On Friday, October 7, I attended a Jones Seminar at the Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth College. The Jones Seminars are open to the public, but mostly attended by engineering students.
10 Kilotons in Washington D.C.
Dr. Swartz’s area of scientific inquiry is after-the-fact dose measurement, and he started the seminar with a description of an improvised nuclear explosive device going off in Washington D.C.. (Parenthetically, he said it would be easier to buy a bomb than to make one.) At that point in the seminar, since I knew Dr. Swartz is a medical specialist in radiation dose measurement, I wondered why he had titled this talk anything about Vermont Yankee? Vermont Yankee cannot be a bomb, either improvised or purchased.
But as the talk continued, I realized his reasons. He described the casualties of a bomb and the non-casualties of Fukushima in a masterful way. I recommend his talk highly. It is scientific, direct and reassuring.
Helping the Worried Well
Dr. Swartz basically said that in the real events of Fukushima, or the theoretical events at Vermont Yankee, the “worried well” are the major issue. Civilians will not experience exposure at a dose which would measurably increase their chances of getting cancer or limit their life-expectancy. At the same time, they will not believe any official reassurances that “everything is okay.” It would be the duty of the scientific community to explain that people are not in danger of cancer or early death. In other words, it would be the duty of the scientific community to reduce one of the major public health effects of any type of accident: fear and anxiety.