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Japan’s Nuclear Crisis: Worst of its Triple Disasters

Posted by feww on March 27, 2011

Submitted by a reader, with additional materials added by FIRE-EARTH

Fukushima Nuclear Disaster, the Third of Japan’s Triple Disasters, Could Prove to Be its Worst

Potentially deadly levels of radiation have been detected in water at the earthquake-and-tsunami-stricken Fukushima NPP.


Fukushima NPP 1. (L-R) Reactors 1 to 4. Image dated March 18, 2011. Credit: Digital Globe.

The amount of radioactive iodine detected in water at Reactor 2 was more than 1,000 millisieverts an hour, or 10 million times higher than when reactor operates normally, said the plant operator TEPCO.

The IAEA boss, Yukiya Amano, has warned that the nuclear crisis could continue for many weeks, even months. “This is a very serious accident by all standards,” NY Times quoted him as saying.

Radioactivity in seawater near the plant jumped to 1,850 times the normal up from 1,250 on Saturday, said Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency.

Fukushima Disaster: Will it Become Much Worse than Chernobyl?

The Chernobyl nuclear plant reactor was destroyed when two explosions blew away its roof exposing the core on April 26, 1986. A large plume of radioactive materials escaped into the atmosphere covering large regions in the former Soviet Union, Europe and across much of the Northern Hemisphere.


Ukrainian city of Chernobyl had managed to live for 793 years… that is until the Chernobyl nuclear power plant underwent a core meltdown on April 26, 1986 at about 1:00am local time. This image was taken by authorities in the former Soviet Union


Birth defects and cancer were the norm for many years following the Chernobyl disaster.  By the time  residents of Pripyat, a town located near the plant, were ordered to evacuate, about two days after the Chernobyl core meltdown had occurred, many had already been exposed to varying doses of radiation poisoning.

Fukushima NPP is said to contain about 4,277 tons of nuclear fuel, about 24 times as much as Chernobyl (~ 180 tons).

“The Fukushima Dai-ichi site has a considerable number of fuel rods on hand, according to information provided Thursday by Toyko Electric Power Co., which owns the atomic complex: There are 3,400 tons of fuel in seven spent fuel pools within the six-reactor plant, including one joint pool storing very old fuel from units 3 and 4. There are 877 tons in five of the reactor cores. Officials have said that the fuel in Unit 4’s reactor vessel was transferred to its spent fuel pool when the unit was temporarily shut in November.” AP reported.

The Incident: A meltdown of the reactor’s core in the Chernobyl power plant killed thirty people in 1986. About 135,000 people were evacuated. It is believed that about one hundred times more radiation was released in the accident than by the atom bombs dropped over Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.

Legacy: More than 4000 cases of thyroid cancer were diagnosed among children and adolescents between 1992 to 2002 in Belarus, Russia and Ukraine. Victims under 14 years were most severely affected by the elevated concentrations of radioiodine found in milk.

Incidents of skin lesions, respiratory ailments, infertility and birth defects were readily found among the more than five million people who inhabit the affected areas of Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine for many years following the accident.

The Poisoned land. Up to 5 million people continue to live on radioactive contaminated land. About 85% of the children who live in contaminated areas of Belarus today are ill, a near 6-fold increase compared to the time before the explosion (15%), according to The Belarusian National Academy of Sciences.

Disputed Facts: The above facts, however, have been disputed by a number of individuals including the author of a recent WHO report, and the retired “nukophile” British academic, James Lovelack. Local and international experts, however, have dismissed the WHO report findings. A UN report released in 2005 estimated the number of victims at just 4,000. Their figure is hotly disputed  by NGOs and independent experts.

“A report by Alexey Yablokov, Vassily Nesterenko and Alexey Nesterenko which appeared in the Annals of the New York Academy of Science showed that by 2004, there were 985,000 additional deaths worldwide caused by the nuclear disaster, including 212,000 of them within Western Russia, Belarus and Ukraine.”

Chernobyl fallout covers the entire Northern Hemisphere

Consequences of the Catastrophe. Authors  Alexey Yablokov (Center for Russian Environmental Policy in Moscow), Vassily Nesterenko and Alexey Nesterenko ( Institute of Radiation Safety, Minsk, Belarus) studies about 5,000 reports and scientific  papers mostly published in Slavic languages and compiled their finding in the  book “Chernobyl: Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and the Environment,” which was published last year on the 24th anniversary of the Chernobyl reactor core meltdown.

“For the past 23 years, it has been clear that there is a danger greater than nuclear weapons concealed within nuclear power. Emissions from this one reactor exceeded a hundred-fold the radioactive contamination of the bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.” They wrote.

“No citizen of any country can be assured that he or she can be protected from radioactive contamination. One nuclear reactor can pollute half the globe,” the authors said. “Chernobyl fallout covers the entire Northern Hemisphere.”

According to the book, a total of about 830,000 people, referred to as the “liquidators,” were responsible for various emergency works at the Chernobyl site including fire extinguishing, decontamination and cleanup.

The authors say between 112,000 and 125,000 of the  liquidators had died by 2005.  The authors also estimate that between 1986 and 2004 some 985,000 people died as a result of Chernobyl fallout {2011 estimates are well over a million deaths.]

“Official discussions from the International Atomic Energy Agency and associated United Nations’ agencies (e.g. the Chernobyl Forum reports) have largely downplayed or ignored many of the findings reported in the Eastern European scientific literature and consequently have erred by not including these assessments.” The authors said last year.

Chernobyl and Other Nuclear Stats

  • More than 95% of the radioactive material (180 metric tons with a radioactivity of about 18 million curies) still remains inside the Chernobyl reactor.
  • The  core meltdown at Chernobyl was said to have released radiation estimated at 50 million curies. Committee on the Safety of Nuclear Installations said in 1995 that the meltdown had released about 140 million curies. [Researchers Alexey Yablokov, Vassily Nesterenko and Alexey Nesterenko say the radiation released from Chernobyl may have been up to 10 billion curies. In comparison, the Hiroshima bomb released about 3 million curies.]
  • Immediately after the accident, 237 people suffered from acute radiation sickness, and 31 died within the first 90 days of the disaster.
  • About 135,000 people were evacuated from the area surrounding the plant, including 50,000 from the town of Pripyat.
  • The Academy’s  estimate for the number of casualties  are more than 90,000 deaths and more than a quarter of a million cancer cases.
  • The Ukrainian National Commission for Radiation Protection calculates the number of radiation casualties at half a million  deaths so far.
  • In a book published by the New York Academy of Sciences last year on the 24th anniversary of the reactor core meltdown, the researchers maintain that about one million people have died from exposure to radiation released by the Chernobyl reactor so far [as of 2010.]
  • “In the former Soviet Union at least 9 million people have been effected by the accident; 2.5 million in Belarus; 3.5 million in Ukraine; and 3 million in Russia. In total over 160 000 Km2 are contaminated in the three republics.” source
  • Some 441 commercial nuclear power reactors are  operating in 31 countries ( total capacity of 376 gigawatts) each of which is potentially as lethal as Chernobyl, if not worse. [This item, updated here, was written before the Fukushima nuclear disaster began unfolding.]
  • An estimated 56 countries operate more than 250 research reactors.
  • At least 220 nuclear reactors power military ships and submarines.

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References:

One Response to “Japan’s Nuclear Crisis: Worst of its Triple Disasters”

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