I remember the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, and the problems in Japan, though significant, are nothing to compare, except perhaps for the fifty or so people currently working immediately on or around the reactors who are potentially getting poisonous doses of radiation trying to plug the leak(s). Japanese government has done a decent job of preemptively evacuting people around the plant so that the risk to the public is minimized--the higher levels of radiation are heavily localized within the plant, with an exponential drop in exposures over even small distances. Americans in the contiguous US need not start wigging and buying iodide tablets! For a good dose of sense rather than hysteria about the situation, I recommend reading the comments responding to recent posts on the issue on BubbleHeads, a retired (nuclear) submariner blog--his readers and commenters, almost all fellow "nukes," are among the best informed people in the world about the realities and ramifications of nuclear power and dealing with leaks, spikes and shocks. I would say that the risk of contagious disease in the aftermath of the tsunami should concern people more than "what ifs" about radiation.
I am not only annoyed by the Chicken Little announcements coming from science-ignorant reporters, I am less than happy with the state of my own historical researches, as reading Pirogov makes me feel like I am dealing with a cross between Jimmy Carter and Stephen Hawking. Very intelligent, social-gospel oriented guy--would have probably won both the Nobel Prizes for Peace and for some form of scientific innovation had there been Nobel Prizes when he was around. But his philosophy of life was fundamentally egocentric, he was almost George Lucas-esque in his belief in a universal mind ("God" in his definition) and a life-force running through humans and the "higher animals." Niceness was his ideal, and a very static and shallow ideal it is, for all its inspiration to him to mitigate the suffering of soldiers in battlefield hospitals all over Europe (he was instrumental in the founding and propagation of the Red Cross). I don't know yet where I'm going to start with my biography, but I think it will be on his deathbed. Seventy-two hours to go yet before presentation of the chapter and I've thirty pages of criticism of the illogic of his worldview and diestic religious model in a file, but little else.