Fukushima 2011 versus Chernobyl 1986: a fallout map comparison

One map’s green is another map’s red

PLEASE  CLICK HERE FOR THE NEWER COMPARISON! –>  more recently updated, and more accurate: Fukushima 2011 versus Chernobyl 1986 - Extended fallout map comparison based on the Sept 29, 2011 MEXT maps.   

You may also like my attempt at ‘Fallout Maps for the United States (2012)‘.  See the NUCLEAR / RADIOACTIVITY tab above for additional resources.  

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Note regarding the maps (further below) for Fukushima and Chernobyl ON THE SAME SCALE in both Fukushima (MEXT map) colors and in Chernobyl (UNEP map) colors:  The Japanese presentation makes both accidents appear less severe, while applying UNEP’s map legend to Fukushima makes it appear more severe, at least within 100 kilometers of the Daiichi plant, compared to the immediate area surrounding Chernobyl.  

Please note my DISCLAIMER, and understand that these maps are only rough estimations with a significant margin or error due to lack of data, parts of the map-color-translation even including guess-work (!).  They still serve to give a general idea about the severity of the nuclear contamination, though (imo).   You may also be interested in the following map comparissons and related blog posts I attempted:

- Elaboration on comparing map legends of fallout maps Fukushima versus Chernobyl:  https://allegedlyapparent.wordpress.com/2011/05/20/a-little-elaboration-on-my-cesium-137134-fallout-color-legends-translation-legend/

- Iodine-131 fallout (2 weeks in) Comparison of maps of Fukushima versus Chern0byl:  https://allegedlyapparent.wordpress.com/2011/05/26/iodine-131-a-basic-map-comparison-fukushima-versus-chenobyl/

- A visual map summary of the below Cesium-137 Fukushima versus Chernobyl:  https://allegedlyapparent.wordpress.com/2011/05/20/map-comparison-visual-summary/

Assistance welcome! - If you spend way more time on this, I’m sure a more precise comparison could be made.  Please do NOT quote me for scientific purposes.  It does not live up to the necessary standards for that, in my own opinion.  This is meant only to give a rudimentary (gu)es(s)timate.  If you know other better sources for the same, please let me know; I’ll gladly include them in a blogpost, or right here. Thanks!

See HERE for the improved version. / Original May 19, 2011 blogpost follows:

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The MEXT and DOE produced some fine maps recently, detailing the regional Cesium levels in becquerel per square meter (Cs-137 in Bq/m2).   You could download the PDF, here: http://www.mext.go.jp/component/english/__icsFiles/afieldfile/2011/05/10/1304797_0506.pdf

Through some Googling, I first found an overview of radiation maps, which included this above mentioned one, on blogger Mark Foreman’s May 17, 2011 blogpost: Better cesium maps of the area around the accident site in Japan.  Combined with the the UNEP’s detailed map of Cesium 137 & 134 fallout from Chernobyl across Europe, which I found here: http://maps.grida.no/go/graphic/radiation-from-chernobyl, I then worked it out so you can actually compare them now, since they used vastly different legends.  :-)

Here are the maps, their legends, how they compare! (see below)  The fallout-mapped area of Japan is tiny compared to Europe, but there are a couple factors that drive the scale of the Fukushima disaster home:  wind directions after the Chernobyl accident blew the radioactive cloud first over Belarus and Scandinavia, and then, as the wind swirled the mess around, over much of the rest of Europe.  (See one simulation HERE)  The highest radioactive cesium fallout deposits can be clearly seen downwind on the map.  So, with that in mind: the predominant wind direction for Fukushima has been western, away from the land towards the Pacific Ocean, with a couple relatively brief exceptions (such as when the wind blew to the NNW, very clearly visible in the fallout, and even more briefly when the wind blew South towards Tokyo).   I think it’s pretty reasonable to assume that the vast majority of the Fukushima-Daiichi-NPP fallout fell into the Pacific Ocean or far beyond (North America and even further east).


  • Fukushima Daiichi nuclear Power plant regional Cesium-137 fallout map (2 weeks in – Note: 2 months later, leaking is far from stopped!)

  • Chernobyl nuclear power plant European continent Cesium 137 + 134 fallout map (after 2 weeks in when leaking was stopped)

  • The Fukushima and the Chernobyl color map legends:  Fukushima’s map is practically “off the scale” on the Chernobyl map, with extremely high measurements 30 to 80 kilometers in the north-north-western direction from the Japanese spewing disaster site:






–> As you can see, the two legends use different scales, making a color comparison not really possible without a legend that compares the color coded radiation levels.  Took me some time, but here that is, both ways:

On This above comparison legend, you can see that the dark red on the Chernobyl map legend starts at 185,000 Bq/m2, which on the Fukushima map legend is still part of the lowest level blue of “less than 300,000 Bq/m2″.  Or, the other way around, with the Fukushima colors as the reference:

The 2 random extra pieces of data on the first comparison legend, namely 5,300 Bq/ m2 reported on March 22 in Shinjuku (outskirts of Tokyo, a bit inland), I read here:  http://stocksthatpay.com/?p=15790  And the 14.7 million Bq/m2 in Namie, about 30 km north of the Fukushima Daiichi NPP, I read here:  http://mdn.mainichi.jp/mdnnews/news/20110511p2a00m0na018000c.html  There’s tons more that further illustrate the severity of the contamination.  Keep in mind, also that the radioactive fallout from Iodine-133, Xenon-133 or Strontium-90 are not even included in this overview.

IF I were to use the Chernobyl color-code on the Fukushima map, it probably would look … something like this (my estimate, with maybe a hint of orange in some spots):

See the top link (of click this image) for a MUCH better comparison I did later on.

Inserted into the Island of Japan, to give another clue…:

It is most likely that all of Japan would be yellow, much orange, with bad affected areas of red and brown in spots

And to give an idea of how the distances compare, here’s the Japan’s Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear catastrophy region inserted on the Ukraine’s mess.  Keep in mind the wind has been blowing almost the entire time towards the Pacific Ocean in Japan, and towards Scandinavia for the worst days of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster.  Notice also the erratic deposition distribution:

To gauge the potential health hazards…. Hint: a study done in Sweden discovered a statistically significant 11% increase in cancer per 100kBq/m2 Cs-137.  “100,000 Bq/ m2 and up” includes part of the dark orange, all the dark red and all the dark brown on the Chernobyl map’s color legend.   SOURCE: European Committee on Radiation Risk, http://www.euradcom.org/, 2010 recommendations:

See more on that at my Health Effects Page (in the NUCLEAR / RADIOACTIVITY tab in the blog’s top banner).

Be well!

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