[WSF-Discuss] The radioactive cloud, media and the limits of our globality

Geoffrey Pleyers Geoffrey.Pleyers at uclouvain.be
Thu Mar 24 07:30:44 CDT 2011

*/A brief summary of the radioactive cloud coverage. /*

  As many of you, I became a bit worried about this radioactive cloud. I 
have tried to gather some information to see if my family and friends in 
Europe, the US and Mexico were safe. As you may have similar worries, 
here is how I came across this conclusion after reading some newspapers.

For information on what is going on in Japan, look at the US press (eg: 
Last Wednesday, US authorities said last week there was a problem at 
reactor 2 before the Japanese authority acknowledged it. cf. NYT)

For information on the US, read French newspapers. (The graphic of the 
evolution of the radioactive cloud disappeared from the pages of the NYT 
when it was reaching California. It is now in Le Monde)



   [!! DOn't open the last link if you are in New York, as it seems that 
the hard part of the cloud is reaching us right now and that it may last 
a few days]

  For information on France, watch German TV. (To analyze the situation 
in Fukujima and its global consequences French TV guest as "neutral 
expert on the nuclear" was the CEO of AREVA, the world leading company 
in the nuclear sector/ On last Monday).

  And if someone cares about the situation in Belgium, just have a look 
at the weather forecast in attachment, which summarizes a couple of 
brilliant articles "La Belgique ne sera pas touchée par le nuage 


Fortunately, I only trust crosschecked information. So here is the truth 
I reach by removing the information that couldn't be crosschecked by 
various national newspapers:

   "Wherever you are, don't worry about the radioactive clouds. There 
won't  affect you. But you have been very lucky because the clouds 
passed just next door. Poor of your neighbors!" [... and what if we are 
  the neighbors of your neighbors?]

Well, the good news is that people seem to read newspapers and watch TV 
only in their own country. [And that's why they are safe! ]

In summary: don't worry, enjoy your day and keep reading your national 

Well, except those who are in Belgium and may come across this article, 
where a colleagues of mine at the U.C. Louvain explains that

  "on a beaucoup moins de chances d'ingérer une poussière de césium 
(l'un des composants du panache nucléaire) à Bruxelles qu'à Tokyo, 
puisque la matière s'est éparpillée, mais que l'ingestion de cette 
poussière aura exactement le même effet où que l'on soit -- la distance 
n'ayant pas altéré la radioactivité des particules de césium 137, qui ne 
diminue que de moitié tous les 30 ans."


  Once again, that's only valid for Belgium. So if you are not in 
Brussels these days, don't worry! [And if you are, have another look at 
"Le Monde" or any French newspaper. They all assert there is not even a 
minor risk for health.)

The age of Internet and Facebook may have helped to start some people's 
revolutions in the Arab world, it has still a long way to go before 
coping with the nuclear lobbies and to provide reliable information.

  In any case, I just wanted to say that you shouldn't worry and hope 
you will all have a very nice day!

  Don't hesitate to diffuse this message widely, to make sure that the 
people you care about you don't have unnecessary worries (but don't send 
it out to friends in neighboring countries, as their situation seems 
quite frightening!)

  Geoffrey Pleyers

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