New Scientist - Fukushima radioactive fallout nears Chernobyl levels

Michael Collins
According to an international scientific group monitoring radiation around the world, the Fukushima reactors are emitting nuclear toxins at levels approaching those seen in the "aftermath" of Chernobyl. The Chernobyl disaster began with an explosion, Fukushima is a smoldering cauldron of toxins. Chernobyl had 180 tonnes of nuclear fuel on site. Fukushima has 1700 tonnes of nuclear fuel on site. (Image)

This isn't the beginning of the end as hoped. It's looking like the end of the beginning.

CounterPunch ran an interview wit Japanese nuclear industry author Hiroshe Takashi just yesterday in which the author lamented the poor reporting of the tragedy in the Japanese press:

"Really, they talk this nonsense, trying to reassure everyone, trying to avoid panic. What we need now is a proper panic. Because the situation has come to the point where the danger is real." Hiroshe Takashi, March 22

Just two days later, the "proper panic" is on its way.

The Central Institute for Meteorology and Geodynamics of Vienna, Austria has a world wide monitoring system set up to monitor the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. They are well positioned to monitor the effects of the Fukishima disaster.

The group told New Scientist that:

Japan's damaged nuclear plant in Fukushima has been emitting radioactive iodine and caesium at levels approaching those seen in the aftermath of the Chernobyl accident in 1986. Austrian researchers have used a worldwide network of radiation detectors – designed to spot clandestine nuclear bomb tests – to show that iodine-131 is being released at daily levels 73 per cent of those seen after the 1986 disaster. The daily amount of caesium-137 released from Fukushima Daiichi is around 60 per cent of the amount released from Chernobyl. New Scientist, March 24

The concerns about spent fuel rods and cooling polls in the reactor have materialized. The Chernobyl event was more discrete and identifiable with a major explosion but damaged reactors at Fukushima are toxic nonetheless. The Austrian scientists point out that Chernobyl had 180 tons of nuclear on hand while Fukushima has nearly ten times that amount at 1700 tons.

"When the fuel is damaged there is no reason for the volatile elements not to escape," and the measured caesium and iodine are in the right ratios for the fuel used by the Fukushima Daiichi reactors. Also, the Fukushima plant has around 1760 tonnes of fresh and used nuclear fuel on site, and an unknown amount has been damaged. The Chernobyl reactor had only 180 tonnes. New Scientist, March 24

In his interview on the 22nd, Takashi was blunt about the health risks. He distinguished between radiation in the atmosphere and radioactive particles carried in the atmosphere, then ingested into the body.

Yoh: So making comparisons with X-rays and CT scans has no meaning. Because you can breathe in radioactive material.
Hirose: That’s right. When it enters your body, there’s no telling where it will go. The biggest danger is women, especially pregnant women, and little children. Now they’re talking about iodine and cesium, but that’s only part of it, they’re not using the proper detection instruments. What they call monitoring means only measuring the amount of radiation in the air. Their instruments don’t eat. What they measure has no connection with the amount of radioactive material.
Yoh: So damage from radioactive rays and damage from radioactive material are not the same.
Hirose: If you ask, are any radioactive rays from the Fukushima Nuclear Station here in this studio, the answer will be no. But radioactive particles are carried here by the air. When the core begins to melt down, elements inside like iodine turn to gas. It rises to the top, so if there is any crevice it escapes outside. Hiroshe Takashi, CounterPunch, March 22

The Austrian Institute scientists also pointed out that the spread of radioactive isotopes from Chernobyl are still causing thyroid cancer today:

While in the body the isotopes' radioactive emissions can do significant damage, mainly to DNA. Children who ingest iodine-131 can develop thyroid cancer 10 or more years later; adults seem relatively resistant. A study published in the US last week found that iodine-131 from Chernobyl is still causing new cases of thyroid cancer to appear at an undiminished rate in the most heavily affected regions of Ukraine, Belarus and Russia. New Scientist, March 24

National Public Ratio (NPR) ran an interview with Japanese Green anti nuclear activist Aileen Mioko Smith yesterday. She brought home the rapidly spreading awareness the nuclear disaster in Japan.

She noted that a prominent Japanese scientist reworked the Tokyo Power data on soil contamination within 40 kilometers of Fukushima and found that the levels of contamination could be twice that of similar areas near Chernobyl:

And the soil contamination is really high. Soil found 40 kilometers away—now, remember, it’s still 30 kilometers indoors, stay indoors; 20 kilometers, evacuation. So, beyond that area, for example, north-northwest in Imatate, the levels on the soil were very high—in fact, a thousand times iodine, 4,000 times the cesium standard. And we just got a report from the Kyoto Research Reactor Institute, Dr. Tetsuji Imanaka, that said that—he had to look a little bit more into the sampling of the Japanese government, but depending on how the sampling was done, this level of contamination in the soil could be twice the amount that was compulsory evacuation for Chernobyl. Aileen Mioko Smith, March 24

Smith commented on the "travesty" of Japanese earthquake guidelines for reactors. She said:

And I just want to address that the Japanese government’s earthquake reinforcement requirements, the standards that are in place, even today, at all the nuclear power plants in Japan, is really a travesty. And actually, the Fukushima plant was operating under 1978 guidelines. The new guidelines had been established in 2006, but even those guidelines underestimated this earthquake. The earthquake that happened in Fukushima this time was 140 times or so more than the maximum that was estimated under these new guidelines. And the new guidelines didn’t even take into consideration anything beyond the outer containment, and it didn’t even take into consideration the spent nuclear fuel pools. Aileen Mioko Smith, March 24

The Japanese public has awakened to a new world where tap water is a danger to children and pregnant women, where food from one of the nation's key agricultural regions may be toxic, and in which there is little safety offered by the guidelines that put in place ticking time bombs that are subject to inevitable natural catastrophes.

The story will continue to unfold and the people of the world will then have to decide on the wisdom of a laissez-faire energy policy that puts entire regions and nations at risk for health and safety.


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Is there any site that

Is there any site that publish measurements from soil and water from different parts of the world, like RDTN.ORG does with measurements in air?

How come noone reports anything about plutonium? Isn´t that strange since it´s dangerous in very small amounts and for a very long time. Reactor 3 has used MOX-fuel and should have realeased plutonium...

Not that I know of, not public. You raise a key point

Mioko Smith and Takashi are both in Japan and both report a lack of information. It seems like they're having to piece things together in an ad hoc fashion. That's why the Austrian "Central Institute for Meteorology and Geodynamics" is so important as a source. They exist to monitor treaties but their measurement routing is what's needed to measure part of this. Plutonium, levels of any toxins in the earth, contingency plans if all the efforts fail to gain control of these, and rigorous monitoring are all critical issues. This is looking like BP and the White House. Tokyo Power wants to run the show and control information. Hence, no transparent public web site that will say what they know and don't know and the methodology for gathering that information.

Pandora's Box

Hiroshe Takashi (in CounterPunch): "Now they’re talking about iodine and cesium, but that’s only part of it, they’re not using the proper detection instruments."

Comment: "Reactor 3 has used MOX-fuel and should have released plutonium."

Michael Collins comment: "This is looking like BP and the White House. Tokyo Power wants to run the show and control information."

TEPCO today reported significant releases of Plutonium "a week ago, the company said {Bloomberg)."

Bloomberg report

Plutonium-239 is said to have a half-life of 24,100 years. One atom of it is deadly, over time, if ingested.

glad you updated Michael

While the amounts are small, the West cost is getting the radioactive iodine here. That's shocking, it has a half life of 8 days and that's 4500 miles.

No levels that I've found where that are at "alert" but the good news is due to youtube and social media, people are out there taking their own readings.

How can anyone trust the nuclear industry when, as we strongly suspected, Japan is fastly approaching the worst nuclear disaster in history.


This is a key point in the public dialog. The "Chernobyl" comparison by a scientific organization specializing in monitoring radiation, etc. shows how serious it is now, although it's not scientifically descriptive. The citizen and unrelated group/institutional monitoring is critical.

When will this be capped/resolved? That's the key follow up to the emissions and particle disbursement. It's the Freddy Kruger scenario that's so dreadful - ongoing releases for a year.

The Japanese people didn't do a single thing to deserve this. They were appropriately skeptical from the start but this was rammed through with empty promises and sweetened with PR campaigns by Tokyo Power. All the people did was work hard, obey the law, and live with an economic situation (since the 1980's) that reflected distorted policy and wealth concentrations, not the hard work and ingenuity of the people. Now this. They can't even get bottled water. They'll have something to say about this at some point, no doubt.

cow barred from grazing

They just did this now? cows barred from grazing in Japan.

What a mess, not that I'm really happy about any of this, I would have hoped our nuclear trolls were right and that everything is fine, move along now, nothing to see but it appears instead this is probably going to "level 7" in nuclear accident levels soon.

I wish they were all correct

about Japan and I wish that there were really no faults below Diablo Canyon's reactors (there are three). I wish we could count on our governments to come clean on what's happening. But you know the old saying, If wishes were horses, we'd all take a ride.

It really is time to swap out

It really is time to swap out most of the nuclear plants for green energy.

No time like the present

There are a lot of big wigs with egg on their face, including our president. It's always best to admit an error like this and move on quickly. They won't, of course. I think the response of the Japanese people will drive world public opinion. There were non stop claims by Tokyo Power that "it's all good" wit nuclear power and support from the government. Well, somebody has some serious explaining to do.

$5 sez my prior comment never makes it out of moderation

Just sayin'.

comments never making it out of moderation

The site filters for spam and also for "troll" misinformation and personal attack insults and crazy people.

To wit, it seems your comments are the above, so no, you don't get to write attacks, insults against the author, devoid of information or misinformation.

This is true generally. While the site is about enabling regular people to pipe up, the social norms of courtesy apply as well as cited, accurate information if claiming a post is incorrect or not accurate.

Myself, I have had commenters point out an error at which point I personally make a correction, but when a post is well cited and referenced and someone doesn't like the implication for whatever reason...

no, we don't allow people to use this site to fill up the comment sections with beliefs, name calling and hate filled vitriol.


Thx, as usual, for this Mike

The governments lie about everything else, of course they will continue to lie about this.

It is so beyond words...

A friend sent me an email from a Japanese homeopath yesterday, calling for NO NUKES and saying Japan needs to take the lead in this. I believe the people will, but then the governments ignore us/we the people and do what they please. And now with all the rigged elections, they don't have to worry about not getting into office.

How come they don't understand that their kids/babies are going to die too from the radiation too? I wonder do they really believe their own lies or are they so arrogant, they think they will be spared that kind of tragedy......

Back to the days when the nuclear weapons were building and building and building there were all kinds of stories that there were underground bunkers in DC that the govt would all go to, should there by a nuclear war. Did they really think then they would come out after it was over and just go on living?

They are stupid, immoral, evil, ignorant, arrogant.......

I have been saying we should build a nuclear power plant on the lawns of all who want them: on the White House Lawn, the Congress lawn, GE lawn, Exelon lawn

Nuclear power plants are weapons of mass destruction

We need a boycott of GE

Mike, have you followed the money on Exelon? Do they do anything else but nuclear power plants, so we could boycott them? I am sure you know they gave $270,000 to Obama campaign and that he caved to them way back when he was still in Illinoi

Highest regards and bests


$270,000 buys a lot of industry subsidies

That's probably the best ROI they've even gotten. I didn't know that. Thanks.

I think you're right about the Japanese people making a powerful statement. Like much of our national energy policy, this was shoved through on pure fantasy and probably with far less than majority support. People don't like being "had". The Japanese are no different than anyone else in that regard.

I like Sheila's idea of

I like Sheila's idea of putting the nukey plants where people want them--only the rest of us need to be far far away, driving less, eating organically, working on wind and solar power. Why don't we do this? We keep talking about it. Of course they can still contaminate our air space. Sometimes I look at the US, or New Zealand (maybe), and say, where would be the safest place to live and recreate civilization? I know we have pockets in the US who have tried to do this, but they probably don't have enough buffer land. Am I the only one who wants to do this?

Japan was warning on Tsunami/Nuclear Threat

Bloomberg has an exclusive on how Japan was warned and risk was well know to nuclear engineers about the threat a tsunami had to the Fukushima plant.

Follow the money to see where their "lairs" are...

In response to Marj Creech:

I don't know if there is anywhere safe and think the same along with you.

As we certainly don't think as -- shock doctrine "low in the gutter" as the Bush crime family, the Cheney crime family... and minions...

...who are suddenly silent and missing from the national scene, while "small radioactive particles" fly overhead thru the air.

Perhaps, just perhaps... they landed with the Moonies in their Paraguay hideout, next to the worlds largest clean water source - out of the radioactive winds?

Inquiring minds want to know...

• Until the industry is ready to accept all responsibility and liability for any incident, then WHY should a Nuclear Power Co. be allowed to operate?