Motegi MotoGP: Radiation Doses Explained

One of the things that has come up again and again when discussing whether or not the MotoGP race should go ahead at Motegi is the levels of radiation that riders, teams, journalists and fans might potentially be exposed to, and the related dangers such exposure might bring. As radiation is one of the most poorly understood - by the general public, at least - of risks that humans are exposed to, it is helpful to visualize such exposure in some other way than with raw numbers alone.

In the aftermath of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami, and the severe damage to the Fukushima nuclear plant, the extremely entertaining science and computer cartoon blog XKCD produced a handy chart illustrating the exposure produced by a range of activities. Here's the chart (click on the chart for a full-size, easy to read version):

Radiation Dose Charge from

For comparison, current levels of radiation at Mito - the town where most of the riders and teams stay during - is 86 nanosieverts or 0.086 microsieverts (µSv) an hour (measured at 1am local time on July 20th, 2011). Over the course of a six-day stay in the region (though teams will often stay for just five days), a person would receive just under 12.4 µSv of radiation, about 60% of the dose of a single chest x-ray. By comparison, radiation levels in Chemnitz, where the teams generally stay during the German Grand Prix at the Sachsenring, were about 100 nanosieverts, or 0.1 µSv an hour. Staying in Chemnitz for 6 days exposed the teams to 14.4 µSv of radiation.

Naturally, the background radiation levels are just one part of the overal risk assessment of going to Motegi for the Japanese MotoGP round. There are other threats: another earthquake in the highly geologically active region and along the now highly active fault could cause further serious damage to damaged Fukushima nuclear plant; the efforts to stabilize the situation at the plant could fail dramatically, release large quantities of radiation into the atmosphere; or another earthquake could cause structural damage in the buildings the teams are staying, potentially endangering those in the building at the time. However, what the above the chart shows is that the background levels alone are not cause for concern. 

For a full report on the risk of developing cancer from radiation, see this report by the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer. And for a comparison, see the report on the cancer risks of smoking from the same body.

Thanks to Douglas Edmiston for the links to radiation levels in Japan and Chemnitz, and thanks to Randall Munroe for assembling the radiation chart, and especially for putting together the fantastic and hilarious - in an intensely geeky sort of way - website.

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Excellent article.

Sadly the conspiracy theorist lobby will write off all this evidence as part of some form of global cover-up. The problem is that there is no way for a single article (even with references) to make up for the lack of an education.

I suspect that Stoner and Lorenzo (and many of the readers here) subscribe to the old "I've made up my mind, don't confuse me with facts" school of thought. Too much time racing motorcycles when they should have been in school...

350km/h down the main straight, yay!
Nah, they should tough the hell up and just race at Motegi, while also expressing sincere appologies to the japanese in face of their, the riders', stubborness.

The chart says "Extra does to Toky in weeks following Fukushima accident (40mSv)"....shouldn't that read 40uSv?

Obviously it is a misprint, the scale of the green squares is correct.
40mSv are levels one would have got if staying around the plant without taking shelter.


Radiation is not this simple.

Ionizing radiation is the type that can cause DNA damage and therefore cancer. Cell phones don't make ionizing radiation, and therefore they don't cause cancer. That much is simple...

But even being concerned about ionizing radiation is not that simple.

It is not valid to just compare numbers of sieverts or rems of ionizing radiation without considering how they radiation *interacts with* the human body.

It is a vastly different thing to be exposed to ionizing radiation from gamma rays while flying an airplane vs. ingesting a radioactive Cesium particle via some Japanese tap water that continually throws off ionizing radiation to the same tiny tissue area inside your body over and over for months or years.

It is likewise a vastly different thing to receive X sieverts from a chest X-ray than to receive X sieverts from a TSA body scanner -- the ionizing effects of the chest X-ray are dispersed throughout the large volume of your chest cavity, while the TSA body scanner's ionizing effects are localized to and concentrated in just the outer few millimeters of your skin.

The chart from XKCD reflects a *fundamental ignorance* on the part of its author.

I realize that this issue is more than just about background radiation. I am aware of the danger of hot particles, (an interesting video on the subject can be found here), and that they can cause a lot more damage than ordinary environmental radiation. This was one of the reasons I listed the other potential problems to be considered when weighing up the pros and cons. However, the chart above is meant mainly to give a global idea about the amount of radiation people are exposed to on a daily basis. The intention of the article and posting the chart was not meant as a thorough and comprehensive treatise on every possible danger surrounding a trip to Motegi. I have neither the expertise nor the time to walk through all of those issues.

Probably a better way to think about ionizing radiation and the cancer it causes is to think about playing Russian roulette.

Every ionizing particle shot at you can be thought of as a pulling the trigger once in a game of Russian roulette, but using a gun with one bullet among thousands of chambers instead of six.

The sensible thing to do is minimize all exposure to ionizing radiation. Some exposure is unavoidable, but there's no "safe level".

Completely agree with the Russian Roulette analogy. But I would add this corollary: it's like playing Russian Roulette with a gun with millions of empty chambers and only a couple of full ones, and nobody can tell you exactly how many empty chambers there are, nor exactly how many bullets.

As for a "safe level" one thing that Casey Stoner asked when confronted by journalists about his fear of going to Japan was "Can you guarantee that it's 100% safe?" This is a common and understandable desire, but there is not a single activity that is 100% safe. There is, in essence, no "safe level" for exposure to living, the mortality rates are still 100%, despite the best and rather interesting efforts of the scientists.

So it comes back to minimizing exposure. The amount of time these riders spend passing through airports and their attendant security scanners, and having x-rays and CT scans already gives them a very high exposure to ionizing radiation. The additional risk posed by racing at Motegi is arguably very low indeed, and possibly negligible. Racing at Motegi is an extra risk, but the extra risk is probably less than the extra risk from racing at Phillip Island, where the danger posed by solar radiation is much greater than in the Northern hemisphere. (Well, when it stops raining, anyway ...)

I'd put it at 100s of 1000s if not millions. If the exposure was certain to kill 1/1000 it would be an unacceptable risk.

It's a poor analogy in that Russian roulette = certain death where cancer is not, and that your numbers suggest a far more highly probably event than likely.

And to discuss any probabilistic event out of context of other risks is further misleading.

If there is no safe level of radiation, there is no safe road to drive on, no safe food to eat, no safe water to drink, no safe air to breath and no safe place to live. Of what use is the statement that there is no safe level of radiation?

The difference in the way different forms of radiation interact with the body is taken into account in the definition of the Sievert, as opposed to the Gray.

To put things in perspective, you might find it useful to look at what has actually happened as a result of the radiation leak at Chernobyl:

I'll extract a couple of quotes:

The Expert Group concluded that there may be up to 4 000 additional cancer deaths among the three highest exposed groups over their lifetime (240 000 liquidators; 116 000 evacuees and the 270 000 residents of the SCZs). Since more than 120 000 people in these three groups may eventually die of cancer, the additional cancer deaths from radiation exposure correspond to 3-4% above the normal incidence of cancers from all causes.

That's for people who worked inside the plant, and those very close by. It should also be noted that the majority of the cancers diagnosed so far have been thyroid cancers, typically caused by exposure during childhood. Interestingly, there has been no reliable evidence of an increase in leukemia, a recognised consequence of radiation exposure as shown from the Hiroshima data.

A better guide to the exposure levels at Motegi is probably those who were NOT evacuated but lived in regions of increased radiation exposure. However, these people were exposed at those levels for years, not 6 days.

Projections concerning cancer deaths among the five million residents of areas with radioactive caesium deposition of 37 kBq/m2 in Belarus, the Russian Federation and Ukraine are much less certain because they are exposed to doses slightly above natural background radiation levels. Predictions, generally based on the LNT model, suggest that up to 5 000 additional cancer deaths may occur in this population from radiation exposure, or about 0.6% of the cancer deaths expected in this population due to other causes. Again, these numbers only provide an indication of the likely impact of the accident because of the important uncertainties listed above.

As David has mentioned, the risks due to smoking are massively greater... and a few of the riders have raced on cigarette packet replicas.

It always amazes me how easily ignorant people tend to acuse others of ignorance...

1) As GrahamB29 kindly explained to you, the biological effects of ionizing radiation are taken into account in the Sv unit; and that's the whole point of using it. You may argue weather those are accurately estimated/predicted, but that's another matter.

2) Your inside/outside comparison is just as clueless. Sv remain Sv no matter how you put them, and the majority of the dose any living person is exposed it is actually "internal dose" coming from everything you eat on a daily basis (of which nearly everything is naturally radioactive). Actually, your body (just as that of nearly any living being) is "radioactive", you simply never cared to learn about it. Either way, you cannot escape "background radioactivity" no matter how hard you try, so it really makes little difference if you are being exposed from the inside or the outside (also reason why we use same Sv unit), except for some specific elements that accumulate on some tissues (not the case here).

Btw, of course Cs will keep irradiating you for years, actually, it may do it forever, but the question is not "will it", but "how much will it". For your information your body eliminates Cs, and its biological half-life time is just 110days, not "years".

So really, feel free to panic, but at least stop spreading fear based on your own ignorance.

PS: Read the following links, will do you good:

PS2: Yes, I live in Japan, my family and wife 40km North from Mito (i.e. close to the plant), and I do feel insulted by both the riders behaviour and people like you.


If there is talk about sieverts - then it is about ionizing radiation units. Not Gy, Rad or Rem.
Despite that 81% of ionizing radiation comes from ground (we can lower it by often ventilation) - we increase it severly by smoking, gas heating, gas cooking, using color tv`s or using fertilizers.
I lived for 15 years in concrete building which means I`ve received 100`s times more ionizing radiation than person living in wooden home. And...? It`s still way below any health influence...
300meters from my family house is monster pile of coalmine waste rock (one of 100`s in this part of country) where ionizing ratiation can reach 100 times value of concrete building and where now is recreational area and many people walks on Sundays. And...? It`s still way below any health influence...
Any of 1000`s coalminers can receive 100 times more (than I did several times walking by the pile) ionizing radiation working 1000meters deep with so many dispersed uranium around him. And...? It`s still below any health influence...
What about uranium coalmines? Why civilized, fully computerised, modern uranium coalmine companies does not provide any radiation protective clothes for their workers?
Numbers can scare 500 microSieverts sounds scary comparing to 0,5miliSievert. It`s easy to scare people or even make panic.
Yes - spending 5 days in Motegi is not 100% safe - but for sure it`s safer than spending same time in NY (including influence of ionizing radiation) :)
I`m not nuclear scientist (my brother is). I`m data technician working with racers and if I compare (coming of the track) their information about what was happening with data from data acquisition system - They are wrong (not by the purpose but by the feeling) in about 75%... Data works for me and convinces me most.

...chill out... :)
Racer faces many dangers and faces his fears and here comes another one but way different and unusual. If they are most influenced by placebo effects - can anyone make 17 antiFukushima pills filled with powder sugar and everyone will be happy ;)

It would be so cool if a sensible minded rider **cough** Colin **cough** indirectly called out the other "**ssy" riders, as he likes to refer to them, by saying something like "hell yeah I hope those p****ys don't come to Japan, I could use the points!"

On a more serious note. It upsets me when I observe otherwise rational minded people making decisions based on unfounded fears. I thought the reporters during the press conference (especially the Japanese reporter) were extremely forgiving and overly polite when they basically held a mirror to the faces of Stoner and Lorenzo to show them their own hypocrisy of "Supporting Japan" but refusing to go to Motegi.

When I mentioned this point to a friend I was told the usual "Well you can't blame the riders for being apprehensive about going there what with the radiation and all".


As it has been stated by better men than I. "You are intitled to your own opinion. But not your own facts."

The level of radiation exposure at Motegi is not a matter of subjective opinion any more than the force of gravity acting upon an object is.

So disappointing...

I've read a lot of bunk about the English-speaking motorcycle press being both better educated and more inclined to think racing in Motegi this year is a good idea. Every time I read it, I roll my eyes and think less of the author.

Perhaps folks should keep in mind just who designed these power plants that failed and caused the radiation problems in Japan: well educated, English-speaking folk from GE.

Perhaps folks should look up the fate of many of the extremely highly educated folk who did the pioneering research into nuclear technologies. Check out how many of them died of nasty, rare cancers.

Having given the matter some more thought, the issue could also be related to the different ways that Northern Europeans and Southern Europeans view their governments, and authority in general. Both Spain and (more especially) Italy have a political culture which appears to be more susceptible to corruption (Spain is ranked 30th on the Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index, Italy 60th, while Northern European countries dominate the top of the table). This in turn engenders a lot more distrust of government and authority in its citizens, as corrupt politicians and organizations are more likely to make decisions based on personal gain rather than objective benefits for the general public. As a consequence, when governmental bodies make pronouncements, it appears that the Spaniards and Italians regard them with a large dose of scepticism.

I agree that could be the case.

I sometimes wonder whether it is easier to judge the actions of governments that are clearly selfishly corrupt vs. those that actually operate with the best of intentions while causing grave harm.

As an Italian living in UK I can only agree with your observation David. Luckily, Stoner and the others may listen not only to their governmental bodies but also to scientists. As many others have already pointed out, this is a matter of statistical analysis of risk factors. One thing is to understand the psychological reasons for the pilots to be scared to race in Japan. Another is to scientifically assess the risks involved by the exposure to the current level of radiation. Pilots are entitled to their beliefs and to their fears. Physics, Biology, Medicine and Statistics tell us that their beliefs and fear about radiation are irrational and grounded in ignorance. Hardly surprising.

... it's not just riders. Anyone who has observed the debate on mobile phones and brain cancer, or worse, mobile phone towers and cancer, has had plenty of opportunity to see totally irrational behaviour from some very well educated people.
For some it is simply fear of the ideas "cancer" and "radiation". For some, it is personal identification with arguments that simply are not supported by evidence.

The publication of the report cannot come soon enough. Hopefully a way will be found for some people to back away from their positions without losing too much face.

For me, the talk of radiation levels and stuff just does not matter.

It comes down to the phase: "With you, Japan"

Stoner and Lorenzo just don't get it. Their fans in Japan, as well as many employees of the companies that support them, have to live with the conditions in Japan EVERY DAY.

Are they trying to tell us they can't deal with these relatively small safety issues for five or six days? Really? And where will radiation dosage while in Japan rank on the list of things that are likely to hurt Stoner or Lorenzo?

Is Radiation a bigger danger than -- I don't know -- RACING A MOTORCYCLE? Anywhere? Seriously, you guys picked a hyper dangerous profession. And you're more afraid of radiation than you are of a high-side on cold tires at more than 100 MPH at any MotoGP track. If you are, your delusional.

We're no better. We're talking about them as if they were ordinary TOURISTS!

ANYWHERE they go on the Motogp tour, the most likely way they are going to get hurt is in either practice or the race. By a longshot. If they want to minimize their risk profile, there is only one meaningful way to do it: Stop racing.

My guess is that after that, the most likely way they are going to get hurt is while traveling between the track, the hotel and the airport. This would be true for any of us.

RADIATION, no matter who's numbers you believe, is going to be WAY DOWN the danger list. And it's something that the people in the area are dealing with every damn day. The only way you can show that you are "With you, Japan" is to be with the people of Japan for five or six days. It's the least you can do.

There are at least two factors at work here:

1. I don't know about you, but I'd much rather break a few bones than get leukemia. In other words, it's not just how much danger, but what type.

2. I suspect that racers, especially at and to get to this level, basically have to convince themselves that racing is inherently less dangerous than logic and fact would dictate. I think sometimes when you see racers lose confidence and become cautious, they're really just looking at racing more objectively. This is probably part of why the younger folks rule racing.

Also, the "With you Japan" slogan is clearly mandated by the Japanese manufacturers. I just don't expect racers to be moralist leaders -- their profession seriously limits their education.

I agree. Obviously if you don't know or can't give physical shape to a danger it becomes as big as your imagination. Riding is a familiar danger...radiation on the other hand...?!? Ignorance is this case it's fear.

Radiation levels aside, I just seriously question whether staging a race in the area still trying to recover from the disaster is in fact the proper way of showing support. Instead of arguing about radiation maybe we should ask: do the local people *want* the race? Not politicians, not racing officials, but the people on the streets? Will it assist the economy or will it drain resources that would be better used rebuilding the area? Is staging what is in the end a self-indulgent entertainment really the appropriate way of showing respect? Or is it just Dorna and manufacturers chasing their profits under the guise of 'respect'?

To be honest, I don't know the answer to these questions either. I just think that if I were Casey Stoner asked about his apparent hypocrisy, that would be my line of defence.

This is not about politicians, but:

1) Injecting money, and these events inject money for many local communities that have been severely hit by a triple disaster: quake+tsunami+(unfounded) radiation fears. A week of increased MotoGP-related activity will for sure have a positive impact on the region's economy.

2) Yet that impact won't be "that great", what is specially important for Ibaraki (Mito) and Tochigi (Motegi) prefectures, is that racing in Motegi will send the right message (there is no reason to fear) to the Japanese themselves.
- holding the race will for sure play an important role in restoring internal market confidence.
- not holding the event will have a negative (not neutral) effect on the local economy, since all Japan will read in the news: "MotoGP canceled because of radiation fears". That would hurt even more already struggling economies.

Stoner has no line of defense other than "listen, I may be a selfish spoiled kid with little education, absolute lack of "gratitude" and understanding of risk, but I am still a World Champion, I'm leading the title chase, and I just don't want to go to Japan". Then it's up to the organizers to see if they go without their "star" nor not.

I sure hope they come visit us (with or without Stoner).

It's quite comical to see everyone pointing the finger squarely at Stoner in this instance. Using a debate such as this, which has passionate views on both sides of the fence (much like the climage change debate) to further your bias is petty at best.

Considering all of the riders are unanimous (for once), apart from the Japanese riders of course - you could quite easily point the finger at any rider down pit lane in the same way that you just did.

Let's give it a try;

Rossi/Lorenzo/Pedrosa/Hayden/Spies has no line of defence other than "listen, I may be a selfish spoiled kid with little education, absolute lack of "gratitude" and understanding of risk, but I am still a World Champion, I pull crowds, and I just don't want to go to Japan".

I sure hope they come visit us (with or without Rossi/Lorenzo/Pedrosa/Hayden/Spies).

If you want to articulate your thoughts on the issue, you can do so without only using the part of the debate that is convenient to your cause, and leaving the other elephants in the room conveniently out of your justification.

You are highly-strung about the issue because you are obviously in Japan. I can completely understand your dissapointment and anger, and I would just be speculating if I said I would feel any different.

I personally believe that the riders opinion should be respected.

I am an Australian, and our only genuine understanding of the issue is what we have seen in the media since that first earthquake. There has also been hints and suggestions of the Japanese government only giving half of the story, or conflicting information to ease the minds of the population (and the world) that Japan is still a safe place to live and visit.

The very nature of the contradictions and conflicting statements causes scepticism. Me personally, based on everything I have read and heard (including this site) ever since the disaster(s) happened contributes towards how I see the Japanese situation - completely irrespective of what the facts or truth are.

There is no way I would take my family there at the moment. I don't care how many colourful graphs people pull out, or how many Japanese officials try to calm my nerves, or just how optimistic the workers sound on the ground. I don't care about how the radiation levels compare to a CT scan, or the sun, or Chernobyl.

It's pretty simple to me - there is just too much bullshit going on at the moment, so I'll just give it a skip and reassess next year. I don't blame the riders for taking that stance because I'm sure THEY don't know what to believe either, and that's why they are united on the matter.

Again, I don't blame you for feeling the way that you do - but in saying that I would like you to respect my view also. I don't care what statistics you can pull out, or what independent report says that everything will be just fine.

I'll just give it a skip thanks. Once the situation settles right down I will reconsider my position. We were going to be touring Japan later this year, so I'm not just basing my opinion on hypotheticals.

At the end of the day motorcycle racing as entertainment is a priviledge not a right. The riders don't owe us anything, and if Motegi gets skipped I will be dissapointed for the fans, but given the circumstances I will not be surprised in the slightest.


I'm sorry if you took that as an attack on Stoner and took it personal being Australian. I took the Stoner example because he was explicitly mentioned in the article and in the quote I was answering, but could have chosen any other rider for that matter.

And btw, I'm Spanish, so contrary to you, I don't have any partisan views on the matter. Differently from you:
- I find it lame to pretend it's OK "no to know what to believe".
- I don't feel grateful for riders to provide entertainment, but most likely they should be grateful to all the fans that allow them to live like kings while doing what they like most in life, a privilege very few in this world enjoy.
- I'm afraid it is the riders job to race. In the aftermatch of the quake many foreign firms made it pretty clear: "those leaving Tokyo for (unfounded) fears would lose their job", and I can't see no difference for motorcycling riders.

Basically what you say is what I believe Stoner should say: "I don't care about any rational/scientific/official explanation, I'm just afraid of it and I won't go". And that's perfectly fine with me, what is unacceptable (which is what I was discussing) is pretending to put that on the shoulders of Japanese people, as if you were doing them a favor...

There is a key difference though, which is that:
- Your job doesn't require you to go to Japan
- You are not paid by a Japanese company and riding a bike that is made in Japan by Japanese people on exactly the same area you don't want to visit.

Danielgr: could not agree more.


Absolutely. Its not the 'why not, why can't they go..' it's the attitude and the ethics that are being questioned. We go to Japan once a month...folks from my office got to Tokyo every week for work. Moto GP is work. There is an industry that survives on it. If it is business as usual for the rest of the world...why are MOTO GP riders special. Again...its fair for an employee in any organisation to say that he/she will not travel because he/she is scared. However it clearly defines their level of commitment to business partners in Japan and other employees. It also impacts bonuses, salaries and employment...and I think that is what is being discussed here.

From what I read in various sites, it is either Lorenzo or Stoner who started the campaign to boycott Japan GP. I read that Lorenzo met with Rossi to discuss about the boycott because he is influential in the paddock and Lorenzo's manager or lawyer drafted the petition. They said all gp riders except Aoyama signed on the petition, but it was before the Dorna decided to conduct the independent research. Rossi said after Sachsenring that he will decide after the research is issued. It cannot be helped that both of them were considered the crusaders for the campaign. It would have been more sensible if they wait for the research's outcome before they publicly say they do not go.

Stoner had nothing to do with the initial campaign, it was Lorenzo with Rossi as a willing accomplice. I believe Rossi & Ducati don't even have to protest as their Italian employment contracts protect them if they do not want to go. If Rossi was ever sandbagging I would say it was on this issue, if he decides to go I would be absolutely amazed; I think he made his mind up at the same time as Lorenzo and he is just playing his good media hand for as long as possible.

Thankyou all for the extremely interesting perspectives and information provided. Punch and counter punch - all valid and fascinating to read.

The timing of this, unanimous but one, decision by the riders does seem odd given how it has been made prior to the much awaited independent report. I can only speculate that this is a preemptive strike against Ezpeleta / Dorna by the riders, but for what ultimate agenda? Purely Motegi? Or is this the start of an Arab spring-esque uprising against MotoGP developments technical or otherwise?

Equating the risk of leukemia as a result of this trip to Japan to the risk of injury during the event is just silly.

Stoner's history puts his risk of a broken bone this weekend at what? 50-1? The risk of leukemia as a result of six days in Japan has got to be in the millions to 1.

For a tourist, it's Baseless fear. For motorcycle racers, fear of radiation verges on insanity.

What's next? They going to boycott Austin Texas in 2013 because of they might get hit by lightning or be involved in a tornado?

Disappointing is just the beginning.

The reason they wont go to Austin Texas is because the people there wear Big hats, fancy boots and carry guns.
But in that situation they will draft in riders from the AMA.
Just draft in riders from the JSB.
Nakasuga -Yamaha
Akiyoshi - Honda
Sugai - Ducati

Then give them the rides for the rest of the season. along with the salaries.
Im with Japan (all the way)

David, I'm glad for your comments above, because i was starting to get the impression that you dismissed any concerns as unfounded and based on ignorance.
I studied biology for a while, and among the first things we learned was that it is not possible to prove that something is absolutely safe. You just can never be sure that there are no (longterm) side-effects that are maybe (yet) unknown.
And while the xkcd-chart is great and helps to put things into perspective, it's not as easy as saying "the exposure will be so low, there is absolutely no risk".

Apparently, when it comes to radiation, there can be effects that shouldn't be there according to scientific knowledge. For example, a study in Germany found that children living near nuclear power plants had a higher risk of contracting leukemia:

"Overall, the study confirmed the correlation between the vicinity of the home at the day of diagnosis and the risk to contract cancer or leukaemia before the 5th birthday. However, the study cannot produce evidence, as to which risk factors cause this relationship."

And last year there was a higher cancer rate found in people living near a nuclear waste dump:

"The Lower Saxony government has said those living near a dilapidated nuclear waste storage facility have higher rates of cancer. Men have twice the rate of leukemia and women have three times the rate of thyroid cancer.",,6269113,00.html

According to scientific understanding, radiation should be much too low in both cases to explain the correlation.
But still it seems to exist. Maybe the studies are flawed, maybe they aren't, I can't tell.
But I believe that just because we can't explain (at the moment) how even small doses of radiation can have an effect on people, it doesn't mean they can't.
I think the same goes for cell phones. According to half of the studies there are no risks, but there are studies that found risks, and lately even the WHO classified cellphones as "possibly carcinogenic".
I'm afraid it isn't as simple as "Cell phones don't make ionizing radiation, and therefore they don't cause cancer."
But that's an entirely different story.

All that being said, I agree that while there may be risks associated with traveling to certain parts of Japan, they are negligible especially for a short timespan.
And I think the riders really should show their support for Japan by racing at Motegi, and I would personally go if i had the chance.

But I wanted to provide a counterbalance against the stance that some people seem to take, that anybody who thinks that there may be risks associated with going to Japan is ignorant and stupid.

I think you totally missed the point, with or without having studied whatever you have studied.

Obviously, "nothing can be 100% sure"; the point is never "is it 100% safe"? But "how dangerous it is"?

Living is "dangerous", and even before being given birth you are exposed to serious hazards.

The morning when you decide to go out, be it by bicycle, walking, public transport, your car, or your motorbike you know you are taking risks, highest in most places around the world if you are on two wheels. Yet you still do it, because it also has some benefits (gets you somewhere).

The moment you start breathing air in most cities around the world you are ingesting pollutants that will increase your cancer/premature death probability in considerable numbers, yet most people decide to live in cities.

The moment you go eating too much snacks and sweets (like the vast majority of the populations in developped countries) you know you are increasing likelihood of all kinds of long-term diseases, yet you still eat them 'cause they taste nice.

There is always a danger, the point is "is it high enough to give up on living?" The answer with radiation right now in Japan is obviously not, specially for riders of professional motor-racing on Japan-made machines. There is just so much to win (doing your job, pleasing your employer, supporting the people that supports you) and literally so little to lose (when compared with all the risks you are exposed to in your daily life).

I'm pretty sure the smoke of their racing machines while seating on their boxes has a much larger effect on the long-term health of any racer than whatever radioactivity they may be exposed to in Japan.

It is a shameful display, and extremely unfortunate that the only two title contenders left are such selfish and ignorant persons.

Maybe i missed the point, and i probably didn't express myself to well. I just wanted to give my point of view that i think that while paranoia isn't good of course, saying that everybody who thinks that there may be risks even if authorities say it's safe isn't necessarily just ignorant.
And you are right of course, nothing is 100% safe. Everybody takes a multitude of risks every day, but how people assess these risks is very different. Some people smoke, some ride motorcycle. Some don't worry about radiation, and some people worry a lot about it.
I only think that one shouldn't judge people that think otherwise too quickly.
But I'm no native speaker, so I'm having trouble expressing myself accurately...

As I said, I support the MotoGP race in Motegi, and I hope it will take place!
I'm very happy for Japan for having won the female soccer world championship, and I hope that the people in Japan will have as much normality restored as quickly as possible.

Long term exposure to low levels of radiation, chemicals etc is unknown and in all probability does increase some people's chance of contracting cancer.

Short term exposure to low levels of radiation is relatively safe, probably safer than driving your car, riding your motorbike or taking prescription medicine (one of my friends took two paracetamol tablets, and almost died because of a rare Stevens-Johnson Syndrome reaction).

I can understand them having concerns about the active fault line and further damage to the power plant if another event occurred whilst they were in Japan, but the current levels of radiation at Motegi are so low I find on this issue they really are acting paranoid and naive.

Seems to me that Stoner and Lorenzo have taken too much notice of scare stories about the situation in Japan, rather than listening to governments and recognised experts like the IAEA. Think Stoner said many others felt the same as he does. Maybe many people in the paddock look up to him and Lorenzo, and think whatever they say must be correct?
Or maybe the situation in Japan is portrayed very differently in the media than it is in the UK?
There is a round of the FIM world trials championship due to go to Montegi [subject to the safety report on Japan commissioned by the FIM] but i have not heard of any uprising by the riders not wanting to go.

I've read most of what's been posted here and certainly learned a little about ionizing radiation. The opinions on both sides (to go or not go) have been well articulated and rational. But, I simply can't bring myself to think ANYTHING other than what a bunch of spoiled, self absorbed, whinny little bitches these guys are, especially Stoner and Lorenzo. Sorry, right or wrong, it's what I think...

"the extremely entertaining science and computer cartoon blog XKCD produced a handy chart illustrating the exposure produced by a range of activities"

So it's an authoritative source then?

Despite having a physics degree, I readily admit that I am no expert on the environmental exposure/risk in Japan, but I also would not be persuaded either way by a source such as this.

The situation we have now, where there will be an independent report (funded by Dorna?) because the advice from the authorities actually responsible for this is so incomplete and open to interpretation, is simply ridiculous, and hardly likely to persuade anyone already suspicious of the process or the motives behind it.

What Stoner and Lorenzo need is for the truly authoritative sources (WHO and IAEA) to come out and state, unconditionally and unambiguously, exactly what the situation is and what the risks are, so that everyone is left in no doubts and can make a rational decision based on facts.

As it stands however, there is far too much hedging and limiting in all of the statements from authorities, with large gaps left in the data, leaving more questions than answers, and opening the floor to unproven, baseless claims and counterclaims from both sides... not unlike the climate-change debate.

xkcd is not an authoritative source, but they assembled that chart based on all of the information they could find on the subject. If you look at the chart, you will see a list of sources used, as well as a disclaimer. Posting the chart here was meant as a guide and an illustration of the exponential nature of radiation exposure, not as an authoritative and complete dissertation on the dangers faced.

The riders have been told to check the IAEA and WHO blogs on Fukushima. They have still reached the conclusions that it is dangerous.

I don't really want to talk about who does and doesn't read the website, as that would feel like bragging over their backs. Suffice it to say that people know who I am, many of those who read English occasionally glance at the site, and that includes some of the riders.

EDIT: And I realize that answer sounds a bit trite, but it's hard to answer that question without sounding like I'm bragging one way or another. I hope some of the people in the paddock will see the xkcd chart and think about it, though.

a little humility is an admired attribute. You've answered my question to all the extent that I require. I too hope they not only look at the chart, but read the very knowledgeable opinions of some very sharp contributors here.

"If you look at the chart, you will see a list of sources used, as well as a disclaimer"

I'm not dismissive of the information or sources, my point was that if I was already leery of the situation and risks, then this would hardly be likely to convince me either way.

Not surprisingly, the Japanese data is incomplete and subject to review (there was a recent "oops, sorry, the initial release was actually twice what we said") which will raise doubts in anyone's mind as to the value of such information, assembled by a non-authoritative source.

"The riders have been told to check the IAEA and WHO blogs on Fukushima. They have still reached the conclusions that it is dangerous."


I thought they had reached the conclusion that there is a lack of certainty about its safety - which is not actually the same thing.

I'm not suggesting that it's dangerous, and in fact I very much doubt it is, but if the riders are wanting assurance of safety, then given the official information available to date, it's hard to argue with their conclusion.

I suspect that riders are looking for an assurance from both the IAEA and WHO that it's absolutely safe to go there, and I doubt very much they are going to get that.

Whether or not they should be looking for such an assurance, I don’t know, but personally, I’m reluctant to judge/convict them on this, either way.

That's what they should do in my opinion.
There is no rational argument anyone could use not to celebrate this GP (and so many in favor to celebrating it), so the GP should take place.

If some riders don't want to come, that's their decision, others will grab the points. Don't worry about the people in Japan, we will still enjoy the race and pay our respect and thanks to those coming.

Bonus points for linking to XKCD. Always nice to see two or more of my interests colliding head-on.

I'm not a nuclear engineer, but the people who assisted in that chart's creation are:

I was lucky enough to attend the race at Motegi in 2008. If I had the money to do so again this year, I would gladly do it again.

I live in Tokyo, and I know lots of people who have their own Geiger counter measure the radiation level by themselves every day and there are some third party institutions measuring if the water is contaminated apart from the government. I come to the conclusion that there is no way that the government can manipulate in terms of air and water contamination by radiation. There is unknown factors and we cannot be 100% sure that there is no risk. But then, there is no place that is 100% safe. People here will have hard time to understand why both Stoner and Lorenzo are afraid of staying just a few days in Motegi where the radiation level is quite low and when both Indy and world trials are scheduled to race there before them. It has been more than four months since the earthquake, and we hardly hear about the events that are cancelled because foreign performers refuse to visit. If the boycott happens, I am afraid of negative publicity that the MotoGP may receive from media. The MotoGP is hardly mainstream sport here, but it can be singled out as the event that the riders boycott. When Yamaha, Honda, and Suzuki (in lesser extent) are pumping money into it, it is the last thing they want.

The Motogp is big event for Motegi. It will be the setback to the circuit operator and local people if it is cancelled. If both riders do not want to go, they should not, but the race should be carried on by the riders willing to participate. Both riders, especially Lorenzo are lobbying for the boycott, but I think most of the riders have not made up their mind. It is hard to believe there are no riders other than Aoyama who are willing to race there when Danica Patrick has raised no issue racing there.

I like how easy it is for everyone here to say they should harden up and go to japan, when none of us, with the possible exception of David, will have to join them. If there's one thing I detest in life it's people who believe they have the right to tell others what they should do with thier lives and what is good for them.

None of you know how you would react in the same situation, and you cannot know until you are in that situation.

I think one of the fears here is the lack of real information. The source David quoted has a pretty massive disclaimer in it, basically saying it may or may not be completely factual and if you go to Japan and die it's not their fault. The Japanese government has been heavily criticised for not being open about information on the problem right from the word go. The problem for the riders is that they are being pressured by DORNA and the factories to go and given stats to support that argument. But DORNA is not going to give them stats that are bad are they? That is the issue here. Does anyone really know the truth about the situation in Japan? If the graph David referred to is the best evidence available then it's a pretty poor proposition.

And can we please stop referring to this like it's just Stoner? Or even Stoner and Lorenzo? Rossi doesn't want to go either an nobody is slagging him off. Or Hayden, or Spies, or Edwards.

Grow up a bit eh?

I will go, just cant afford to.
the riders are under contract to ride at circuits around the world
there is no evidence to prevent them doing this.

which is the whole point of the article

there is a lot higher risk of them getting killed on track.

You need to look no further than the general populace at large who think we are all on some kind of death wish for slinging a leg over a motorcycle, racing of otherwise. Some are natural risk takers that truly wouldn't blink an eye at the negligible risk involved in spending a week in Japan 140km from a festering decaying decrepit nuclear power plant. Other daren't risk leaving the house for fear of stubbing their toe on the pavement. So I think it is fair to say that plenty of us would be true to our word when saying we would go. Who are you to second guess the way we assess risk?

All of which makes the riders decision somewhat odd since they are professional players in a game which has statistically far higher life and death ramifications than your average desk driver. Nevertheless I'm not about to castigate them for their assessment, particularly without knowing the factors behind the decision(s) they have taken - at this stage of events.....

I've said it before - in this thread - and I'm saying it again...I go To Japan often on work and have gone post the quake. I can assure you that I know a number of people who are fans of the sport and go to Japan 1 or 2 times a month on work. Its work, most professionals take it seriously...we follow advice provided by recognised authorities (our organisations provide us with travel advisories) and we follow them. Let's not forget...these riders are at work...they get paid (more than a lot of us because they take more risks).
As far as 'pointing a finger' at Casey and fans will always pick the spokesperson. Casey or anyone else in any walk of life has to be smart to enough pick their battles carefully...Stoner and Jorge picked this one...their call. Its all a part of the job.

David, is Stoner avoiding the race based on radiation levels or is he still maintaining his earlier stance that a MotoGP race isn't what the area currently needs?

His recent statements don't really say why he is choosing to boycott the race and i'm just curious.

Stoner is not convinced that the area is 100% safe, and he also believes that a race is not what the area needs.

It should be noted that 16 out of 17 riders have said they will not race at Motegi, so this is not just Casey Stoner. Stoner and Lorenzo were in the press conference, and so they have appeared live on TV saying they won't go. Dovizioso told me that he will not go, and Rossi - who earlier said he wouldn't go, and was instrumental in organizing the boycott together with Lorenzo - has now said he will wait for the report to be issued. But he hinted that he was not inclined to go.

Don`t you guys think that canceling the race is really not what Japan needs?
Don`t you think that boycotting racers are giving bad example that can influence some current and future economics for Japan. Maybe small but still.
Don`t you think that their behavior spread or cause some irrational fear... And their fear may influence/cancel/delay some international businesses with this area due to some "followers" (having them as an example)? Because if it is so - it can be quite opposite to "With you Japan".
Off course no one can be forced to work in the place that he doesn`t want to. It`s all about contracts, spare riders and so on.
I think that there should be no pressure made on "petition-racers". There is so many talented riders that will be grateful with opportunity to race in Motegi. Maybe some platinium (err... caesium ;)) talent can came up with such solution!
I`ll put my money for Gino Rea on Repsol Honda. :)
It`s just a thought (separate from "microSievert discussion")

Dyno, I openly admit that I have no knowledge at all on the area or the damage sustained. I would however be concerned if it was revealed that a racetrack was being repaired in order to run a MotoGP race before areas of more importance to the local population.

That said, I agree with you that riders boycotting a race due to some fear of radiation levels that is not backed up by international reports does more harm than good.


You may be right in direct meaning of work with racetrack reparation but in my opinion half a year after tragedy is no time when every helpful hand counts for cleaning streets and so on. But every dollar/yen counts. Track reparation (done by Honda Co.?) gives people work and money (they need both to see their future). Preparation for race event gives 1000`s of people (from fan flag maker, cleaner to race director) - the same - work and money they need. Race event by itself brings over 100 thousand people (many from abroad) spending money in that area, spending money in local hotels, shops, car rentals, souvenirs. Local people earns money and spends for new roofs or gardens - earning and spendings makes tax income for local goverments that are responsible for roads, schools etc. And what is most important locals feel that they are not gifted with international help and assistance. THEY EARN MONEY BY THEMSELVES. Spreading fear is making this area damned in eyes of many. Local budgets include incoms from Motegi GP race every year. Making decision to take away part of their budgets in a year that they need money most - is not right in my opinion.

I thought it was interesting in this time of need, that Honda immediately spent money on repairing a race track. Surely the money would have been better spent on those that were unfortunate, instead they spent it on a play ground for rich people. Business comes first I guess.

Posted this same chart in a comment on A&R the other day.
I lurk on slashdot a lot, and the discussions there have been a great source of information/debate on the incident in Japan. So reading this story here gives me a chuckle as I think of it in terms of common slashdot lingo:
"Obligatory xkcd:"

I'll say the same thing here that I said on A&R. There's science, and then there's religion. Radiation danger isn't a matter of faith and belief, it's a matter of science. There are measurements that can be taken. There have been countless studies on the danger. To plug one's ears and say, "La La La La I'm not listening! I BELIEVE it's dangerous!" is an irrational approach.

If the experts and scientific measurements and tests say it's safe, that's not an excuse. The question that remains is whether or not the race would be truly GOOD for Japan. If the answer is yes, I see no reason why not to go.

I agree with those of you saying that radioactivity levels should not be reason of concern for riders who will be there only for a few days, far from the source and possibly eating stuff that they will bring from outside Japan. But I also think most of us are forgetting that there is still a lot of seismic activity in the area and that it will take a loooong time to get the power plant safe. If I were a rider I would be concerned with this, I wouldn't want to be so close to a place that could become a disaster area at any time.

I'm definitely in the minority to the rest of the comments here that feel the riders are shirking their responsibilities. I've got one simple question : Can ANYONE guarantee that, regardless of local radiation levels, etc., that the power plant is completely stable and there's no chance of any kind of issues with the damaged plant/reactors??? For me, it's not about what's currently in the air but the instability of the whole damn plant and what might happen. It's been reported that the plant could still have major issues, earthquake or not. Is it really worth that risk with thousands of people for a sporting event? This isn't a life & death event, it's entertainment. I understand that the Japanese people would like to have a break from all that's gone on, I'm just not sure that's the best way to support them at this point and time. They still haven't even stopped the radiation from getting into the sea water yet. How is that anywhere near stable? Personally, I don't blame the riders for not trusting what the so called experts have said. There's been way too much misinformation put forward after this catastrophe put out by the Japanese government and other "agencies" that has been proven to be completely false. That really encourages trust, doesn't it?

just what Casey would have to do to become the whipping boy on this site; I wonder no longer. One more thing: I'm sure that the boycotting riders see this as a matter of control. When racing, they believe that they are in control (minus Simo's antics this year); however, in going to Motegi, the racers believe that they have absolutely no control over their destiny - hence they want no part of Motegi, and I don't blame them at all.

That's a very good summary of how the riders feel. It's about control. 

And blaming Stoner is, as you say, incorrect. The boycott was initiated by Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi, with Lorenzo doing much of the legwork. But Stoner has jumped in fully behind the boycott.

I think both Lorenzo and Stoner - but especially Stoner, as Honda owns the circuit - are going to find out the hard way what happens when their Japanese employers feel insulted. If Honda and Yamaha perceive their refusal to visit Japan as a slap in the face, they may decide to focus their efforts elsewhere.

I could see Yamaha getting over it, but I could see serious consequences at Honda.

The theory of control freak is attractive, but how does one explain the selectivity? When flying to Japan they completely surrender control to the airline industry (pilots, maintenance personnel, air traffic controllers) and are apparently happy with this. Come to think of it, they are allowing themselves to be manipulated by the scaremongers, which could be seen as handing over control to these people.

Looking even further, the same scientists whom they choose to not believe about this are apparently credible when they say an x-ray or MRI will not kill them. The same engineers whom they trust to build them a bike that will work at 300+ kph are suddenly not to be believed about this?

I suspect that you are right about the reaction of the Japanese. There is an element of "you are all too stupid to understand the risk, but I know better" in the riders' attitude, which must be quite galling to take given whom it comes from. Honda especially has been known to have a long corporate memory. Interesting times ahead.

- "There is an element of "you are all too stupid to understand the risk, but I know better" in the riders' attitude ..."

As opposed to the "you are all too stupid to understand the risk, but I know better" attitude of the blogosphere? With so many apparent nuclear experts on the Internet, I don't know why Dorna commissioned a report when they could have just tweeted and had the answer in minutes.

Just in case you thought it was just the MotoGP fear monkeys, turns out that the Japanese are being more cautious than they're told they need to be, too.

With the Motegi situation, I think the problem is a matter of trust. Not a distrust of the science, but of the people supplying the information.

They are still battling to prevent explosions from reactor 1, and neither the company nor government appear competent/trustworthy on these matters.

Me? I'd might go, but I can certainly understand the reluctance of the riders.

- "The same engineers whom they trust to build them a bike that will work at 300+ kph are suddenly not to be believed about this?"

I know what you mean. I always go see my mechanic when I'm sick (or in need of financial advice). Experts is experts, and engineers have definitely come out of this disaster smelling like roses.

He can always get a ride on a CRT BMW. It might actually give CRT a chance :)

If I was Honda/Yamaha and Stoner/Lorenzo (or any other) didn't show. Then I would make sure he or them had square wheels for the rest of their days.

I know of at least one reader who is a bona fide rocket scientist. I'm hoping that a brain surgeon will own up to reading the site as well.

Do not think we need the services of a Brain surgeon, but maybe a Psychologist
might be handy!

Understand that Abraham as well as Aoyama want to go to Motegi [source Toby Moody Autosport]. And i believe Sofuoglu intends going.
If i remember correctly Crutchlow said several weeks ago that he would go to Japan if the others do. More recently Azi Farni asked Marquez about going to Motegi,and he replied that he would do what the Motogp riders do, and when Vinales was asked the same question, he said he would do what Marc did!
I know these last two are youngsters, but i wonder how many others in the paddock have this view of "i will do what the others do" ?

The motogp media is really starting to annoy me with this entire Motegi issue. They belittle the riders for being afraid and uninformed and then act like they have some kind of knowledge or expertise in the area. The riders admit they are not experts, but just don't want to take the chance. I am not saying I agree with this, but it is more annoying to me that members of the media act like they are experts. Toby Moody wrote an article implying that he has some kind of insider knowledge or expertise because he has a friend with a chemistry degree......okay...having a chemistry degree doesn't make you an expert in radiation exposure....even having a physics degree doesn't. I work at a US Lab, have a masters degree, worked with radiation sources, have built detectors, and trained as a rad worker...yet I would not claim to be the expert in this area like most of the MotoGP journalists are doing.

I can't believe the riders are carrying on like this to be honest. Every single rider on the MotoGP grid except for Karel Abraham have made a bloody good living feeding from the hands of the Japanese manufacturers and then, they act like this.

This not only shows a complete lack of respect towards the manufacturers and the Japanese contingent which permeates every part of the paddock, but more alarmingly, a lack of trust in their their own teams - never mind the FIM and Dorna.

Now everyone is entitled to make choices they feel are best to their own well-being, but these guys get paid a lot of coin to represent the factories and this carries with it a certain burden of responsibility.

The teams, with the backing of Dorna need to come down on this hard on this hard and nip it in the bud before MotoGP becomes a mollycoddling play pen for spoilt kids.

Zero, just what I thought. Now the rest of you go sit down and shut up and listen to someone that has.

I had cancer back in the dark ages of medicine (1972 I was 17), and I received 2 sieverts (200 REMs) A DAY for 19 days across my upper chest to cure my cancer (the most immediate side effect, it burned the flesh off my arm pits and made the hair on the back of my head fall out). Back then when I consulted radiation experts (I was treated at MIT, and later worked there), 800 REMS (8 Sieverts) WHOLE BODY SINGLE DOSE was generally considered a fatal dose of radiation. I did not receive it whole body, and did not receive it single dose, but I did receive a total of 38 Sieverts (3800 REMs).

I have health issues as a result of this radiation (replaced heart valve, lung fibrosis, under active thyroid, etc, etc), but it is 39 years later!

IMHO, micro and milli sieverts are not going to harm anyone. These racers need to grow a pair (odd saying that about the aliens) and HTFU.

That was tough going !!! This radiation danger business. I don't have any answers nor questions nor suggestions. One thing for sure, living is dangerous for your health.
I'm not about to post my life's 'risks taken' profile here,but I'm generally of the opinion that Rossi/Stoner/Lorenzo/Hayden and the rest get on the jet and play the game providing the general scientific concensus is that 6 days in Motegi is not Armageddon.
As I light up a Camel,sit on my ass and confide...there ain't no promised land nor guaranteed future. Enjoy it while you have it blokes. Fair enough...subject to general scientific concensus. We don't ride bikes,race bikes subject to morbid superstition. No 'whacko Jacko' oxygen tent existence for our sport future hence, I hope.
When your employer has not defaulted on a pay cheque, don't default on Monday morning's presence on the job unless you absolutely have to.
In the military we had a term called 'malingering'.

Interesting comments everywhere, both sides have good arguments, but If it was your job to be a soldier you're not going to complaint because it's dangerous outta there or are you? I wouldn't dare looking in the eye to any of the Japanese Honchos that throws gazillions of dollars at your little old motorcycle so that you can earn millions of dollars and be a rock star after such a letdown, the less I'd do is put them on the free agent list next year. The least I'd expect from the Japs would be guaranteed clean food and water(brought from the outside) some digital radiation badges monitored daily and if they really are paranoid givem lead suits, they're used to suits by now. I'm pretty confident the risk is negligible, compared to the risk of actually racing a bike with Sic around looking for a win.

Motegi should go.The Japanese people deserve the show by all means.