This is interesting, and somewhat reassuring, if it’s true. I continue to be amazed, by the way, at how structured, rational, and heroic the people and authorities of Japan are reacting to this crisis. Read this story, for instance, on the last 50 nuclear plant workers who are struggling to avert disaster at Fukushima. And anticipated on it. As high as it is, the death toll could be way, way higher, as could the scope of the destruction. Not to say it’s not disastrous as it is – for instance the plight for thousands without food, medicine and heat sources is starting just now – but it could, in the immediate, have been a lot worse.
- Edit: This, by the way, doesn’t speak in favour of the Japanese government’s anticipatory abilities. According to a WikiLeaks cable (yes, that’s right), they were warned two years ago about the inability of their older nuclear power plants to withstand large earthquakes.
A concern for the people not just of Japan but the Pan Pacific area is whether Fukushima will turn into the next Chernobyl with radiation spread over a big area. The answer is that this scenario is highly unlikely, because of the wildly different design of the two reactors.
The reason why radiation was disseminated so widely from Chernobyl with such devastating effects was a carbon fire. Some 1,200 tonnes of carbon were in the reactor at Chernobyl and this caused the fire which projected radioactive material up into the upper atmosphere causing it to be carried across most of Europe. There is no carbon in the reactors at Fukushima, and this means that even if a large amount of radioactive material were to leak from the plant, it would only affect the local area.
The Japanese authorities acted swiftly and decisively in evacuating people living within 20km of the plant, and ensuring people living within 30km of the plant remained in their homes, with windows and doors closed. The radiation measured so far at Fukushima is 100,000 times less than that at Chernobyl.