Leaking Japanese Nuclear Complex Owner: Radiation May End Up Exceeding Chernobyl → Washingtons Blog
Leaking Japanese Nuclear Complex Owner: Radiation May End Up Exceeding Chernobyl - Washingtons Blog

Monday, April 11, 2011

Leaking Japanese Nuclear Complex Owner: Radiation May End Up Exceeding Chernobyl

Tepco is finally admitting what has been obvious for some time: that Fukushima could end up being worse than Chernobyl.

As Reuters notes:

The operator of Japan's crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant said on Tuesday that they are concerned that the radiation leakage could eventually exceed that of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster.

"The radiation leak has not stopped completely and our concern is that it could eventually exceed Chernobyl," an official from operator Tokyo Electric and Power told reporters on Tuesday.


  1. oh...that does suggest either #1 or pool at #4 isn't so cool. btw, NEI reported the likely shifted mass at #1 soon after (days ago, just after the 7.0 aftershock).

    Eventually, instead of like 0.0001% of us knowing that the typical American exposure is about 6 mSv/yr, maybe 1% of Americans will end up knowing this, and what it means.

  2. Strictly speaking, and it does matter, Daiichi can't be worse than Chernobyl unless there is an ongoing chain reaction without containment.

    "Worse" would mean to most people that the contamination levels and area integrated together (the amount of land that has to be abandoned) would be more than Chernobyl. "Worse" doesn't mean to most people just having more radionuclides released into water that can be captured in containers and processed later.

    Without an open (unconfined) fission mass (and yes, pool 4 *could* become one again, how could you have a Chernobyl? You can't without an uncovered reaction -- it won't have a way to emit to air the quantity.

    Or you'd need a catastrophe in #1. That's very much a speculative possibility.

    Saying it could end up worse than Chernobyl is like picking an unknown horse in a race -- you might end up right, if sufficient bad events (heavy quake, etc.) happen to move fuel around in an unlucky configuration, but it's very much speculation.

    We might realistically be hit by a new super-flu. We might have a major dam burst during a quake. etc.

    Not saying it can't happen, but the language suggests it is quite likely.

  3. An interesting project now could be to compile a descriptive list of the experts who told us early on that this was nothing like Chernobyl.

  4. This is pretty much nothing like Chernobyl, unless you like to say that an apple is the same as an orange (both fruit!!!).

    Since I don't discount information that doesn't fit my view. Instead I *look for information that doesn't fit my view*, I tend to compare a lot of sources of information.

    Here's a first rate independent review of the radiation health effects of Chernobyl.


  5. Granted, we are blogging informally, but perhaps I need to be more careful with my language.

    Of course this is nothing like Chernobyl, in some ways.

    Perhaps the words 'as bad as' would have been more in keeping with what I meant.

  6. Here's a decent-looking/fair article acknowledging how much uncertainty remains.


  7. thanks Bill for the link. That was one of the last things I'll read today. I'm getting to information overload finally. :-)

  8. "Mr. Nishiyama’s agency said that emissions totaled 370,000 terabecquerels; a terabecquerel is a trillion becquerels. The agency’s figure is 20 percent of the former Soviet Union’s official estimate of emissions from Chernobyl.

    "But most experts say that the true emissions from Chernobyl were 1.5 to 2.5 times as high as the Soviet Union acknowledged. Mr. Nishiyama’s agency appears to have assumed that true emissions from Chernobyl were twice the official figure, and so calculated that the current nuclear accident had released 10 percent as much as Chernobyl. "

    from the NyTimes:

    But....a large part of emissions are in water --from the leaks. Further, much of the airborne fallout simply went to the ocean. Net result: not much on land compared to Chernobyl. By at least one order of magnitude, but likely more.


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