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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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Nuclear power is cheap, clean and safe
By dowen777 on 4/12/2011 4:35:54 PM , Rating: 0
What is all the fuss about? We all know that nuclear power is cheap, clean and safe.

Also, there weren't any nuclear power plant accidents at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi plants, or at Chernobyl or Three Mile Island, for that matter.

Don't worry, be happy.

RE: Nuclear power is cheap, clean and safe
By dowen777 on 4/12/2011 4:41:15 PM , Rating: 2
Anyone who opposes nuclear power is irrational. Those who favor nuclear power are all well-reasoned and thoughtful.

By Gzus666 on 4/12/2011 8:14:32 PM , Rating: 2
Anyone who opposes anything without valid reasons is irrational. You haven't produced an actual reason to oppose it other than appeals to ignorance and emotion.

The two major sources of radiation dumped at this plant are Iodine 131 and Cesium 137. Iodine 131 has a half life of around 8 days and the major gamma ray producing portion (gamma rays are the bad ones that pierce you, alpha and beta damaged the skin) decays in a few minutes. Cesium 137 has a considerably larger half life of around 30 years, but the release is beta radiation.

The current radiation levels near the plant aren't that high and considering the plant got hit with an 8.9 earthquake and a tsunami on an out of date plant, not too bad. The main reason it failed was due to cooling failures due to the generators being destroyed by the tsunami. Use modern cooling methods and security methods and this is no longer an issue.

So, in conclusion, you are fear mongering and irrational.

RE: Nuclear power is cheap, clean and safe
By EBH on 4/12/2011 4:49:29 PM , Rating: 2
I think what bothers folks about nuclear power is the long lasting negative effects.

The risk is too high for the reward. Same goes for all forms of mainstream energy production. Oil? Coal? Dams?

All have to destroy stuff to work and all create long lasting waste and damage. It is time we move onto somthing that works for us and will not have higher negative effects than it's cost.

Greed and ignorance is the only thing preventing safer alternatives.

All of the nuke fanboies should go live next to a plant for a while to make them think twice.

It is easy to say nuke is 100% ok when it is out of sight out of mind.

It is not of matter of IF anymore. Just a matter of when.

Nuclear is a good stepping stone but not the be all end all of power generation.

By geddarkstorm on 4/12/2011 4:58:00 PM , Rating: 2
People still work at Chernobyl, well over 2000 people to be exact. And this year Ukraine was planning to open up Chernobyl and the exclusion zone to tourists ( ).

Radiation is no laughing matter, but it isn't remotely as dangerous, or as long lasting, as the public wants to believe.

By geddarkstorm on 4/12/2011 5:04:24 PM , Rating: 2
Also, look at pictures of the Chernobyl area. Notice all those plants and trees and wildlife growing and living everywhere? Doesn't seem like wildlife got the memo that they should be dead from radiation, huh? Or maybe it just wasn't -that bad-. (Realize too that this happened during the cold war, our propaganda against the USSR would have used this incident to the extreme. Think about it.)

Compare this to the damage and the time it takes the ecosystem to recover from a volcano.

RE: Nuclear power is cheap, clean and safe
By dowen777 on 4/12/2011 5:09:22 PM , Rating: 2
I think what bothers me about the fervently pro-nuclear power folks is the complete inability to recognize or admit to any dangers presented. Shortcomings? What shortcomings!

By geddarkstorm on 4/12/2011 5:15:41 PM , Rating: 2
People like being scared. That's why we pump out terrible horror movies one after the other year after year. But is it likely someone is going to kidnap you and subject you to a Saw-esque adventure? Maybe a healthy dose of reality will calm your night terrors.

By Skywalker123 on 4/13/2011 10:43:41 AM , Rating: 2
I do live next to a nuke plant, so what?

"What would I do? I'd shut it down and give the money back to the shareholders." -- Michael Dell, after being asked what to do with Apple Computer in 1997

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