Fukushima has released catastrophic levels of radiation. There hasn’t been a single Chernobyl size blast, but there have been three explosions, as well as radioactive venting that will continue into the future. And there are still potential bumps in the road. It’s not over yet.
“Fukushima is going to kill 200,000 from increased cancers over the next 50 years.”?~Arnold Gundersen, nuclear expert
This week the Japanese authorities elevated the crisis from 5 to 7. That suggests it’s on a par with Chernobyl. Is this accident as bad as Chernobyl?
It’s worse than Chernobyl. That accident involved a single reactor. Fukushima involves three reactors. Additionally, there are several years worth of fuel in the spent fuel pools of units 1 through 4. Added together, that’s roughly the equivalent of eight reactor cores.
Right now, I don’t think any single reactor is as bad as Chernobyl, but they have essentially eight different problems.
The Japanese government has said that Fukushima has released about 10 percent as much radiation as Chernobyl. Do you think that’s accurate?
I’d say that’s the minimum that’s been released. It’s possible that the accident has released as much as Chernobyl already. If not, we’re heading in that direction. I think the Japanese have wanted to avoid instilling fear. So as a result they are more likely to downplay than exaggerate the releases.
Estimating radiation releases is never easy. I’ve studied both Chernobyl and Three Mile Island. The statistics on how much radiation was released were made after the accidents were over, by scientists who have skin in the game. During a nuclear accident, all of the radiation detectors are blown to smithereens, so you’re not actually measuring the contamination, you’re calculating them based on sampling. When you do that you can introduce bias.
So if it’s worse than Chernobyl, is this the worst industrial accident ever?
I think this and the Bhopal accident in India [where hundreds of thousands of people were exposed to the toxic gas methyl isocyanate, killing thousands] are going to be neck and neck for that category. So it’s worse than Chernobyl but in the same category as Bhopal. But certainly from a cost standpoint, this is the most expensive one ever.
I absolutely disagree with the scientists who say that Fukushima’s not going to hurt anyone. The numbers I’ve seen, from reputable scientists, are that Fukushima is going to kill 200,000 from increased cancers over the next 50 years.
So, my question to those living in Tokyo or other areas even closer to Fukushima: Do you think you could possibly be one of those 200,000?