Fukushima’s Cs-137 is NOT “Four Chernobyls” ! (Russia Today spreading misinformation)

Added afterwards [Sept 3, 2013]: the below was posted in May 2012 and simply points out how reports in “iodine equivalent” confused some reporters.  Meanwhile new data has revealed that as far as Cs-137 and Sr-90 goes, Fukushima is now (Early Sept 2013) already more than four Chernobyl’s.  Just the radioactive water stored on site contains 2.5 Chernobyls alone.  See also my Alert post at the end of July 2013.   What’s been revealed since is even worse.  - end afterword.  Original post unaltered:

—– —– —–

I made a couple edits to my May 6, 2012 overview post, “One year later – Part 2: The Ongoing Fukushima Daiichi NPP Disaster.”.   

Reporting on the issue has been rather confusing.  Earlier today I posted “Fukushima Already Released more than 400% Chernobyl’s Cs-137″, but I took it down, and then changed the title and content to reflect my findings.  I discovered major alternative media outlets are currently spreading misinformation from Russia Today (See further below).   I aim to undo the confusion in this blogpost.

For starters, data quoted (in the The Yomiuri Shimbun and elsewhere) referred to “iodine-131 equivalence” numbers (for which the estimates for Cs-137 are multiplied x 40   = the key to this confusion), but in many cases these were then wrongfully compared.  I’ll lay it all out in this blogpost.  Took me awhile, though, as I had to go check a couple more things to correct everything…     Roll’n:

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 for FUKUSHIMA #1 NPP 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?  No idea.    Okay, nevermind on that one, I’ll run with the TEPCO data.

For ‘released straight into the Pacific Ocean’, their new numbers are:

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

For simplicity, I will focus on just the air releases.

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… this would be 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/

In this regard, their motto is rather funny, I find:

I’ll sort this confusion one out for you, below.   First this table to not get confused about the prefixes (I also 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 about “4x Chernobyl!”, 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 (things in the same color can be compared):

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…)

Now, 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 PBqwhich 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:

Summary (Chornobyl):

  • 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.)
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13 Responses to Fukushima’s Cs-137 is NOT “Four Chernobyls” ! (Russia Today spreading misinformation)

  1. scotopical says:

    Nice post, I’ve looked into the reporting and come to the same conclusion. Media reporting on radiation issues is horrible. Especially those like RT who spread false misleading info that can increase anxiety and stress.

    Don’t get me started on the rabid fringes of the anti nuke crowd. They make me sick.

    • Thanks for commenting. I’m totally anti-nuke too, (in case that wasn’t obvious), I just think the unexaggerated facts are plenty of reason to begin phasing out nuclear energy everywhere, immediately. I wonder if some of the crazy ones work for the nuclear industry, to discredit the anti-nuke crowd. No idea, but some of it is so over the top, it makes one wonder…

  2. scotopical says:

    Yeah I gathered that you were against nukes, personally I’m pro, but I’m glad to see some on your side are willing to call out others who us highly misleading if not fraudulent data.

    How do you reconcile the vast differences in Xenon 133 (noble gases) estimates between Tepco’s 500,000 TBq, Frances IRSN (Institute for Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety) at 2,000,000 TBq and the study you cite which states 16,700,000 TBqs?

    The TEPCO result in the table from Dr Rosen you posted also contradicts the latest TEPCO data. I think Dr. Rosen has made a mistake. He cites the Stohl study as his source but it contains nothing about TEPCO estimating 22,300,000 TBq’s of Xe-133.

    Here’s his references for the Xe-133 estimates in the table:

    16 Stohl A et al. „Xenon-133 and caesium-137 releases into the atmosphere from the Fukushima
    Daiichi nuclear power plant: determination of the source term, atmospheric dispersion, and
    deposition“, Atmos. Chem. Phys. Discuss., 11, 28319-28394, 2011
    17 “Report of Japanese Goverment to the IAEA Ministerial Conference on Nuclear Safety – The
    Accident at TEPCO’s Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant”, June 2011

    I can’t find any reference to a release of 22,300 PBq from TEPCO in the report to the IAEA, only 11,100 PBq in Attachment IV-2 pg 7. Especially when the total inventory of Xe-133 was 12,600 PBq according to Stohl. (Table 2)

    It must be noted that Xe-133 is not dangerous with It’s effective half life being measuerin seconds compared to many days for Iodine and Caesium. It’s also not as chemically active as Caesium or Iodine. It’s safe limits for air exposure is 5000 times Iodine 131 for example.

    More on Xenon 133 from here:


    What is interesting in the TEPCO report from the 24th May is the higher estimate of I-131 compared to other estimates. it seems to have more than tripled.

    • Yea, I don’t know. How can such extremely divergent data be reconciled? I went with the Dr Rosen data, as it was in a convenient table that on first sight appeared fact-checked. ;-) I didn’t check all sources, but did come across TEPCO’s 1.11 EBq too. One way to find out is to contact those who conducted the studies, I suppose. For this particular issue, I’m not inclined to take my truth-dig that far.

      Now, Tepco’s leap from, let’s say 11,100 PBq, to the new estimate of 500 PBq… It’s odd they don’t say more about that. Unless they mean another noble gas (why don’t they name it?). Xe-135 or so? I don’t know. Truly a mystery to me how the flip their data around.

      Anyhow, I wondering if this May 24 2012 TEPCO report says more about their method used than what might be ‘actual reality’. There are sure to be other studies and eventually they’ll come to some kind of consensus, just as what happened with Chernobyl.

      The other reason Xe-133 is not very dangerous is ’cause is also because it’s bio-inactive. (hence its use in nuclear medicine, I’m sure you now) That kind of nuclear I’m not per se opposed too, but for power generation, no thanks. The nuclear waste is too serious of a risk, especially with the requirement for its safe storage for at least 100,000 years… in the context of an economy that can’t even think beyond the next quarter earnings. But, anyhow, that’s a whole other topic.

      I’m sure you’re willing to change your opinion on nuclear power generation if you come across information or experiences that would sway you. Washington’s Blog and Alexander Higgings have had some good articles on the topic.: ‘Nuclear Power Is Expensive and Bad for the Environment … It’s Being Pushed Because It Is Good For Making Bombs’ for instance
      @ http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2012/04/nuclear-power-is-expensive-and-bad-for-the-environment-it-is-really-being-pushed-because-it-is-good-for-making-bombs.html

      Thanks for commenting!

      - MVB

  3. femalefaust says:

    THANK YOU. Especially for taking to moment to leave a trail of breadcrumbs in the RT footer.
    I link to you here, hope you don’t mind.

    Be seeing you.

  4. CaptD says:

    I just found your blog; hope to read much more from you, it is frustrating that there are so many blogs and so little time to post comments that are meaningful!

    Without the web the World would be much worse off!

    BTW: He is a sample of one of my favorite blogs (Paul Langley’s) which I believe you will love!

    • Thanks. Unlike the blog you suggested (thank you!), which indeed seems to have good info, and asking great questions, on this blog… it used to different a year ago, but now the nuclear issue, in particular the ongoing FUkushima/global crisis, is just one I every now and then touch upon. As you can see from browsing through my blog posts, this is simply my outlet to say or share whatever I feel like. New art, an opinion, a link, news, calling out a news source, the weather, personal updates, travel,… Pretty much anything goes. Enjoy! Greetings fom Colorado, – m

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