Daily Buzz

David Suzuki ‘regrets’ dire Fukushima warning

Canada's most trusted environmentalist, David Suzuki, spoke at a symposium on water ecology at the University of Alberta in October, 2013.

One of his remarks regarding Fukushima, a prediction that a second earthquake hitting the nuclear facility would mean the evacuation of North America's entire west coast — went viral:

"I have seen a paper which says that if, in fact, the fourth (nuclear) plant goes under in an earthquake and those (fuel) rods are exposed, it's bye-bye Japan and everybody on the West Coast of North America should evacuate," he said, citing the 2013 World Nuclear Industry Status Report. "If that isn't terrifying, I don't know what is."

The actual 140-page report, however, has no mention of evacuating the west coast.

In a brief passage, a "worst case scenario" is described in the event of the collapse of Fukushima's damaged Reactor Number 4 which would call for "evacuation of over 10 million residents in the wider Tokyo megalopolis within a 250-km radius of Fukushima Daiichi," the National Post reported.

The Province contacted nuclear energy analyst Mycle Schneider, the lead author of the report, to comment on Suzuki's statement.

"I'm indeed a little confused about David's statement," said Schneider. "To be very clear, I have never seen any credible source for a scenario implying the evacuation of the West Coast of North America. In fact, much of the attitude of people on the West Coast — like no more swimming in the ocean — seems utterly disconnected from reality."

He added, "I'm really, really shocked about the way it's being discussed in Canada. It's just totally insane."

Suzuki himself admitted that this statement was "an off-the-cuff response."

In an email to The Province, Suzuki wrote:

"I regret having said it, although my sense of potential widespread disaster remains and the need for an urgent international response to dealing with the spent rods at Fukushima also remains."

As Skeptoid's Mike Rothschild pointed out, Suzuki's scary warning carried weight because he isn't "some average internet crank." Still, he was speaking of something that falls far outside of his expertise.

"He's a highly respected guru, internationally honoured and venerated for his groundbreaking work — in genetics. What he is NOT is a nuclear physicist."

"And real nuclear physicists…disagree strongly with Suzuki. Many believe he is deliberately exaggerating the risks of the fuel rod removal in particular and the entire Fukushima situation in general," Rothschild wrote. "They believe the idea of Japan being obliterated and the US needing evacuation is ridiculous and totally implausible."

Rothschild added that most nuclear scientists agree that the "fear mongering" trend post-Fukushima disaster "has little or no basis in reality."