Thirty years on from the world's worst nuclear accident, millions of people are still living with radioactive fallout from Chernobyl. In contaminated areas, radiation touches every aspect of people's lives: it's in the food they eat, the milk they drink, and in the schools, parks and playgrounds their children play in. The human toll of reactor accidents is why nuclear power may never gain widespread acceptance, no matter how much the industry tries to reassure us that risks are low.
Smartphones, the Internet and accessible research technologies deinstitutionalize science and get the inner scientist in all of us outside to contribute to a broader understanding of a variety of topics, from backyard birds to flower-blooming times. Science relies on observation. As more people examine natural phenomena and record and share information, we gain better understanding of the world. An increasing number of scientific inquiries now depend on contributions from ordinary people to help them answer important questions.
An Internet search turns up an astounding number of pages about radiation from Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant meltdown that followed an earthquake and tsunami in March 2011. But it's difficult to find credible information. With the lack of data from government, the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution is asking the public for help.
Due to continued contamination following the Fukushima disaster, social media is now abuzz with people swearing off fish from the Pacific Ocean. Given the lack of information around containment efforts, some may find this reasonable. But preliminary research shows fish caught off Canada's Pacific Coast are safe to eat.
A year and a half after Fukushima and contamination levels in nearby fish are not declining as should be expected, reports marine chemist Dr. Ken Buesseler in an article appearing tomorrow in Science magazine. We need to know why, the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute scientist has been saying publicly for months now.
New hope for the nuclear power industry has arrived in the form of a brand-new nuclear power plant design -- known as small scale "modular" nuclear reactor, which is a profoundly better answer to the ultra-costly retrofitting of very old and large nuclear plants -- and long overdue for most of the world's reactors.