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Fukushima vs Chernobyl

Japan's nuclear problem has been upgraded to the same rating as Chernobyl, except, you know, not as bad...

TOKYO—The Japanese government raised its assessment of the monthlong crisis at its Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant to the highest severity level by international standards—a rating only conferred so far upon the Chernobyl accident.

The Japanese government said the monthlong crisis at its Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant is on par with Chernobyl in terms of severity. WSJ's Mariko Sanchanta and Yumiko Ono discuss the public's reaction to the news.

Japan's nuclear regulators said the plant has likely released so much radiation into the environment that it must boost the accident's severity rating on the International Nuclear Event scale to a 7 from 5 currently. That is the same level reached by the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in the former Soviet Union, which struck almost exactly 25 years ago, on April 26, 1986.

"Based on the cumulative data we've gathered, we can finally give an estimate of total radioactive materials emitted,'' Hidehiko Nishiyama, spokesman for Japan's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, said at a press conference Tuesday.

Even as they upgraded their assessment of the situation, Japanese officials went to lengths to say that the problem they are struggling to contain isn't anywhere near the disaster of Chernobyl.

"It is quite different from Chernobyl," said Mr. Nishiyama. "First, the amount of released radiation is about a tenth of Chernobyl," he said, adding that while there were 29 deaths resulting from short-term exposure to high doses of radiation at Chernobyl, there were no such deaths at Fukushima.

Somehow, I suspect as time continues, the stories from Fukushima are only going to become much, much worse.



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Apr. 12th, 2011 08:51 am (UTC)
"about a tenth of Chernobyl" ...

That implies about 20 megaCuries released, which is way worse than they've admitted before -- about equal to an atmospheric H-bomb test in the megaton range, or 20 Hiroshima-sized A-bombs.

Oops. Something has gone badly adrift because that doesn't match up with what they were talking about in the first couple of weeks.
Apr. 12th, 2011 09:12 am (UTC)
they've been deliberating downplaying it from the start, i think. i seem to remember the earlier reports also had comments about japanese citizens not believing what they were hearing from the government and company.
Apr. 12th, 2011 10:59 am (UTC)
It's the first "number of Curies released" I've seen from anyone, TEPCO or foreign groups such as the NRC. How they derived those numbers I don't know; my guess is that that've spent the last month analysing the fallout patterns and estimated quantities from soil samples etc. and used them back-calculate the amounts released. The error bars are going to be quite wide.

There's a lot of data on contamination levels from around the Fukushima site and across Japan but nearly all of the readings away from Fukushima itself are down in the statistical noise around the normal background count. There are some weird hot-spots; there's a place about 30km NW of the Fukushima site that's as "hot" as locations on the boundary fence of the site (about 50uSv/h), and locations a lot closer to the reactors where the radiation levels are not much higher than background (0.1 - 0.5 uSv/h). Those hotspots are the ones being addressed by the extended compulsory evacuation zone just announced, but other locations within the 30km advisory circle are remaining at voluntary evacuation status.
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