Measures of radioactivity and the radiation: Becquerel and Sievert
The purpose of this section: Understand the science to determine your own risk
Radioactivity is an ability to emit radiation. Honestly I didn’t know the difference between radioactivity and radiation a while ago. If you also don’t, this article is for you.
As a citizen I am most interested in “safety.” But the problem of radiation is that we cannot see it directly. Also there is not so much available experimental data on safety of radiation. If we want to know it in a scientific way, we need to perform an experiment. That means we would probably need several thousand subjects and we would have to put them into some controlled environments with different radiation for many years. Then we could know what kind of dosage affects the human body. But this kind of experiment raises a lot of issues. Since we cannot make such an experiment, we cannot know for sure. Each specialist has different opinions. It is hard to make a constructive discussion about radiation safety. What we could do is basically avoid the radiation. However, if that is difficult we need to judge the risk on our own based on available information, although we saw what happened when we just believed some authorities in Fukushima as they told us “atomic reactors are safe”. We just didn’t know what they meant by “safe.” I think this time we should understand the problem on our own.
Here I can only provide some information from the government and from other sources. First we would like to understand it, because if we cannot understand what it means we cannot judge the risk. For example, what the Becquerel means. What is the difference between radioactivity and radiation. Let’s try to understand these words.
The goal of this appendix is to learn how to read and understand the information. Let’s get started.
The knowlege of basic words: Radiation, radioactivity, and so on.
The question “Whet is radioactivity?” is related to the one “what are atoms?” The concepts of atom and molecule is very common in nowadays industry, and we learn them in public school. When I learned them, I did not realize that these concepts are related to everyday life and to our surrounding industry, or I just missed it, and you might miss it too. What is electricity is also deeply connected with atoms. You use electricity everyday, but can you answer the question, “What is electricity?” if your children asked you? I learned it when I was in a junior high school. If you also forgot them, but suddenly the newspaper started saying, Cesium 137, Cesium 134, and so on, you can look up your old physics textbook. If you have a child in junior high or a high school, you can ask them. You can also find this information in the Internet.
One way to start to know what is an atom is looking up Wikipedia . You can also find online chemistry courses (e.g. ). Usually such courses do not provide information about radiation safety, but at least you can find what is radiation. That is a good start to understand the issue of safety.
Japanese officials provide some information about radiation safety. For instance, “How to be safe for all of you (みなさまの安全確保) .” You can find some criteria for the radiation safety in it. However, it is written as “Assuming 1mSv/y internal exposure, drinking water should be less than or equal to 10Bq/kg .” You can also find a terminology list at . If you can understand that, you can stop reading this article here. In case you do not understand that, I will try to explain how I understand it. For example, what is Sievert (Sv), what is Becquerel (Bq), why we see sometimes a unit like Bq/kg, what is the difference between mSv/y and mSv? Most importantly, why should I care? Even if we know the meaning of their terms, it is still difficult to determine the risk, but at least we can understand what it means. This could be a foundation of your own decision for the risk evaluation.
I tried to make this article as precise as possible, but there is a limit. Please do not just believe this article blindly. It is important to understand the problem yourself.
- Wikipedia En, Ionizing radiation, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ionizing_radiation, [Online; accessed 2016-1-13(Wed)
- Khan academy, Chemistry, https://www.khanacademy.org/science/chemistry, [Online; accessed 2016-1-18]
- 首相官邸, みなさまの安全確保 http://www.kantei.go.jp/saigai/anzen.html/, 「計画的避難区域」及び「緊急時避難準備区域」の設定について, http://www.meti.go.jp/press/2011/04/20110422004/20110422004-2.pdf, 2011, [Online; accessed 2014-12-21(Sun)]
- 厚生労働省: 原子力被災者生活支援チーム, 原子力発電所外に適用されている放射能に関する主な指標例, http://www.meti.go.jp/earthquake/nuclear/pdf/120427_01a.pdf, [Online; accessed 2014-12-26]