Are we too scared of radiation?
It’s more than five years since the earthquake and tsunami off the coast of Japan caused a huge leak of radioactive material into the world’s oceans.
Workers battled to prevent the Fukushima nuclear plant going into complete meltdown and radiation levels rose by a factor of tens of millions.
However, a new report by Australian scientists has revealed that radiation in the Pacific Ocean is rapidly returning to normal and should be at its previous level by 2020. So what does this say about radiation and us?
Time has stood still around the Fukushima nuclear plant, with homes and possessions abandoned – perhaps forever.
Efforts to curb further leaks of radioactive water are ongoing: an underground frozen wall of soil is being constructed to try to minimise the amount of radioactive material that seeps out into the sea.
Huge challenges remain in the future as decontamination efforts continue and it’s going to take several decades before the plant is fully decommissioned.
The seafloor and harbour near Fukushima are still highly contaminated, meaning monitoring of radioactivity levels and sea life in that area must continue for years to come.
But some sort of normal is returning to the wider ocean.
Nuclear energy is an emotive issue – besides the political, environmental and economic arguments, some believe radioactivity has a psychological dimension that prods at our inner fears.
In terms of human evolution, it’s not that long ago since we were hunter gatherers facing dangers all around us – from poisonous plants to predators.