The answer is far too complex for this forum. The best way to understand is to access first-person, credible information sources, read them thoroughly and use your critical thinking skills. There is a real problem around this disaster with failing to evaluate the source of info and the credibility of the author.
Example: An article from an MIT doctor ‘why I’m not worried about fukushima’ has been widely circulated as the voice of reason. If you go back to that article the SOURCE is clearly stated: the association of japanese nuclear power producers (the companies that are financially responsible in case negligence is established later). The AUTHOR has a doctorate in corporate risk analysis, not nuclear energy.
Example: The graphic radiation map showing doses of 750 rads on the west US coast. Hello. It comes from godlike productions. No sources for info are cited. That should be enough to ignore it.
The MIT article is not a credible source of expert opinion. Bloggers are not credible sources. Youtube is not a credible source. Neither are bean-counters or corporate press releases.
Credible sources include qualified experts whose credentials are relevant and can be confirmed, international oversight agencies, US scientific agencies, like the NOAA and USGS, and international news agencies like bbc and reuters.
See the links to legitimate info sources below. Read. Think. Discuss. You will have a more balanced grasp of things and be prepared to critically evaluate BOTH the feel-good propaganda AND the hysterical ranting.
The International Atomic Energy Association’s Incident and Emergency Centre with regularly updated reports on nuclear and radiological events, including security and disaster related events.
A very specific description of the Int’l Nuclear Event Scale (like Richter scale) that specifies exposure levels, methods of exposure and scales against previous events (Chernobyl etc). You’ll hear newscasters throwing around these numbers.
Site for environmental health care professionals; this links to a post-Chernobyl research review on the efficacy of recent radiation treatments, breaking down the studies scientifically and reporting on the results. 3-part series.
Link to BBC live Japan feed, which also includes info on the international response not being covered in US (Example: EU will review all 143 nuke plants in europe by end of summer and shut down those that don’t meet new higher safety standards; Germany has already decommissioned one plant and is in process of dismantling a second.)
Last, the website is fringy but you can’t argue with the authors credentials, which can be CONFIRMED. Stoneleigh’s master thesis at Warwick University in Coventry, England, was nuclear safety research. Later a research Fellow at the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies, where her research field was power systems, with a specific focus on nuclear safety in Eastern Europe. The monograph she wrote sets the nuclear safety debate in the political and economic context of the collapse of the Soviet Union. It looks at the technical aspects of nuclear safety, safety upgrade programs, safety culture and the human factor, regulation at all levels and bargaining over reactor closures.
Start here with Stoneleigh’s article from Mar 13, pieces of which have since been confirmed in the mainstream press. She steps you through atomic energy 101, the history of maintenance and safety violations at Fukushima, the known cover-ups (one Fukushima executive committed suicide a couple of years ago after Japan discovered they were hiding a low-level leak in cooling system), the physical layout of the plant, the difference between Fukushima and Chernobyl, the most likely scenario (BTW she named on Mar 13 every step that’s been taken and in the order they’ve taken it). Subsequent updates afford a BALANCED view of current safety risks. This is a must-read: http://theautomaticearth.blogspot.com/20…