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News Link • Japan - Earthquake Tsunami Radiation

Run-Rated Fukushima Radiation Release On Par With Chernobyl

Even as the spin continues by both the media and nuclear energy advocates that the dangers from Fukushima are overblown, calculations done behind the scenes indicate that Fukushima and Chernobyl are actually very comparable in terms of radioactive particulate release, and in some cases, such as Cesium 137, Fukushima is already runrating as a worse catastrophe than Chernobyl. From Reuters: "The release of two types of radioactive particles in the first 3-4 days of Japan's nuclear crisis is estimated to have reached 20-50 percent of the amounts from Chernobyl in 10 days, an Austrian expert said on Wednesday. Based on measurements made at monitoring stations in Japan and the United States, Wotawa said the iodine released from Fukushima in the first three-four days was about 20 percent of that released from Chernobyl during a ten-day period. For Caesium-137, the figure could amount to some 50 percent." In other words, run rating the release of Cesium for a 10 day period, leaked radioactive Cesium is now about 120-150% of what it was during the full blow reactor explosion experiencing during Chernobyl. But yes, aside from the facts, watering the reactor that are certainly melting down (if haven't done so already) should surely have great benefits. More from Reuters: The calculations published by Austria's Central Institute for Meteorology and Geodynamics may add to growing concern in Japan and elsewhere over the contamination of food products such as milk and vegetables in areas near the Japanese reactor site. The Austrian institute's Dr Gerhard Wotawa stressed the two isotopes from Fukushima he had sought to estimate -- iodine-131 and caesium-137 -- normally make up only one tenth of total radiation. Based on measurements made at monitoring stations in Japan and the United States, Wotawa said the iodine released from Fukushima in the first three-four days was about 20 percent of that released from Chernobyl during a ten-day period. For Caesium-137, the figure could amount to some 50 percent.

1 Comments in Response to

Comment by Nymo Amonys
Entered on:

I would like to state a few things.

First of all, I agree that the media's representation of the accident has been reckless and irresponsible. However, I disagree with your assessment of the type of the recklessness. On the contrary to what you state, the media's coverage has been a parade of sensationalist fear-mongering and ignorance of the scales associated with radiation exposure.

Of course, radiation has harmful health effects, but as with anything that poisons us we need to think about the amount of exposure. All the coverage of undrinkable tap water in Tokyo, for instance, carefully omits the fact that most of the tap water in Europe exceeds the radiation level the Japanese find too high to to be drinkable. Still people in Europe don't die or become acutely sick because their tap water is irradiating them. The fact of the matter is that the  safety limits in Japan are simply very, very low and have nothing to do with true radiation safety. For the tap water to pose any considerable health risk the amount of radiation would have to be hundreds of thousands of times higher over an extended period of time. When considering how poisonous the level of radiation was at its highest in the tap water, we are talking about amounts comparable to a drop of mercury in a lake. Yes, in theory every drop counts, but in practice nobody gets any sort of a health risk.

As for the results released by the Austrian experts, all I can say is that the numbers cited are completely ludicrous. They suggest that the Fukushima accident released radioactive materials at a faster rate than the Chernobyl accident during the first days of the accident. There is no way they can be correct if you compare the mechanisms of the two accidents (the latter one was and still is infinitely more dangerous).

Consider the fact that the radiation release at Fukushima during the first 3-4 days consisted solely of vented water vapor with trace amounts of fission products such as Iodine-131 (half-life 8 days) and Cesium-137 (30 years). The amount per time unit likely increased when the reactors sustained additional damage due to pressure problems and hydrogen explosions and the spent fuel pools emptied. However, there has been no word of failure of the pressure vessels (the innermost part with the actual nuclear fuel). This sort of damage would be the only explanation for the cited numbers.

The radiation amounts detected at the nuclear plant during the 3-4 first days do not support this theory. They were, while considerably elevated, still not really dangerous and definitely not deadly. They have unfortunately risen massively since then and are now on average somewhat dangerous but still not deadly unless one spends several days in a row at the plant (this doesn't apply even to the workers, who are obviously on a constant rotation to minimize radiation exposure).

This pales in comparison to what happened at Chernobyl where the pressure vessel was burst open in an explosion and the nuclear fuel was completely exposed without any shielding remaining. The graphite burned for days, spreading the nastiness everywhere within a few thousand miles. The contamination is considerable in many countries in Europe and will remain so for several decades (however, I feel obligated to remind you that except for Pripyat and areas where the fallout was exceptionally concentrated the radiation due to the Chernobyl accident is only a fraction of a percent of normal background radiation).

In contrast to the state of Fukushima during the first few days, the radiation amounts in the vicinity of the Chernobyl plant were absolutely, positively deadly (I heard a story about some poor fellow who noticed that he had gotten a nice tan in just a few minutes' timeframe. He subsequently got sick and died). You would get a lethal amount of radiation for spending just 10 minutes near the power plant - and this applies even today if you force your way inside the containment building.

This is the sort of difference that suggests that the results cited can't possibly be correct unless the Japanese have been able to fool everyone completely about the initial days of the disaster. Had this been the case, we should already have detected it.

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