Two gas company servicemen: a senior training supervisor and a young trainee, were out checking metres in a suburban neighbourhood. They parked their truck at the end of the street and worked their way to the other end. At the last house, a woman watched the two men from her kitchen window as they checked her gas metre. When they had finished the metre-check, the senior supervisor challenged his younger co-worker to a foot race back to the truck to prove that an older guy could outrun a younger one. The co-worker accepted the challenge. As they approached the truck in full stride, the two men realized that the lady from the kitchen window was huffing and puffing right behind them. They stopped in their tracks and asked the woman why she was running so hard in their steps? Gasping for breath, she replied, “I’m not stupid… when I see two gas men running that fast, I figure I’d better run, too!”
When the Lord created the earth, He was good to give us sources of energy to keep us warm in the cold. And in each case, when one of those resources seemed to be running out, another one was found to replace it: from wood to coal to oil to gas to nuclear. But of the five, the last, nuclear, creates the greatest fear in people – not just in war-time (nuclear bombs), but also in peace-time (nuclear plants). So for those who live next to, nearby, or in the vicinity of a nuclear power generating plant (like we do with The Bruce), how much radiation concern should we actually be having?
To begin with, radiation is a fact of life and the resulting rays are not something that anyone can avoid. It’s called a millirem and it is the unit measurement for the amount of radiation we absorb into our bodies. The average Canadian takes in 620 millirem a year. Half of that amount (310 millirem) is natural radiation – coming from the sky above, the ground below and the atmosphere around us. In other words, even if there was no nuclear material, we would still absorb this much. The other half (310 millirem) is man-made. And this can come from any number of sources – the screen we view, the watch we wear, the light we turn on, the fossil fuel we burn, the smoke-detector we have, the medical tests we get. (A complete computed tomography body scan is one millirem. A mammogram is two-thirds of one millirem. A dental x-ray is one-fifth of one millirem, etc.). So, what is considered a safe yearly intake of millirem? The figure is 5,000 units (or about eight times the yearly average). But what if you live next to a nuclear power plant? How many yearly millirem is that? The answer is one-half of one millirem. Or to put it another way, a yearly hospital mammogram gives you more radiation than living 365 days a year next to a nuclear power plant.
A final note? One of the leading sources of radiation exposure is the food we eat (30 millirem a year). And the most popular edible source of these rays? Bananas. (A truckload of this fruit will set off the radiation alarm at the Canadian border.) But don’t worry. You’d have to eat 10,000 bananas a day or 10,000,000 bananas a year to die from its radiation. And even one banana a day, at year’s end, will only total 2.5 millirem.
The bottom line? Don’t go bananas over radiation.