Again, it's coming back to nuclear power: the inscrutable black magic of the modern age, brought to the public eye again by the continuing crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi reactors in Japan. I think it's a fair thing to say that the average politician probably doesn't understand nuclear power all that well, because the average person doesn't understand it all that well either, and familiarity with nuclear power generation is not a prerequisite for political office in this or, to my knowledge, any other country.
Nevertheless, I think I like political systems more when its participants don't make such a show about how much they don't know. Case in point: Ontario, where Premier Dalton McGuinty - who, incidentally, is facing an election this October, and I'm sure that little fact has nothing to do with this whatsoever - has come under attack from the opposition New Democratic Party over "failing to tell the public about elevated levels of radiation detected" as a result of the events in Japan.
Because, you know, radiation is some unfathomable curse that has settled over the land, and things like half-lives don't exist.
"This government totally dropped the ball," said NDP leader Andrea Horwath, as quoted in the Globe and Mail on Wednesday. To what I say - what the fuck? Look, I know that the security of the public is the central responsibility of a government, but this is ridiculous. That slightly elevated radiation levels are detectable in Ontario as a result of Fukushima speaks to the quality of Ontario's radiation detectors, not the severity of the threat. Because there isn't one. Not in North America. Remember, iodine-131 has an eight-day half-life; air takes time to cross the Pacific, and even longer to cross the continent.
Let me break this down here. Health Canada's observations indicate that on April 12, the date this story broke, the average dose of radiation per day in Toronto was 0.28 microsieverts. Put another way - the average dose of radiation was almost as much as a person would get from eating three bananas, which are slightly radioactive due to their potassium content - and even though their radiation doesn't linger in the body, it's still a worthwhile benchmark.
Meanwhile, on the same day, Vancouver's average radiation dose was - are you ready for this - 0.44 microsieverts! Twice as much! But do you see people dying of radiation poisoning on Granville Street? No! Do you see the British Columbia opposition making noise about this? No! Why? Perhaps because they're overwhelmingly concerned with the political hay they can make out of the HST, but also perhaps because they're not morons.
Going over the situation, I can arrive at only two circumstances. Either:
- Andrea Horwath and those Ontario NDP members in the legislature who are pursuing this have seized upon this as an opportunity to attack McGuinty and don't care that they're spreading further cause for atomic fear among the population of Ontario, in which case they are opportunistic bastards; or
- They honestly think this is a real problem, in which case they're monumental dumbasses.