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The Chernobyl explosion in 1986 was the only nuclear disaster to be rated a Level 7 until now  (Source: Wordpress)
The Chernobyl explosion in 1986 was the only nuclear disaster to be rated a Level 7 until now

The nuclear crisis in Japan has had a roller coaster of reports since the 9.0-magnitude earthquake struck on March 11. For instance, CNN and were caught embellishing their stories early on, trying to make the nuclear danger seem worse than it was. Now, new reports are saying that Japanese officials may be downplaying the amount of radiation released, since the Japanese nuclear regulatory agency has now put the Fukushima Daiichi disaster on the same level as the 1986 Chernobyl explosion.  

The Chernobyl disaster occurred in 1986 when an explosion led to fire that released large amounts of radioactive particles into the atmosphere. This event was the only nuclear disaster in history to be rated a 7 on the International Nuclear Event Scale, but now, the Japanese nuclear regulatory agency has changed Japan's nuclear crisis from a 5 to a 7 on the scale as well.

"This is an admission by the Japanese government that the amount of radiation released into the environment has reached a new order of magnitude," said Tetsuo Iguchi, a professor in the department of quantum engineering at Nagoya University. "The fact that we have now confirmed the world's second-ever Level 7 accident will have huge consequences for the global nuclear industry. It shows that current safety standards are woefully inadequate."

As of now, Hidehiko Nishiyama, deputy director general of Japan's nuclear regulator, says the total amount of radioactive materials released from the plant equals 10 percent of what was released in Chernobyl. Japan's Nuclear Safety Commission noted that 370,000 to 630,000 terabecquerels of radioactive material has been released from Nos. 1 to 3 reactors.  

According to the International Nuclear Event Scale, a Level 7 is described as having "widespread health and environmental effects." The announcement that Japan is now a Level 7 came as Japan was pushing more citizens to evacuate areas near the Fukushima Daiichi plant because of long-term radiation exposure fears. People living within a 12-mile radius of the plant were already ordered to evacuate early on, but now, government officials have ordered those living within a 19-mile radius to stay inside or evacuate the area. 

In addition, communities beyond the 19-mile radius have been evacuated as well due to how the radiation is spreading. Different variables like wind can determine where the radiation spreads. For instance, a community called Iitate, which is "well beyond the 19-mile radius," has had high radiation readings because of wind from the plant. The government is also looking to evacuate Katsurao, Kawamata, Minamisoma and Namie within one month because of concerns regarding long-term radiation exposure. If the conditions grow worse, Naraha, Hirono, Tamura, Kawauchi and other sections of Minamisoma will be evacuated as well. 

"This measure is not an order for you to evacuate or take actions immediately," said Yukio Edano, chief cabinet secretary. "We arrived at this decision by taking into account the risks of remaining in the area in the long term." 

With both the Chernobyl explosion and Japan's nuclear crisis on the same level on the International Nuclear Event Scale, some are worried that Fukushima may become worse than Chernobyl. For instance, Junichi Matsumoto, a nuclear executive for Tokyo Electric Power Company, said his biggest concern is that radiation levels could exceed Chernobyl at some point. But there are some clear distinctions between the two events that make his claim extremely unlikely. The most important difference between Chernobyl and the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear crisis is that most of the radioactive elements in Fukushima's reactors were contained within the reactors. 

"If everything inside the reactor came out, obviously that would surpass Chernobyl," said Seiji Shiroya, a commissioner and the former director of the Research Reactor Institute at Kyoto University. "There was only one troubled reactor there, while we have three or more, so simply speaking, that's three times as worse. But at Fukushima, most of the reactors' radioactive elements remained within the reactor. That's a big difference."

The health effects from Chernobyl are expected to remain worse than Japan's health effects as well. Thirty-one people died in Chernobyl while 20 workers were injured at Fukushima. In addition, Dr. Robert Peter Gale, who led the international medical team responding to Chernobyl, said that if the nuclear crisis in Japan did not become any worse, there would be few, if any, thyroid cancer cases and 200 to 1,500 other cancer cases combined over the next 50 years. In Chernobyl, there were 6,000 excess cases of thyroid cancer alone.  

In regards to whether the Japanese government was downplaying the amount of radiation released, reports indicate that the Japanese government did not have an exact idea of the amounts of radiation released in the early weeks of the event, and "last week had the amounts down to an error margin within several digits."  

"Some foreigners fled the country even when there appeared to be little risk," said Shiroya. "If we immediately decided to label the situation as Level 7, we could have triggered a panicked reaction."

Prime Minister Naoto Kan said Tuesday evening that Japan will rebuild, and that reactors were being stabilized despite this new decision to place the nuclear disaster at a Level 7. He also noted that radioactive material release is declining. In addition, he ordered Tokyo Electric to present new plans for the Fukushima Daiichi plant. 

"What I can say for the information I obtained - of course the government is very large, so I don't have all the information - is that no information was ever suppressed or hidden after the accident," said Kan. 

According to the International Atomic Energy Agency, it measured radiation this past Saturday of 0.4 to 3.7 microsieverts per hour in areas located 20 to 40 miles from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. 

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RE: *face palm*
By rvd2008 on 4/12/2011 1:18:03 PM , Rating: -1
It is a major disaster with no end in sight - 4 crippled runaway reactors, melted cores and hundreds of tons of highly radioactive fuel/waste nobody knows how to deal with and when it will be over. And all you could think of it is "a sad sad day" because you will not be able to build "plants for the next 50 years".

RE: *face palm*
By omnicronx on 4/12/2011 1:54:11 PM , Rating: 2
And all you could think of it is "a sad sad day" because you will not be able to build "plants for the next 50 years".
Thats exactly 'All I could think of'..

Here are a few stats for you, in 2004 official chinese stats indicate that 6000 people died from coal mining. A further 10000 blank lung cases are reported each year. Thats China alone, its estimated around 30-40 die in the US each year with around 4000 cases of black lung cases diagnosed.

This is coal mining alone, and does not bring the actual plants into account.

So please, which source of fuel do you think has the bigger impact even if the worst case scenario is realized in Japan?

Accidents will happen with any source of power, as others have stated every single source of energy including green alternatives result in more deaths per KW generated.

RE: *face palm*
By Skywalker123 on 4/13/2011 10:39:43 AM , Rating: 2
You forgot to mention the hundreds of coal miners injured and maimed in the mines every year.

RE: *face palm*
By zozzlhandler on 4/12/2011 2:24:55 PM , Rating: 3
I see a major gap between the facts and what you say.

1. Runaways? Not that I heard.
2. Hundreds of tons? You exaggerate to push your view. The most dangerous is Iodine that will decay very soon.
3. Nobody knows how to deal with it? It seems to me to be being deal with very professionally. Despite the extreme conditions that caused the problem, the worst case scenarios were avoided. They are now working to minimize the effects of what *did* happen (not insignificant, but nowhere near what the doom and gloom purveyors were saying).
4. Nobody knows when it will be over? I think there are good assessments of how long each part of the cleanup will take.

In short, I think we should all stop fixating on reactor problems and help Japan recover from a devastating earthquake and tsunami. And, yes, some of their recovery problems *will* be related to the nuclear situation caused by that same earthquake and tsunami. But the nuclear problems are small compared to the rest of it.

RE: *face palm*
By geddarkstorm on 4/12/2011 2:47:19 PM , Rating: 3
This has been blown so way out of propotion. Even Chernobyl is still in operation, and people work in it! (It'll finally be completely decommissioned soon)

People are way too afraid of radiation. The current levels at the plant are not that dangerous, let alone the negligible levels around the plant. People forget that their bodies themselves are laced with radioactive potassium at this very moment (you are your own radiation source! I light up a Geiger counter myself, it's amusing), or that the natural amounts of radon and uranium in soil everywhere is the biggest source you'll get per year. Your body is BUILT to deal with radiation. Heck, water itself is six times more potent a mutagen of (unprotected) DNA than radiation is (due to depurination of DNA by hydrolysis, but again, we are BUILT to deal with that and suffer no ill consequences as long as our repair systems have not been compromised by bad health or diet).

What's more deadly: standing near one of these reactors, or drinking any normal industrial waste produced from anywhere? Let's just say, drinking industrial waste would be a very efficient way to commit gruesome suicide, the plant not so much, not even after decades.

RE: *face palm*
By 91TTZ on 4/12/2011 3:50:43 PM , Rating: 2
They are not runaway reactors. The control rods were inserted and the heat buildup that they were dealing with was only the decay heat.

There was some meltdown but there definitely wasn't a full meltdown in 4 reactors.

"The Space Elevator will be built about 50 years after everyone stops laughing" -- Sir Arthur C. Clarke

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