March 2012. (For Part 1 (Earthquake & Tsunami), SEE HERE) (For additional sources on this topic, also see my page NUCLEAR NEWS LINKS, a sub-tab under the RADIOACTIVITY tab in the black top banner). For the latest news, I recommend ex-skf.blogspot.com.
Fukushima-Daiichi NPP, likely the world’s worst nuclear accident thus far.
This weekend marks the one year anniversary of the gigantic 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami, which also resulted in the world’s worst nuclear disaster to date, which, one year later, remains ongoing and at risk of worsening.
- Part 1: The 2011 Tōhoku Earthquake & Tsunami: devastation, human tragedy and recovery. [ SEE HERE.]
- Part 2: The ongoing Fukushima-Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant (NPP) Nuclear Disaster. (See below)
I’m going to focus only on the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear facility, and barely even touch on the Daini and Onagawa nuclear emergencies, which could have become as bad as the Daiichi facility but luckily didn’t. Because so much is easily available online about what technically happened, regarding the Fukushima-Daiichi NPP, I’ll stick to
–> An overview of ‘what happened’;
–> A recap my visual map comparison(s) of Japan’s Fukushima fallout versus the USSR’s 1986 Chornobyl* fallout;
–> There’s indications that this is not only the worst “since Chornobyl”, but also in the history of the nuclear industry, period.
Overview of ‘what happened’
In short, immediately following the 9.0M Tohoku Earthquake (see Part 1), ten nuclear reactors automatically shut down in 3 power plant facilities of a total of 13 reactors. Essential cooling systems failed miserably at Japan’s Fukushima-Daiichi NPP, resulting in a Nuclear Disaster on par with the 1986 Chernobyl Nuclear Accident, and much worse in some respects. (see below)
Shutdowns at 3 Quake-affected NPP sites:
- The Onagawa NPP: Total of 3 reactors all automatically shutdown when the earthquake hit. The turbine section of the facility caught fire and elevated radiation levels (leaking) was detected, spiking to 21 μSv/hr on March 13, later deemed most likely from the fallout cloud from Fukushima Daiichi blowing over. An aftershock on April 8, 2011 caused radioactive water to spill from pools holding spent nuclear fuel (see here). That aftershock damaged 2 of the 3 external power lines to the plant but cooling was luckily maintained through the third line, preventing what could otherwise have turned into meltdown quickly as well. The three units remain in cold shutdown since the earthquake of March 11.
- The Fukushima Daini NPP (“No. 2″ @ Fukushima): 4 reactors all automatically shutdown. Cooling system failed in Reactors No. 1, 2 and 4, but thanks to extrenal power being available, a temporary cooling system was established just in time and meltdowns were prevented. The damage sustained by earthquake and tsunami left the facility at the precarious mercy of aftershocks. The officially declared ‘nuclear emergency’ for Fukushima Daini NPP specifically was not lifted until December 26, 2011.
- Multiple meltdowns at Fukushima Dai-ichi (“No. 1″ @ Fukushima): 3 of the 6 reactors shut down automatically, but cooling was lost completely and reactors went into partial and full meltdowns. The other 3 reactors were already in shutdown for a pre-earthquake planned inspection, but the spent fuel pools sustained very serious damage as well. The meltdowns and spent fuel fires resulted in a catastrophic release of radioactive vapors and particles of numerous radioactive isotopes, including massive amounts of very hazardous Iodine-131, Caesium-137/134, Strontium-89/80, and Plutonium-238/239/240/241, as well as Curium-242 and Xenon-133. Vast regions became heavily contaminated with Cesium-137, which remains a serious cancer-causing health hazard for hundreds of years in the hardest hit areas.
About 19 % of airborne fallout from the Fukushima nuclear disaster was deposited in Japan, 79 % was absorbed by the Pacific Ocean, and about 2% made it to other land areas in Asia and North America, according to a study published by the European Geosciences Union. (Source: Forbes 10/29/2011: ‘Ocean Absorbed 79 Percent Of Fukushima Fallout’) In addition to the airborne pollution, massive amounts were flushed into the Pacific Ocean due to TEPCO’s inability to process contaminated emergency cooling water.
For a report on Japan-wide estimated soil contamination, with maps, see the PNAS document, http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2011/11/11/1112058108.full.pdf+html of which the following is part of a screenshot:
Next, An areal view of part of the extremely badly damaged Fukushima-Daiichi NPP, as photographed on March 24, 2011:
Overview of the Fukushima Daiichi NPP Catastrophe
WATCH THIS DOCUMENTARY. The BBC did a great job retelling what happened in the first days of the meltdown. (Additional info: see blogpost here)
To echo Greenpeace (here), the Fukushima nuclear disaster has again shown us that nuclear reactors are fundamentally dangerous. None of the world’s 435 nuclear reactors are immune to human errors, natural disasters, or any of the many other serious incidents that could cause an accident. Millions of people who live near nuclear reactors are at risk.
! –> Watch EURAD simulation of how the Cs-137 cloud moved around the northern hemisphere: http://www.woweather.com/weather/news/fukushima?LANG=us&VAR=eurad5000
NOTE: For those who still entertain the possibility that the quake was man-made, and “probably caused by HAARP“, you may enjoy my blogpost about that HERE, but I am very skeptical of that theory for all reasons described already.
Japan’s Fukushima fallout versus the USSR’s 1986 Chornobyl* fallout: a fallout map comparison.
(See also my previous blogposts on this topic: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and especially THIS (6, = my original comparison on May 19, 2011.), and well as 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, and THIS (12, = my Iodine-131 comparison), 13 (with question unanswered), 14 (comparison to Hiroshima A-bomb fallout), 15, Definately also check THIS (16, with the impressive CEREA world fallout simulation map – also shown below), and –> if you have to check only one, check THIS ONE (17, my extended Japan fallout map comparison from Sept 30, 2011) <– ; plus 18 (a needed correction), and 19 (Japan catching on re. map legends that make sense)).
! –> DATA MAP SOURCES: FIVE key fallout data map sources I used to piece my comparisons together:
- Official fallout maps for Cesium 134 & 137, released by MEXT (official / Japan) on Sept 29, 2011 (in Japanese, but also with clear fallout maps):
- A Cesium fallout simulation map ON LAND, made by the French CEREA (joint laboratory École des Ponts ParisTech and EdF R&D): http://cerea.enpc.fr/en/fukushima.html
- The Iodine-131 fallout map released by SPEEDI (Japan’s Education Ministry): http://www.mext.go.jp/a_menu/saigaijohou/syousai/1305747.htm –> Look for March 25, 2011 pdf (they had it all along, only just recently without any mainstream media attention added it to their data sets…) It’s this one: 福島第１原子力発電所（特定条件 WSPEEDI）［平成23年3月25日（金曜日）］ （PDF:594KB）
- For the best Chornobyl-region fallout maps I’ve found, see the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Rations (http://www.unscear.org/): http://www.unscear.org/docs/reports/annexj.pdf
- Chornobyl – Europe fallout maps by UNEP: http://www.grida.no/graphicslib/detail/radiation-from-chernobyl_7925
! – In order to make a fair comparison, data collection time since isotope release (within month since accident), specific isotope fallout (or combination of radioisotopes’ fallout) on maps to be compared (Cs-137), the map distance scale (adjusted), and data legend colors and grey scale need to relatively match to be visually comparable (see my “color translation key”).
This was not the case, which is why I came up with a map legend comparison key first, to “translate” the Japanese MEXT map into its approximate equivalent in UNEP colors used on the fallout map for Cs-137 over Europe (due to the 1986 Chornobyl nuclear disaster). Here’s the translation with my “translation key” in the middle. Right below that is this right translated map inserted into the Chornobyl map at approximately the same distance scale. Important to remember is that only a part of Japan was mapped when I made this comparison, and that 81% of fallout fell outside Japan, mostly into the Pacific Ocean (see further below)
–> Right Map Japan Cs-137 Fukushima fallout in UNEP colors, inserted into 1986 Chornobyl Cs-137 fallout map at approximately the same distance scale:
Some things are already undisputed:
- it is the largest radioisotopes contamination of the world’s oceans ever;
- it was the largest release of Xenon-133 into the environment in the history of the world.
- Experts say Fukushima ‘worse’ than Chernobyl: http://www.aljazeera.com/video/asia-pacific/2011/09/201191845015428149.html
- ENENEWS: USGS: Fukushima fallout in US worse than after Chernobyl: http://enenews.com/usgs-fukushima-fallout-in-us-worse-than-after-chernobyl
- more evidence added since, below.
The perception of overall picture is still being manipulated by the nuclear industry and its so-called regulatory agencies, as well as media mouthpieces and politicians in their pocket, who all parrot on cue.
[Edited below on May 25, 2015 for accuracy & to incorporate new information:]
WORST EVER, revisited:
- Largest overall radioactivity release to date (164 % Chernobyl)
- ALSO: No counter misinformation such as “Largest Cesium-137 release (4 x Chernobyl)”, please consider the following information
May 25, 2012 added: Reporting on the issue has been rather confusing. See my May 25 blogpost, “
So I had to go check a couple more things to correct everything… Grrr.
TEPCO’s May 24 2012 (English) Press Release: (my emphasis)
As for the amount of radioactive materials released into the air, the evaluation was done from March 12 to 31, 2011. The estimated release amounts are as follows.
Noble gas: Approx. 5×1017 Bq
Iodine 131: Approx. 5×1017 Bq
Cesium 134: Approx. 1×1016 Bq
Cesium 137: Approx. 1×1016 Bq
The amounts of radioactive materials released in April and later in 2011 are not taken into account in this evaluation result as the released amounts were less than 1% of that in March 2011, which are considered to be insignificant.
As for the amount of radioactive materials released into the ocean, the evaluation was done from March 26 to September 30, 2011. The estimated release amounts are as follows.
Iodine 131: Approx. 1.1×1016 Bq
Cesium 134: Approx. 3.5×1015 Bq
Cesium 137: Approx. 3.6×1015 Bq
As the equipments to directly measure [...]” - quoted from SOURCE: http://www.tepco.co.jp/en/press/corp-com/release/2012/1204659_1870.html
Translation for the ‘released into air’ part:
Noble gas: Approx. 5×1017 Bq = 500 Pbq of an unnamed noble gas (Xe-133 ?)
Iodine 131: Approx. 5×1017 Bq = 500 Pbq I-131
Cesium 134: Approx. 1×1016 Bq = 10 Pbq Cs-134
Cesium 137: Approx. 1×1016 Bq = 10 Pbq Cs-137
Converted to “iodine equivalent”X I-131 x1, Cs-134 x 4, and Cs-137 x 40 (to reflect the long duration the isotope stays in environment), thus the Iodine equivalent data is:
- 500 Pbq I-131
- 40 Pbq Cs-134
- 400 Pbq Cs-137
Without the Cs-134, this (I-131 + Cs-137 iodine equivalent) is the “900,000 teraBecquerel” mentioned by, among others, the Japan Times, Friday, May 25, 2012:
“Fukushima meltdowns’ March 2011 fallout higher than estimated, near 900,000 terabecquerels: Tepco”: ”An estimated 900,000 terabecquerels of radioactive substances were released into the atmosphere in March 2011 by the triple meltdowns at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, Tokyo Electric Power Co. said Thursday….” See article at: http://www.japantimes.co.jp/text/nn20120525b6.html
‘The Yomiuri Shimbun’, reported on May 24, 2012: “TEPCO estimate sees more radiation than NISA’s”, (my emphasis): “Tokyo Electric Power Co. has estimated the total amount of radioactive substances discharged from its Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant measured 760,000 terabecquerels, 1.6 times the estimate released by the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency in February. One terabecquerel is equal to 1 trillion becquerels.” and further: “TEPCO combined the two methods and repeated its calculations under different conditions. It reached a final estimate of 400,000 terabecquerels of iodine-131 and 360,000 terabecquerels of cesium-137. The amount of radioactive substances discharged in the Chernobyl accident in 1986 was 5.2 million terabecquerels.” - SOURCE: ‘The Yomiuri Shimbun’, reported on May 24, 2012- (my emphasis) http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/dy/national/T120523005514.htm)
Where did the Yomiuri Shimbun get 400,000 TBq I-131 + 360,000 TBq for Cs-137 from? From adding the I-131 estimate for air and adding 2 zeroes to the ocean estimate for Cs-137? Or do they multiply by 36 instead of 40 to get the I-131 equivalence, because… ?
Iodine 131: Approx. 1.1×1016 Bq = 11 PBq = 1100 TBq
Cesium 134: Approx. 3.5×1015 Bq = 3.5 PBq= 3500 TBq
Cesium 137: Approx. 3.6×1015 Bq = 3.6 PBq = 3600 TBq
The strange small difference in the Yomiuri Shimbun aside, American and Russian outlets turned that TEPCO press release into misinformation. Many such reports originally threw me off (for many hours -grrr.) , because, for example, widely-sourced ENENews, reported it as such:
“Fukushima amounts to four Chernobyls” of cesium-137 contamination — “It still seems to be just an effort to downplay the real scale of the event” - SOURCE: http://enenews.com/fukushima-amounts-to-four-chernobyls-worth-of-cesium-137-contamination-it-still-seems-to-be-just-an-effort-to-downplay-the-real-scale-of-the-event
I’m getting a little tired of how ENENews doesn’t fact-check what they spread… This time sourced their crap from Russia Today. (Which… actually… Speculation, but could this be on purpose, to downplay the Chernobyl accident?)
RT put out the following asinine report, which ENENews spread, picked up in turn by Rense.com, etc.:
“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. [...]” Read more confusing misinformation at this SOURCE: http://www.rt.com/news/fukushima-chernobyl-cesium-137-contamination-145/
I’ll sort this one out for you, below. First this table to not get confused about the prefixes (I added the more compete prefix table to my Radiation Units page):
The difference between ‘peta’ and ‘tera’ is 1000 (3 zeroes).
These are what can be compared to the “5200 PBq of Chernobyl’s “total”", the May 2012 TEPCO estimates are:
- 500 PBq of I-131 (compares to their previous 319 PBq*)
- 400 PBq of Cs-137 (compares to their 30.3 PBq** estimate from a year ago! – *&**: see table below -; or to the 15 PBq reported last September:)
What got me tinking was a September 13/14, 2011 article by Hiroshi Ishizuka, in the Asahi Himbum: “Fukushima Cesium Contamination Widespread But Less Than Chernobyl”, stating clearly, “Of various radioactive materials, the amount of cesium 137 was 15,000 terabecquerels in the Fukushima accident, about one-sixth the 85,000 terabecquerels in the Chernobyl accident. Cesium 137 levels of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima were far lower, at only 89 terabecquerels.” SOURCE: http://www.asahi.com/english/TKY201109130348.html
So… see if get this right: The Cs-137 estimate went from 15,000 TBq, which is 15 PBq to… 10 PBq. Wow… That’s pretty crafty: the estimate is lowered by 50%, but by using the iodine-equivalence in their press release, their new totals look much bigger. Not understanding this sleight of hand, alternative media goes crying wolf, so that TEPCO can, in turn, point out their stupidity and score points for the lunatic pro-nuke crowd…
So… To make sense of all those news outlets comparing apples and oranges, I created this little table to shed light on the confusion:
- For “***”, see also the table further below in this blogpost.
To “get a clue” if those levels might cause any cancer, Fukushima’s 10,000 TBq for ONLY Cs-137 compares to Hiroshima’s 89 TBq of Cs-137. To understand the seriousness of this, see my May 19, 2012 blogpost, ‘Radiation Research Society – 14th Report. Low Level Radioactivity More Carcinogenic than previously known.’
So while you could scream: “FUKUSHIMA Cesium = 112 Hiroshima bombs” (which is old news, see my July 31, 2011 post HERE), saying it is “4 times Chernobyl” is, truly, NONSENSE.
As far as TOTAL radioactivity release, because of the extremely high Xenon-133 release, Fukushima is worse than Chernobyl. Just like I beat the officials to declaring the accident an “INES level 7″ by several weeks (see HERE), it is only a matter of time for it to become official that Fukushima tops Chernobyl as far as total radionuclide contamination, as well as in many other respects. (And perhaps an INEs-8 can be added for disasters that don’t have an end in sight…)
No, for the data, look at this table below:
In a paper, dated February 16th, 2012, “Effects of the Fukushima nuclear meltdowns on environment and health“, by Dr. med. Alex Rosen, University Clinic Düsseldorf, [Germany], Department of General Paediatrics, there’s a table showing some data:
–> Take the upper estimates in the above table alone, and for I-131 and Cs-137 substitute the old estimates with the new TEPCO estimate for I-131, and as such: add up 500 PBq (I-131) + 50 PBq (Cs-137, unadjusted) + 4.24 PBq (Strontium) + 0.0025 PBq Plutonium + 22,300 PBq (Xenon-133, 2011 estimate), I get just over 23,000 PBq, which is over 164% of Chornobyl’s total of 14,000 PBq. And that’s without taking some other isotopes into consideration. (Even if you were to use NILU’s 2011 estimate for Xenon-133, Fukushima surpasses Chernobyl.)
While in some respects, such as total Iodine-131 and Cs-137 release, Fukushima is less severe, as far as total radioactivity release, as well as ocean contamination, the 2011 and ongoing Fukushima nuclear disaster is WORSE than Chernobyl’s. This is 100% backed up by the official data I quote above. Recent reports (from RT in this case) that Fukushima’s Cesium totals are much worse than Chernobyl’s cannot be substantiated upon scrutiny.
[last updated May 25, 2012]
“Appendix: SOURCES for Chernobyl / Чорнобильської DATA:
- 14 EBq TOTAL (= 14,000 PBq = 14,000,000 TBq)
- 1.8 EBq I-131 (1.8 Ebq = 1800 PBq (1,760 PBq to be precise) = 1,760,000 TBq)
- 85 PBq Cs-137 ( 85 PBq = 85,000 TBq) -!-x40=–> = 3,400,000 Tbq “Iodine equivalent” !
not including, but very important to make sense of confusing comparisons:
- I-131 + Cs-137 Iodine equivalent = 5.2 EBq = 5200 PBq = 5.2 million terabecquerrel
” [...] The total radioactivity of the pools of contaminated water is equivalent to one seventh of the 5.2 million terabecquerels released into the atmosphere from the Chernobyl nuclear power plant disaster in 1986. [...]” - June 5, 2011 Asahi Shimbum (http://www.asahi.com/english/TKY201106040157.html)
!!!–> Note the origin and meaning of the 5.2 EBq estimate: “A total of about 14 EBq (14 x 1018 Bq) of radioactivity was released, over half of it being from biologically-inert noble gases.* *The figure of 5.2 EBq is also quoted, this being “iodine-131 equivalent” – 1.8 EBq iodine and 85 PBq Cs-137 multiplied by 40 due its longevity, and ignoring the 6.5 EBq xenon-33 and some minor or short-lived nuclides.” - http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/chernobyl/inf07.html
“The total release of radioactive substances was about 14 EBq, including 1.8 EBq of iodine-131, 0.085 EBq of 137Cs, 0.01 EBq of 90Sr and 0.003 EBq of plutonium radioisotopes. The noble gases contributed about 50% of the total release. [...] 1 EBq = 1018 Bq (Becquerel).” - IAEA (http://www.iaea.org/Publications/Booklets/Chernobyl/chernobyl.pdf)
- Still comes up on Google’s first page, so I want to point out the erroneousness of this source: “A retrospective view of the Chernobyl accident of Apr 26, 1986 assesses the total radiation release at about 100 megaCuries or 4 x 1018 becquerels, including some 2.5 MCi of cesium-137. The cesium is the most serious release in terms of long term consequences. The total release was around 4% of the total accumulated activity of the core and compares to a release of 15 Ci at Three Mile Island. The release was then about 7 million times that at TMI. [...]“ - FAIL: http://hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu/hbase/nucene/cherno2.html (For starters ‘4 x 1018 becquerels’ is a pretty rough rounding up, as 100mCi really is 3.7 x 1018 becquerels, and this number is not accepted anywhere anymore. 14 EBq (or 5.2 EBq, see above) is the official estimate for Chernobyl, see sources above.)
— — —
SOURCES accessed (at least glimpsed)
while putting this overview together:
- The Asahi Shimbun, February 29, 2012 By AKIKO OKAZAKI: “Scientists: Far more cesium released than previously believed“
- * I use both the Russian “Chernobyl” and the more Ukrainian-sounding spelling, “Chornobyl”.