushima.

  • arclight arclight

    sorry but i actually would have to agree with atoms4peace on this one guys and girls!

    Potatoes may be more dangerous than other vegetables. (May 29th)

    “Potatoes may be more liable to be contaminated by radioactive materials released by the stricken Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant than other types of fruits and vegetables, according to a study by Japan’s agriculture ministry.”


    Beef contaminated with cesium sold at market in Japan

    “In this July 16 photo, cattle are fed after officials confirmed the hay were safe at a farm in Miharu, Fukushima Prefecture, northeastern Japan. Japanese government is preparing to suspend cattle shipments from Fukushima this week amid a growing tally of cows that were fed rice straw containing high levels of radioactive cesium. (Xinhua/Reuters Photo)”


    LOL! burgers and fries anyone!! 🙂

    so miles is right

  • James2

    Folks I hate reporters who don’t know what they are doing and who are willing to shill for the industry, however overreacting to the danger is bad too.

    20 milliseverts per year, from what I have read will raise the cancer rate very slightly – but very, very few people will get cancer at that level. 100Ms per year (5x higher)is the threshold you don’t want to cross if you can help it.

    But that’s just external radiation – If you are near Fukushima, the danger for that is real. For the rest of us, not so real.

    The danger for those outside the immediate area is not external radiation, but ingestion, and inhalation is the worst kind of ingestion – and it’s pretty apparent we are all inhaling bad stuff from Fukushima.

    • radegan

      We’re still breathing particles from the bomb testing era. Every time a farmer in Iowa or Kansas runs a plow through his fields on a breezy day, old particles are liberated to fly forth anew. The contamination is cumulative, externally and internally.

    • pacific

      Hm. I heard and read .1mSv/yr was the conservative limit to stay under…. That’s abt .01uSv/hr… 9,000 hours in a year, roughly.

  • Bobby1

    Check out the graph on the Prof. Mori blog:

    http://moribin.blog114.fc2.com/blog-entry-1364.html (Japanese)

    Roots (and root crops) uptake something like 6 times more cesium per day than leaves. Potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots etc.

  • pacific

    @Mack, here’s that repost:
    Maybe folks already know, but

    * * * It’s the math on the ‘internal’ exposure that magnifies whatever we eat/breathe so much. * * * Thusly,

    1 Becquerel is means one disintegration per second, one arrow of radiation coming out of a particle of cesium or whatever. If you take in material that’s putting out just 1 Bq and it stays in your body, it’s putting out a zap a second.

    But remember the number 32 million.

    There are 60x60x24x365 = about 32 million seconds in a year. Eat 4 Bq of radioactive cesium. As long as that 4Bq that stays inside you (and Cesium is one of the champions of radiation in terms of most of it being taken up into your body), then you’ve got not just 4 zaps of damaging radiation on a one-time basis, you’ve got 4 zaps every second, every day, ongoing.

    So, 4Bq/sec x 32 million seconds/year! means you’d have 120 million damaging zaps hitting you from the inside per year, ongoing.

    Remember the number 32 million.

  • To me, the report wasn’t really about Fukushima at all, it was about Indian Point. I don’t want to say it was a complete waste of my time though, although it sure felt like it with all the low-ball figures they were tossing around.

    Did “Chief” O’Brien mention where he got that data about the release of radiation at Fukushima being only 10% that of Chernobyl on the program? Because I pretty much tuned out after that.