This site uses cookies. By continuing to use this site you agree to our use of cookies. To find out more, see our Privacy and Cookies policy.
Skip to the content

Share this

Free weekly newswire

Sign up to receive all our latest news direct to your inbox.

Physics on film

100 Second Science Your scientific questions answered simply by specialists in less than 100 seconds.

Watch now

Bright Recruits

At all stages of your career – whether you're an undergraduate, graduate, researcher or industry professional – can help find the job for you.

Find your perfect job

Physics connect

Are you looking for a supplier? Physics Connect lists thousands of scientific companies, businesses, non-profit organizations, institutions and experts worldwide.

Start your search today


Fall-out from the Japan quake

By Matin Durrani

The impact of the earthquake and subsequent tsunami that hit Japan earlier this month has been truly devastating, with the latest reports suggesting 9000 people have died and a further 13,000 currently unaccounted for.

But if you spend your days following media reports of the disaster, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the biggest catastrophe has been the damage to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.

I’ve sometimes felt as if the mainstream media almost want an epic nuclear disaster to take place so that they have something to get their teeth into and fill their rolling TV news bulletins.

I was therefore pleased to see a sober assessment of the true nuclear danger from the plant from a recent blog entry by Randall Munroe, a physics graduate best known for his comic-strip website xkcd.

The picture above, which you’ll need to click here to see in full, tries to quantify to the best of Munroe’s ability the real risks from the plant.

Sure, it would be great if the reactor had survived the earthquake and tsunami – and there’s no harm making sure other reactors around the world are as safe as they can be as many countries are doing – but this shouldn’t be the signal for the world to end the recent revival in nuclear power.

You only have to think about the damage caused by the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico last year to see a true environmental disaster.

Of course, the Achilles heel of the nuclear industry is the fear of “radiation” and ionizing radiation in particular. You can’t see it or smell it, which makes it, to some at least, creepily scary.

But hopefully Munroe’s chart puts things in perspective a bit.

In the meantime, we’ll continue to follow how the quake is affecting Japan’s physics community. Things are looking not too bad and the odd bent beamline is far from catastrophic given what else has been taking place.

This entry was posted in General. Bookmark the permalink.
View all posts by this author  | View this author's profile

Comments are closed.


  • Comments should be relevant to the article and not be used to promote your own work, products or services.
  • Please keep your comments brief (we recommend a maximum of 250 words).
  • We reserve the right to remove excessively long, inappropriate or offensive entries.

Show/hide formatting guidelines

Tag Description Example Output
<a> Hyperlink <a href="">google</a> google
<abbr> Abbreviation <abbr title="World Health Organisation" >WHO</abbr> WHO
<acronym> Acronym <acronym title="as soon as possible">ASAP</acronym> ASAP
<b> Bold <b>Some text</b> Some text
<blockquote> Quoted from another source <blockquote cite="">IOP</blockquote>
<cite> Cite <cite>Diagram 1</cite> Diagram 1
<del> Deleted text From this line<del datetime="2012-12-17"> this text was deleted</del> From this line this text was deleted
<em> Emphasized text In this line<em> this text was emphasised</em> In this line this text was emphasised
<i> Italic <i>Some text</i> Some text
<q> Quotation WWF goal is to build a future <q cite="">
where people live in harmony with nature and animals</q>
WWF goal is to build a future
where people live in harmony with nature and animals
<strike> Strike text <strike>Some text</strike> Some text
<strong> Stronger emphasis of text <strong>Some text</strong> Some text