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Cesium-137 contamination: Fukushima amounts to 4 Chernobyls

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TEPCO’s new estimates suggest that its Fukushima reactor has released more than quadruple the amount of radioactive cesium-137 leaked during the Chernobyl disaster. But the method used to measure the damage may undervalue the hazard even further.

­Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s revised report suggests that in total, around 760,000 terabecquerels (TBq) were discharged into the atmosphere since the Fukushima catastrophe. Though the new figure is 1.6 times higher than an estimate published in February by the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, it still seems to be just an effort to downplay the real scale of the event.

The report goes on to compare Fukushima with the Chernobyl accident of 1986, where it says 5,200,000 TBq of “radioactive substances” were leaked into the atmosphere.

The problem is that TEPCO only counts the amount of iodine-131 and cesium-137 leaked from the Fukushima reactor, and compares them to the whole range of isotopes that were discharged at Chernobyl.

And if compared properly, the numbers tell a different story.

The final estimate suggests that 400,000 TBq of iodine-131 leaked from Fukushima, which is indeed lower than during the Chernobyl incident, but only 4.5 times lower.

Regarding the emission of cesium-137, Fukushima is far ahead its rival. Post-Fukushima estimations suggest that Chernobyl put out a total of 85,000 TBq of caesium-137 over the course of the disaster. The Fukushima reactor, however, has so far released 360,000 TBq of cesium-137, according to TEPCO.

Instead of releasing the total emissions of other isotopes from Fukushima, such as Strontium-90, TEPCO dedicated the rest of the report to explaining the calculation methods used. They combined the calculations based on the “degree of damage to the reactor core” and reverse calculations based on the “density of radioactive substances found in the atmosphere and seawater,” which allowed the company to come up with what they believe to be the most accurate figures.

The blasts at the Fukushima reactor, which had been triggered by an earthquake and tsunami last year, caused a massive radiation leak. Tens of thousands of people were forced to leave their homes in and around the Fukushima region in central Japan, while the crippled reactor was shut down and encircled by a twenty-kilometer exclusion zone. Since then the authorities and TEPCO officials have faced accusations of withholding vital information about the radiation levels in the area.


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2 Responses to " Cesium-137 contamination: Fukushima amounts to 4 Chernobyls "

  1. Rick Alexander says:

    When this nuclear disaster first happened I immediately wrote to the Japanese Parliament and submitted a document which advised minimum steps to be taken to protect the people of Japan. I received a reply from a parliamentary officer that my document was indeed passed to Cabinet. I never did get a response. I had much more to offer but it seems that no one was interested in the practical realities of dealing with the situation. What I was proposing was a solution to immediately; relocate all humans at least 100km from the epicentre of the disaster. Secondly, all debris fromn the epicentre (15km radius)was to be secured and put through a decontamination process using massive conveyor/ammonia-bleach dipping facilities (30 such facilities could process about 20% of debris in 12 months. Finally, that all, I mean ALL residential and business premises – particularly those that were preparing or processing food – were wiped down DAILY with mild ammonia solutions and this way – at least the INGESTION of contaminants would be minimised. Over a period of time this would have had a significant effect on air-borne contaminants which are still being whipped up from top soils and from buildings not only all the way in Tokyo but as far away as Sanfrancisco California – not to mention Hawaii. Why is it that the politicians didn’t act? The truth is that politicians are exactly that – engaged in politics and not the best interests of the people. They withheld the truth from their own people to avoid panic – but meanwhile – this political maneuvering was costing the lives of millions of Japanese people. One day, they will admit that probably more than half the population had been affected. At the time of writing I also warned that the Prime Minister of the day probably wouldn’t survive in political office, and he didn’t. Governments need to do the right thing and tell the whole truth to its citizens – not mislead, jsut to save their political butts.

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  2. jake says:

    Interesting article:


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