Radiation Protection by the Numbers: Another Man-made Disaster in Japan by Toshihiro Higuchi

Friday, March 07, 2014
12:00 PM - 1:30 PM
Mather Hall Rittenberg Lounge
Event Type
Mary Beth White
Political Science

How do we assess the risk of exposure to radiation? How do governments make life or death decisions in the aftermath of a nuclear meltdown and to mitigate the heath risks of radioactive contamination? These decisions rely on numerical guides governments devise that then take on a life of their own to become drivers of policy. This talk takes the example from the problem of evacuation in Fukushima and discusses how the top-down management turned the reference levels, designed originally as a flexible tool for optimizing protective actions, into a sharp cutoff line. We will see how the Japanese government leaned rigidly on its own standard of acceptable radiation exposure to legitimize both sweeping actions on the one hand and gross inactions on the other. Desire to accurately assess and mitigate risk of radioactive contamination thus paradoxically exacerbated the “man-made disaster.”
Toshihiro Higuchi is an ACLS New Faculty Fellow and associate lecturer in the History of Science Department at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His forthcoming book, Political Fallout, traces the origins and development of worldwide contamination by radioactive fallout from atmospheric nuclear-weapons testing as one of the first truly global environmental problems.

Get Directions
Event Date
Event Time