Fukushima: “not all level 7 accidents are the same”

Daniel Garcia has a new bulletin up “What does INES and today’s uprate mean?“. Dr. Garcia is a researcher at the Japanese Atomic Energy Agency, and is an excellent science-based source for interpretation and perspective on Fukushima. On the INES uprating, Daniel concludes by outlining the fundamental differences between Fukushima and Chernobyl:

(…) As stated previously, Fukushima tentative uprating is solely based on the released radioactivity levels, but that is far from being the only important thing for considering the gravity of the situation. Indeed, despite being at the same INES level, there are fundamental differences between Fukushima and Chernobyl accidents. Here are what I believe to be the 3 main ones:

  1. Released radioactivity is 10x smaller (based on NISA/JNS estimations), enough to be classified one hypothetical level bellow.
  2. Radioactive material spread is completely different: In Chernobyl the whole graphite core exploded and was thrown into the atmosphere/surroundings in ashes/dust; In Fukushima reactors containment remains mostly sound, and leaked radioactivity has been mostly from liquid effluents that haven’t left the premises of the plant. Of course some of it leaked to the ocean and some was released to the atmosphere during H2 explosions, but the majority is still confined within the immediate proximity of the plant.
  3. Because of 2, Fukushima plant remains “operable”, meaning that work to contain the radioactivity and limit the impact on the environment remains both possible and effective; Chernobyl couldn’t be approached after the accident.

Obviously, as a result of those differences, there have still not be a single victim of radioactivity because of #FNPP1 accident (it doesn’t mean “there won’t”, simply that “there have not been”). Some may argue we’ll only see those in terms of long-term cancers for most exposed workers, but it’s a weak argument in societies where tobacco and air pollution results in millions of those cancers and nobody seems to be concerned about.

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