Japan Nuke Crisis as Severe as Chernobyl

Associated Press Japan Nuke Crisis

This morning the following was posted on yahoo.news by the associated Press…


TOKYO – Japan raised the crisis level at its crippled nuclear plant Tuesday to a severity on par with the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, citing high overall radiation leaks that have contaminated the air, tap water, vegetables and seawater.
Japanese nuclear regulators said they raised the rating from 5 to 7 — the highest level on an international scale of nuclear accidents overseen by the International Atomic Energy Agency — after new assessments of radiation leaks from the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant since it was disabled by the March 11 tsunami.

The new ranking signifies a “major accident” that includes widespread effects on the environment and health, according to the Vienna-based IAEA. But Japanese officials played down any health effects and stressed that the harm caused by Chernobyl still far outweighs that caused by the Fukushima plant.
The revision came a day after the government added five communities to a list of places people should leave to avoid long-term radiation exposure. A 12-mile (20-kilometer) radius already had been cleared around the plant.

The news was received with chagrin by residents in Iitate, one of the five communities, where high levels of radiation have been detected in the soil. The village of 6,200 people is about 40 kilometers from the Fukushima plant.
“It’s very shocking to me,” said Miyuki Ichisawa, 52, who runs a coffee shop in Iitate. “Now the government is officially telling us this accident is at the same level of Chernobyl.”

Iitate’s town government decided Tuesday to ban planting of all farm products, including rice and vegetables, said local official Shinichi Momma. The national government earlier banned rice growing there but not necessarily vegetables.
Japanese officials said the leaks from the Fukushima plant so far amount to a tenth of the radiation emitted in the Chernobyl disaster, but said they eventually could exceed Chernobyl’s emissions if the crisis continues.

“This reconfirms that this is an extremely major disaster. We are very sorry to the public, people living near the nuclear complex and the international community for causing such a serious accident,” said Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano.
But Edano told reporters there was no “direct health damage” so far from the crisis. “The accident itself is really serious, but we have set our priority so as not to cause health damage.”

Hironobu Unesaki, a nuclear physicist at Kyoto University Research Reactor Institute, said the revision was not a cause for worry, that it had to do with the overall release of radiation and was not directly linked to health dangers. He said most of the radiation was released early in the crisis and that the reactors still have mostly intact containment vessels surrounding their nuclear cores.

The change was “not directly connected to the environmental and health effects,” Unesaki said. “Judging from all the measurement data, it is quite under control. It doesn’t mean that a significant amount of release is now continuing.”
Prime Minister Naoto Kan, in a national television address, urged the public not to panic and to focus on recovering from the disaster.

“Right now, the situation of the nuclear reactors at the Fukushima plant has been stabilizing step by step. The amount of radiation leaks is on the decline,” he said. “But we are not at the stage yet where we can let our guards down.”

Continued aftershocks following the 9.0-magnitude megaquake on March 11 are impeding work on stabilizing the Fukushima plant — the latest a 6.3-magnitude one Tuesday that prompted plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co., or TEPCO, to temporarily pull back workers.

Officials from Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency said that the cumulative amount of radioactive particles released into the atmosphere since the incident had reached levels that apply to a Level 7 incident. Other factors included damage to the plant’s buildings and accumulated radiation levels for its workers.
“We have refrained from making announcements until we have reliable data,” said NISA spokesman Hidehiko Nishiyama said. “The announcement is being made now because it became possible to look at and check the accumulated data assessed in two different ways,” he said, referring to measurements from NISA and Japan’s Nuclear Security Council.

NISA and the NSC have been measuring emissions of radioactive iodine-131 and cesium-137, a heavier element with a much longer half-life. Based on an average of their estimates and a formula that converts elements into a common radioactive measure, the equivalent of about 500,000 terabecquerels of radiation from iodine-131 has been released into the atmosphere since the crisis began.
That well exceeds the Level 7 threshold of the International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale of “several tens of thousands of terabecquerels” of iodine-131. A terabecquerel equals a trillion becquerels, a measure for radiation emissions.

The government says the Chernobyl incident released 5.2 million terabecquerels into the air — about 10 times that of the Fukushima plant.
If the leaks continue, the amount of radioactivity released in Fukushima could eventually exceed the amount emitted by Chernobyl, a possibility that Naoki Tsunoda, a TEPCO spokesman, said the company considers “extremely low.”
In Chernobyl, in the Ukraine, a reactor exploded on April 26, 1986, spewing a cloud of radiation over much of the Northern Hemisphere. A zone about 19 miles (30 kilometers) around the plant was declared uninhabitable, although some plant workers still live there for short periods and a few hundred other people have returned despite government encouragement to stay away.

In 2005, the Chernobyl Forum — a group comprising the International Atomic Energy Agency and several other U.N. groups — said fewer than 50 deaths could be confirmed as being connected to Chernobyl. It also said the number of radiation-related deaths among the 600,000 people who helped deal with the aftermath of the accident would ultimately be around 4,000.

The U.N. health agency, however, has said about 9,300 people are likely to die of cancers caused by radiation. Some groups, including Greenpeace, have put the numbers 10 times higher.

The Fukushima plant was damaged in a massive tsunami that knocked out cooling systems and backup diesel generators, leading to explosions at three reactors and a fire at a fourth that was undergoing regular maintenance and was empty of fuel.
The magnitude-9.0 earthquake that caused the tsunami immediately stopped the three reactors, but overheated cores and a lack of cooling functions led to further damage.

Engineers have pumped water into the damaged reactors to cool them down, but leaks have resulted in the pooling of tons of contaminated, radioactive water that has prevented workers from conducting further repairs.

A month after the disaster, more than 145,000 people are still living in shelters. The quake and tsunami are believed to have killed more than 25,000 people, but many of those bodies were swept out to sea and more than half of those feared dead are still listed as missing.


This entry was posted in Japan Tsunami 2011, Missing Persons Ishinomaki Japan, Miyagi Prefecture Japan, Sendai Japan Earthquake 2011, Tsunami Ishinomaki 2011. Bookmark the permalink.

17 Responses to Japan Nuke Crisis as Severe as Chernobyl

  1. Paul Ellsworth says:

    But a better summary is here from the BBC, as it details in a step by step manner the problems they have been having without quite the intense alarmism in some of the other articles.

    The bottom line is that with the evacuations and warnings the Japanese government is being VERY VERY careful in terms of moving people out of harm’s way, as opposed to Cherynobl where in the early period the government in the area basically denied that there was a problem until the health damages for many people were deadly or crippling.

    And: barring unforeseen future events, they are drawing ever closer to the major problems being SOLVED.

  2. Andrew Gordon says:

    I am very disappointed to read this here. Headlines like this do a great disservice to the Japanese people:

    1) Spreading fear and despondency causes further unnecessary harm – from things like today’s cancellation of the Volleyball World League (which was planned to be held far away from both nuclear- and Tsunami-affected areas), and loss of badly-needed trade and tourism revenue.

    2) Concentrating on the nuclear situation draws attention and help away from the true tragedy here – the communities destroyed by the tsunami.

    Today’s “news” is that the Fukushima situation has been administratively placed in the same “major accident” category as was Chernobyl. Noone could deny that Fukushima is indeed a major accident, but this is far from being “as severe as Chernobyl”:

    – Quantitively, Fukushima looks like being a significantly smaller event than Chernobyl – maybe 10x smaller (though there’s an outside chance of new things going wrong to narrow the gap)
    – Even if it were the same size, the more progressive way in which the Fukushima events developed means the effects are concentrated in a smaller area.
    – Unlike Chernobyl, the Japanese authorities have taken appropriate health measures at an early stage. Very likely, not even a single person will die as a result of radiation.

    However, the one thing that could well turn out to be as bad as Chernobyl is the secondary effects – mental health issues caused by the dispair and distress at the situation. Alarmist reports in the media act to increase this unnecessary harm.

    [Note that the 'nuclear debate' is not relevant to any of the above - you can argue that the power station shouldn't have been built, should have been better protected, even worse accidents could potentially occur etc. etc., but the fact is that it _was_ built, the accident did happen and the situation is now as it is - serious, but much less significant than the general tsunami damage]

  3. Trevor Moore says:

    This is some scary stuff. I’m glad at least the government is trying to do all that they can to help out and keep people safe. I have a friend that lives in Tokyo right now, and I know thats not close, but it does still get me nervous when I hear this kind of stuff. So hopefully they find a way to make these reactors safe and clean up the water soon.

  4. Zane Hales says:

    Not only are thousands of people dead and thousands of homes and buildings destroyed, they have to worry about harmful nuclear radiation. That is a lot to swallow. I can’t even imagine what I would do.

  5. kevin staudte says:

    After reading about Chernobyl and how everything around it is like a ghost town. Then this recent nuclear crisis people might never be able to see their homes and places they grew up ever again. I wish them the best.

  6. holden wagstaff says:

    I didn’t realize how bad the nuclear problem was in japan. I really like nuclear energy and it saddens me this has happened fir the people and for nuclear power in general.

  7. Kadi Henderson says:

    With everything they have gone through in the past month they now have to worry about harmful nuclear radiation. That is so scary, I don’t know what I would do if I was put in that situation.

  8. Angela Owens says:

    I agree with Andrew, the nuclear issue is an absolute mess and an awful situation for anyone to be in, but the government seems to ba handling it very well getting peope out when they see it necessary as opposed to shoving it under the rug until the reprocussions are too great to handle. He also makes a very good point about keeping focus on the damage the tsunami did since the nuclear plant, both very sad and very scary, there is still a lot to be done about those actually affected by the tsunami itself.

  9. Garrett Alldredge says:

    This is far worse than i ever thought? I knew it was a big deal if the plant blew up, but i never knew that it was leaking toxic material into their food and water. I pray that we can fix the reactor before anything worse happens. enough people have died or are missing, they don’t need this added to their plate.

  10. Brock Bennion says:

    I can’t imagine worrying about radiation on top of all the chaos that is going on. The statistic stating that as many as 9,300 people may die from cancers is unbelievable.

  11. Mara W says:

    I didn’t know how big of a problem the explosion was! I feel horrible that on top everything they have been through this happens as well!

  12. Chelsey France says:

    I was really surprised to read that they weren’t causing any health problems, how do they know there aren’t any health problems being caused, it can take years for the effects of radiation poisioning to occur in some cases. I feel as if their government isn’t taking this seriously enough.
    Also this spill/leak is making people paranoid, even hear in Cedar City, the other day I heard two girls talking about how the one has started taking a pill to help prevent effects from radiation exposure. I’m not sure that a simple pill could help you and even more so its got to be so minimal radiation here if any she doesn’t need to be taking a pill, send the money your spending on those silly pills to someone who actually needs it.

  13. Joshua Robinson says:

    Wow………..thats all i can say. things that are going on over there are so crazy, not only do the people of Japan need to worry about the huge after shocks they are now worrying about radiation poisening in their food. Heart goes out for the people in Japan

  14. Chris Chung says:

    Having traveled to Japan last summer and seeing what a fascinating and friendly I am deeply sadend about the situation there. I feel terrible for the people there and I don’t know what I would do if I was put into this situation.

  15. Bryson Kenolio says:

    I feel that this article really informs me of the situation with Japan and how serious the level of radioactivity is being shot in the air. I believe that Japan is doing all they can to keep the people safe and out of harms way. I think that it sucks for the farmers who live near the area because their farms have been shut down and they are probably losing some needed business from that. If this plant keeps spitting out radioactivity, Japan can be in a lot more trouble than they already are.

  16. Camille Jeppson says:

    I can hardly believe what these people have had to go through!

    I feel like i have been so ignorant as to what has been happening in Japan, and Having had some family who have suffered with some of the minor after-effects of the Chernobyl disaster, (cancerous tumors from the radiation still out there) my heart goes out to these people.

  17. Bronwyn Challis says:

    I can’t imagine losing my home and family and then on top of that having to worry about radioactive particles in my food, water and air. I hope that officials will be able to find a solution as soon as possible.

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