A New Vocabulary

A new vocabulary is gradually being learned, a vocabulary of crisis. A very particular crisis. The tsunami and earthquake in Japan shattered the reactors of the Fukishima-Daichi nuclear power plant north of Tokyo on the country’s east coast. If you haven’t heard about this then perhaps you should change the channel on the television or read a different newspaper. With the damage to the plant came a universal threat to everyone, especially those closest to the power plant. Radiation, a slow and silent killer, has been seeping into the air and Pacific Ocean.

The fire at the Fukishima Daichi nuclear power plant which is contributing to the radiation leakage


With this crisis new words have been constantly reappearing in the media at a frequency I’m unfamiliar with. These are words that determine our understanding of the severity of the situation. Words like radionuclides, radioactive silver, iodine 131, milliseverts, containment, cesium 134 and cesium 137. These words carry very particular meanings and their existence in our lives carries very particular consequences. These words may appear understandable when directly translated, but their actual meaning relies on more than the best your Oxford English dictionary can muster. These words have been absent from our vocabularies thanks to our own ignorance.

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