The earthquake in Japan had quite a few people on the West Coast of America worried. Not just for the tsunami that caused quite a savage ripple in the Santa Barbara harbour. A couple of days after the disaster struck, I was in a meeting put on by the local medical society. The nurse giving the talk spent a good fifteen minutes creating a maelstrom of panic about the radioactive cloud headed our way.
Apparently she'd already sent her husband to Costco. With a list.
There were worried glances. One of the less mentally agile in the room asked if we would be able to see the cloud coming. It was going to make landfall in a matter of hours. There was talk of iodine tablets, of stocking up with supplies for the five days we would all be quarantined inside our buildings. People asked if we should eat the vegetables in our gardens or drink out of the tap. Everybody does so enjoy a brief flutter of panic.
Bearing in mind this was IF the reactor blew and IF it came our way.
That's when I thought - hang on a minute. The Fukushima reactor is thousands of miles away from California. Thousands more miles than Chernobyl was to the north of England.
Today marks the 25th anniversary of the Chernobyl meltdown. Twenty-five years ago this week a huge radioactive cloud drifted across the north of England, and we, well for as much as I can remember, we were told not to play outside in the rain. I think for a year we were advised not to eat local lamb as they had stayed outside in the rain - but that was pretty much it. I know for a fact that we ate the fruit and veg growing in our garden. We drank water straight from the local reservoir. Did we just panic less, or was there nothing we could do?
I am surprised there wasn't much mention of Chernobyl when Fukushima was threatening to melt down. I was even more surprised when my assistant at work hadn't even heard of Chernobyl.
God I feel old. And radioactive. Does that make me invincible? Like irradiated food, will I fail to go bad? I'm sure we all just got a dose equivalent to an x-ray or a half hour mobile phone call.
I am not discounting the threat of a nuclear meltdown. Not at all. There is a nuclear power plant about two hours drive away - Diablo Canyon - that is both on the coast, thus in a tsunami-risk area, and it's on a fault line. That is something to worry about. It was just interesting to be in a room full of panicking people and to find out that I'd actually gone through their def com delta moment before, without even realizing it.