Context -- some background information -- is certainly needed for articles such as Florida Oil Spill Law's Radiation around Fukushima nearing levels where “humans vomit uncontrollably” and “hair can be stripped from the body” -- but don't blame FOSL, they were trying to give context. The problem is that their source, UK's The Sun (Nuke Cloud Crisis), is not a trustworthy one (in my opinion); they are leveraging the fact that we want context, that we want understanding, into more 'hits' or reader popularity (think NY Post). At the same time, and also for 'hits', The Sun is deploying the scare factor, and giving no context to back it up. That's right, no context or external standard, no sieverts or rems.
This may result in unnecessary freaking out.
May I offer, as an antidote and prophylaxis, some much needed comparison and context so we can see exactly how scary this is. This is the best explication of context I so far have found (more on that below): Japanese Reactor Radiation - The Numbers --- the author (a rocket scientist, according to the profile) analyzes "The radiation at the perimeter of the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Station, otherwise known as Ground Zero" (I'm assuming this is reactor #3) :
About 1800 times normal. Stand there for a year, and you'd get your annual dose for a radiation worker. Do it for a week, and you'd get the annual dose for a civilian. Not too bad so far.
But look at Monitoring station 2. That's over 10 times more. More concerning, the trend is increasing. That means radioactive material is slowly leaking from the containment vessels, in amounts certainly indicative of severe damage to the rods - a partial meltdown - and maybe even the far more severe meltdown, involving about half the fuel, found in 3-mile island. Since the reactors are now poisoned, very little additional fission should be occurring, yet external levels are still rising. That suggests a more severe meltdown, and a consequently a longer cooling-off period.
Reactor #1 might not be the culprit. I think it's worse than that, it's dead, Jim. Moving towards room temperature. An ex-reactor. Bereft of fission, it rusts in pieces. Reactor #3, the one which burns a plutonium-uranium mix, and is nearly twice the size, that might have really gone pear-shaped.
I could be wrong here, I'm working off limited information.
So there you have it. Don't get me wrong, FOSL (Florida Oil Spill Law) is a fantastic source. I recommend them. Being thus misled, as above, is not common (even though it happens from time to time), and they have quickly become my top news aggregator during this serious crisis. As they continue to be for news regarding the Gulf of Mexico Oil Disaster and its unfolding consequences. Check them out. Tell your friends, especially if they, like mine, are freaking out. (Hey, if you want feedback, join the forum, there are good people there).
But A.E. Brain has been the first to provide, more intelligibly than Wikipedia for this freaking out child of the cold war, the background information we so desperately need. I need. You need. Read it. I'm going to go read it again, myself.
Be seeing you.