One of the things I keep hearing in the media lately is, “Fukushima is not nearly as bad as Chernobyl”. While this is true in a technical sense, I’m afraid it may not be true in a human sense.
From a technical perspective, Chernobyl was a criticality event, whereas Fukushima is presently just a partial meltdown event. The operators at Chernobyl could not insert control rods to stop the nuclear reaction and a runaway fission event led to a huge explosion and graphite fire that distributed radiation far and wide. In contrast, the fires of Fukushima are much less intense. Despite the presence of much more radioactive material at Fukushima, radioactive contamination is likely to be both less severe and less widespread.
But from the human perspective, the amount of radiation released or the size of the geographic area affected are not the most important issues. The key issue is how many humans are injured by radiation. The total number of radiation injuries (including low level exposures) from Chernobyl is estimated to be about 5.5 million. If you consider that Tokyo just advised people not to drink municipal tap water, we’re talking about 30 million or more people who are at risk of at least low level radiation poisoning.
I wish that the “experts” in the media would make this distinction when comparing Fukushima and Chernobyl.23 March 2011 by caseyzak