Fukushima is Now Officially the Worst Nuclear Power Disaster in History

Move Over Chernobyl, Fukushima is Now Officially the Worst Nuclear Power Disaster in History


The radiation dispersed into the environment by the three reactor meltdowns at Fukushima-Daiichi in Japan has exceeded that of the April 26, 1986 Chernobyl catastrophe, so we may stop calling it the “second worst” nuclear power disaster in history. Total atmospheric releases from Fukushima are estimated to be between 5.6 and 8.1 times that of Chernobyl, according to the 2013 World Nuclear Industry Status Report. Professor Komei Hosokawa, who wrote the report’s Fukushima section, told London’s Channel 4 News then, “Almost every day new things happen, and there is no sign that they will control the situation in the next few months or years.”

Tokyo Electric Power Co. has estimated that about 900 peta-becquerels have spewed from Fukushima, and the updated 2016 TORCH Report estimates that Chernobyl dispersed 110 peta-becquerels.[1](A Becquerel is one atomic disintegration per second. The “peta-becquerel” is a quadrillion, or a thousand trillion Becquerels.)

Chernobyl’s reactor No. 4 in Ukraine suffered several explosions, blew apart and burned for 40 days, sending clouds of radioactive materials high into the atmosphere, and spreading fallout across the whole of the Northern Hemisphere — depositing cesium-137 in Minnesota’s milk.[2]

The likelihood of similar or worse reactor disasters was estimated by James Asselstine of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), who testified to Congress in 1986: “We can expect to see a core meltdown accident within the next 20 years, and it … could result in off-site releases of radiation … as large as or larger than the releases … at Chernobyl.[3] Fukushima-Daiichi came 25 years later.

Contamination of soil, vegetation and water is so widespread in Japan that evacuating all the at-risk populations could collapse the economy, much as Chernobyl did to the former Soviet Union. For this reason, the Japanese government standard for decontaminating soil there is far less stringent than the standard used in Ukraine after Chernobyl.

Fukushima’s Cesium-137 Release Tops Chernobyl’s

The Korea Atomic Energy Research (KAER) Institute outside of Seoul reported in July 2014 that Fukushima-Daiichi’s three reactor meltdowns may have emitted two to four times as much cesium-137 as the reactor catastrophe at Chernobyl.[4]

To determine its estimate of the cesium-137 that was released into the environment from Fukushima, the Cesium-137 release fraction (4% to the atmosphere, 16% to the ocean) was multiplied by the cesium-137 inventory in the uranium fuel inside the three melted reactors (760 to 820 quadrillion Becquerel, or Bq), with these results:

Ocean release of cesium-137 from Fukushima (the worst ever recorded): 121.6 to 131.2 quadrillion Becquerel (16% x 760 to 820 quadrillion Bq). Atmospheric release of Cesium-137 from Fukushima: 30.4 to 32.8 quadrillion Becquerel (4% x 760 to 820 quadrillion Bq).

Total release of Cesium-137 to the environment from Fukushima: 152 to 164 quadrillion Becquerel. Total release of Cesium-137 into the environment from Chernobyl: between 70 and 110 quadrillion Bq.

The Fukushima-Daiichi reactors’ estimated inventory of 760 to 820 quadrillion Bq (petabecquerels) of Cesium-137 used by the KAER Institute is significantly lower than the US Department of Energy’s estimate of 1,300 quadrillion Bq. It is possible the Korean institute’s estimates of radioactive releases are low.

In Chernobyl, 30 years after its explosions and fire, what the Wall St. Journal last year called “the $2.45 billion shelter implementation plan” was finally completed in November 2016. A huge metal cover was moved into place over the wreckage of the reactor and its crumbling, hastily erected cement tomb. The giant new cover is 350 feet high, and engineers say it should last 100 years — far short of the 250,000-year radiation hazard underneath.

The first cover was going to work for a century too, but by 1996 was riddled with cracks and in danger of collapsing. Designers went to work then engineering a cover-for-the-cover, and after 20 years of work, the smoking radioactive waste monstrosity of Chernobyl has a new “tin chapeau.” But with extreme weather, tornadoes, earth tremors, corrosion and radiation-induced embrittlement it could need replacing about 2,500 times.

John Laforge’s field guide to the new generation of nuclear weapons is featured in the March/April 2018 issue of CounterPunch magazine.


[1]Duluth News-Tribune & Herald, “Slight rise in radioactivity found again in state milk,” May 22, 1986; St. Paul Pioneer Press & Dispatch, “Radiation kills Chernobyl firemen,” May 17, 1986; Minneapolis StarTribune, “Low radiation dose found in area milk,” May 17, 1986.

[2]Ian Fairlie, “TORCH-2016: An independent scientific evaluation of the health-related effects of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster,” March 2016 (https://www.global2000.at/sites/global/files/GLOBAL_TORCH%202016_rz_WEB_KORR.pdf).

[3]James K. Asselstine, Commissioner, US Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Testimony in Nuclear Reactor Safety: Hearings before the Subcommittee on Energy Conservation and Power of the Committee on Energy and Commerce, House of Representatives, May 22 and July 16, 1986, Serial No. 99-177, Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1987.

[4] Progress in Nuclear Energy, Vol. 74, July 2014, pp. 61-70; ENENews.org, Oct. 20, 2014.

More articles by:

Seven Years Later, Still Leaking Lethal Levels, Catastrophic! Have Fun at the Olympics 2020!

Report: Massive radiation leak at Fukushima plant — Extremely high levels being detected outside reactor — Officials can’t explain why — Expert warns of global threat: “It’s a disaster of unseen proportions” (VIDEO)


Published: February 6th, 2018 at 7:23 am ET
By ENENews

The Independent, Feb 2, 2018 (emphasis added): Fukushima nuclear disaster: Lethal levels of radiation detected in leak… Expert warns of ‘global’ consequences unless the plant is treated properly… [Tepco] found eight sieverts per hour of radiation, while 42 [sieverts] were also detected outside its foundations… It came as Tepco said the problem of contaminated water pooled around the plants three reactors that is seeping into the ground has caused a major headache in its efforts to decommission the plant… Mycle Schneider, an independent energy consultant and lead author of the World Nuclear Industry Status Report, said that Tepco “hasn’t a clue what it is doing” in its job to decommission the plant. He added that the contaminated water that is leaking at the site could end up in the ocean if the ongoing treatment project fails and cause a “global” disaster, he told The Independent… “I find it symptomatic of the past seven years, in that they don’t know what they’re doing, Tepco, these energy companies haven’t a clue what they’re doing, so to me it’s been going wrong from the beginning. It’s a disaster of unseen proportions.” Mr Schneider added that the radiation leaks coupled with the waste from the plant stored in an “inappropriate” way in tanks could have global consequences… “This can get problematic anytime, if it contaminates the ocean there is no local contamination, the ocean is global, so anything that goes into the ocean goes to everyone.” He added: “It needs to be clear that this problem is not gone, this is not just a local problem. It’s a very major thing.”

NHK, Feb 1, 2018: High radiation detected at Fukushima plant… A remote-controlled inspection of the Unit 2 reactor containment vessel last month detected a maximum of 8 sieverts per hour of radiation… [Tepco] said the radiation reading was taken near what appeared to be fuel debris, the term used to describe a mixture of molten fuel and broken interior parts… radiation levels remain so high that they present a major challenge to decommissioning work. During the probe, 42 sieverts per hour of radiation was also detected outside the foundations of the reactor. But officials said they have doubts about the accuracy of the reading because a cover had not been removed from the measuring instrument at the time.

They added that they don’t know why radiation levels were lower near the suspected fuel debris than around the foundations. They gave a number of possible reasons, such as that cooling water may have washed radioactive materials off the debris…

RT, Feb 2, 2018: An inspection of the Fukushima nuclear plant has detected extremely high amounts of radiation, says operator TEPCO… Experts can’t explain why radiation levels in fuel debris were lower than outside the reactor’s foundations…

Sputnik, Feb 4, 2018: ‘Global Consequences’ of Lethal Radiation Leak at Destroyed Japan Nuclear Plant… While 8 Sv/h is deadly, outside of Fukushima’s Reactor Number 2 foundations… a much higher level of 42 Sv/h was detected. A strange occurrence, and experts are still arguing what caused the discrepancy. One possible explanation is that cooling water washed radioactive material off debris, taking it somewhere else. But here’s a truly terrifying catch: according to the report, Tepco highly doubts the new readings, because, as was discovered later, a cover was not removed from the robot-mounted measurement device at the time of the inspection, NHK World reports… While that radiation dosimeter cover negligence prevents precise calculations, the actual picture inside Unit 2 is thought to be much worse…

Watch NHK’s broadcast here: https://www3.nhk.or.jp/nhkworld/nhknewsline/nuclearwatch/highradiationatfukushimadaiichi7yearson/

Published: February 6th, 2018 at 7:23 am ET

“Smoke emerged at a service building of the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant in Niigata Prefecture on Thursday but it quickly halted after a firefighting effort by workers”

“Smoke billowing” from Japan nuclear plant — Possible fire reported near reactors — TEPCO “has not identified the cause of the incident”
By ENENews, on February 23rd, 2017
Published: February 23rd, 2017 at 8:58 pm ET
By ENENews

Kyodo, Feb 23, 2017: Smoke emerges at TEPCO’s Niigata nuclear plant — Smoke emerged at a service building of the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant in Niigata Prefecture on Thursday but it quickly halted after a firefighting effort by workers, its operator said. Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. said there was no radiation leak in the incident. The utility has not identified the cause of the incident. The plant operator confirmed smoke coming out around 3:25 p.m. from a locker room inside the service building, located near the No. 6 and No. 7 reactors at the plant…

Xinhua, Feb 23, 2017: TEPCO unaware of cause of smoke at Niigata nuclear plant in latest blunder – Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. (TEPCO) on Thursday said that it had detected smoke billowing from a service room near two reactors at its Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant in Niigata Prefecture, located on the west coast of Honshu island. TEPCO said that there was no radiation leak as a result of the possible fire which occurred close to its Sea of Japan-facing reactors, although the utility has yet to comment on the cause of the fire. The plant operator said that it noticed smoke billowing out of a locker room inside the service building near its No. 6 and No. 7 reactors at the facility…

Tepco is dangerous to the rest of the world!

See also: Tepco finds bent, damaged spent fuel assemblies in multiple fuel pools at Japan nuclear plant — Concern about prompt moderated criticality

China warns nationals visiting Japan over high radiation levels in Fukushima

China warns nationals visiting Japan over high radiation levels in Fukushima

China warns nationals visiting Japan over high radiation levels in Fukushima

The Chinese Embassy in Japan on Sunday issued an alert to its nationals who have plans to travel in Japan, reminding them of the high-level radiation inside a damaged reactor of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.

Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), the facility’s operator, announced last week that the radiation levels detected inside the plant’s No. 2 reactor had reached 650 Sieverts per hour, even higher than the previous record of 530 Sieverts per hour in January.

Even with a 30 percent margin of error, the reading is described by many experts as “unimaginable.” It is much higher than the 73 Sieverts an hour, which was detected in 2012, one year after the nuclear plant’s collapse. Under such exposure, a person would only be able to survive a few minutes at most.

The TEPCO on Thursday sent a remotely controlled robot into the reactor, equipped with a camera that is designed to withstand up to 1,000 Sieverts of cumulative exposure. The robot was pulled out after it broke down only two hours into the probe.

The company is planning to send better robots to conduct more detailed probes. However, it insists that radiation has not leaked outside the reactor.

Last week, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said China has issued safety alerts to its nationals over the high-level radiation. He added that China hopes that the Japanese government could clarify how they are going to thoroughly eliminate the impact caused by the nuclear accident.

Six years have now passed after three reactors at Fukushima’s nuclear power plant were damaged by a devastating 9.0-magnitude earthquake and a subsequent tsunami on March 11, 2011. After the accident, the local government ordered residents living within 30-kilometer radius around the Fukushima nuclear plant to evacuate.


Thought that you could forget about Fukushima? WRONG!

ALERT: Collapse imminent at Fukushima — TV: Officials find large section under reactor is “unstable… about to collapse” — “Bad, bad news… Time to reconsider that trip to the east coast of Japan” (VIDEOS)
By ENENews, on February 3rd, 2017

Published: February 3rd, 2017 at 9:41 pm ET
By ENENews

NHK World, Feb 3, 2017 (emphasis added): The operator of the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant is examining if it can go ahead with a plan to deploy a robot into one of the damaged reactors at the facility… An analysis of the images found that the radiation level inside the vessel was up to 530 sieverts per hour. Officials speculate that fuel debris–a mixture of nuclear fuel and melted parts of the reactor’s facility–may be emitting strong radiation inside the vessel… Last week’s probe found that part of a metal grating just beneath the reactor was missing. The robot was supposed to move around on the grating. The image analysis also found that an around one square-meter section near the missing segment is about to collapse.

NHK World transcript, Feb 3, 2017: “[Tepco] is facing more setbacks. Tepco has found unstable grating near a rector that will make it difficult to conduct further surveillance to help it decommission the plant… They found a section the size of a square meter is about to collapse. They had already found holes in other sections… A nuclear power expert suggests that will make it difficult for workers to locate the fuel.”

NHK World transcript, Feb 3, 2017 (at 1:30 in): “Engineers were able to get a glimpse inside Reactor No. 2… They found that a section one meter square is about to collapse. They had already found holes in other sections.”

Asahi, Feb 3, 2017: TEPCO said it will consider a different route for the robot… Fumiya Tanabe, an expert on nuclear safety… said the findings show that both the preparation for and the actual decommissioning process at the plant will likely prove much more difficult than expected. “We have few clues on the exact locations, the sizes and the shapes of the nuclear fuel debris,” he said. “The planned investigation by the robot needs a rethink. Work to decommission the plant will require even more time.”

CNET, Feb 3, 2017: High radiation levels at Fukushima reactor is bad, bad news — Time to reconsider that trip to the east coast of Japan. A containment vessel at the destroyed Fukushima No. 1 power plant has reached off-the-chart radiation levels, reported the Japan Times… Experts believe that escaped melted fuel can account for the spiked reading.

Watch NHKs’s broadcast here: #1 | #2

“Orders of magnitude” rise in levels on West Coast

Experts: US hit with sudden spikes of rare radioactive material from Fukushima — Has 15.7 Million year half life — “Orders of magnitude” rise in levels on West Coast — Much higher amounts than were detected near Fukushima plant just after 3/11
By ENENews, on January 23rd, 2017

Published: January 23rd, 2017 at 6:42 am ET
By ENENews

Royal Society of Chemistry, National Institute for Physics & Nuclear Engineering, Romania, 2015 (emphasis added): AMS analyses of I-129 from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident in the Pacific Ocean waters of the Coast La Jolla, San Diego, USA — This paper presents the results of an experimental study we performed by using the Accelerator Mass Spectrometry (AMS) method with iodine 129 (Halflife = 15.7 Million years], to determine the increase of the radionuclide content in the USA West Pacific Coast waters, two years after the March 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant accident… The results of the experiments showed a significant increase of the radionuclide concentration during the late spring of 2013. Compared to the isotopic ratio 129I/127I, measured at a 40 km distance, offshore of Fukushima and immediately after the accident, our results show an increase on the USA West Coast that was more than a 2.5 factor higher. Also, compared with the pre-Fukushima background values [in San Diego], our results show an isotopic ratio of about two orders of magnitude higher…

The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant… released an enormous amount of liquid waste of 129I and other fission isotopes directly into the Pacific Ocean that were subsequently dispersed eastwards. This paper reports on the determination of the nuclear plume impact on the West Coast of the USA that happened during April–July 2013… The determined maximum 129I concentration increase was in an amount of more than 2 times greater than the concentration of the isotope measured offshore of Fukushima at a 40 km distance immediately after the accident…

129I concentrations were measured… from the ocean water of the West Coast of the USA [at] La Jolla, San Diego… This work reports two sudden increases of the 129I/127I isotopic concentration in the ocean water, which were observed at the end of spring 2013…

Our exploratory measurements on the USA West Coast started on samples collected at the beginning of 2013. The lowest 129I concentrations that we measured had values between [6-20 million] atoms per L. Such values correspond to the equilibrium concentration of iodine… offshore of La Jolla, San Diego…

Our results… measured offshore of Cove La Jolla, San Diego, USA, during the spring of 2013, are presented in Fig. 5. Two high and distinct spike maxima are visible. They reveal the maximum concentration values of [1.2 billion] atoms per L measured on May 24, 2013 and [1.7 billion] atoms per L measured on June 18, 2013, with 24 days in between. Both peaks occurred in the measurement spectrum after a slow increase in concentration that started about 15-20 days before the main increase…

Samples collected [by Fukushima Daiichi, Jun 2011] at a distance of about 40 km away from the coast [had] a maximum concentration value of [620 million] atoms per L for 129I in the surface water of the ocean. Taking into account this value as a reference value, the maximum 129-iodine concentration reaching the USA West Coast was 2.5 times stronger than in the contaminated ocean water offshore of Fukushima after the accident. If we compare it to the equilibrium value of 129I concentration in the ocean water [near San Diego], then during the impact its concentration was about 100 times higher…

AMS measurements of 129I were performed on ocean water… offshore of Cove La Jolla, San Diego, USA, and definitely have shown an increase of the radioactivity more than two orders of magnitude over the natural level of the Pacific Ocean before the accident…

Animals starving as food chains continue to collapse They just will not place the blame where it belongs. Radiation From Fukushima

Massive die-off of sea creatures from California to Alaska — Animals starving as food chains continue to collapse — Mass starvation events plague West Coast — Scientist: “Felt like I was doing nothing but counting dead animals” — TV: Deaths really quite troubling (VIDEO)

Published: January 12th, 2017 at 1:49 pm ET

The Press Democrat, Dec 25, 2016 (emphasis added): Ocean changes upend North Coast fisheries… once reliable ocean rhythms have been seriously unsettled of late, confounding those who depend on predictable, seasonal cycles… a symptom of widespread marine anomalies that have prevailed for the past three years, threatening everything from seabirds and sea lions to treasured catches such as salmon and abalone. “The ocean is changing,” one glum crabber aboard the vessel New Horizon said… Irregularity “is starting to look like the new normal,” he said… Evidence of starvation in abalone populations prompted authorities to impose new restrictions in the sport abalone fishery next year to limit the catch. The commercial red urchin fishery is suffering, as well… Meanwhile, the commercial salmon harvest, California’s most valuable ocean fishery, continues to suffer, with spawning populations reduced significantly… Mass-starvation events have hit a spectrum of other West Coast marine wildlife, mostly due to the collapse of food chains… Large dieoffs of Cassin’s auklets, a tiny seabird, were first noticed when dead birds began washing ashore in fall of 2014. A year later, it was malnourished and dead common murres that were found adrift. Juvenile California sea lions, Guadalupe fur seals and other marine mammals have suffered for several years, as well, both from starvation and, to a lesser extent, from domoic acid poisoning.

Pete Thomas Outdoors (Former columnist for the LA Times), Dec 22, 2016: Young orca found dead near Vancouver; are iconic mammals starving to death?… J34 becomes the fifth member of J Pod to have died this year, reducing the pod’s number to 25. The cause of J34’s death is not known, but he was reported to have appeared noticeably thin during recent sightings. Also, the necropsy revealed signs of physical injury. The cause of death for the four other J Pod members was not determined because bodies were not recovered – the animals simply vanished. But it appears as through Southern Residents as a whole are suffering from a slow starvation

KOMO, Dec 22, 2016: [The orcas] go through periodic bouts of nutritional deficiency,” said [Howard Garrett, who runs the Orca Network]. “There’s just not enough of the chinook salmon and the coho chum salmon which are basically all they will eat.”

CTV, Dec 23, 2016: After the October 2016 deaths of a 23-year-old female, J28, and likely her 10-month-old calf, experts from the Center for Whale Research said dwindling food sources were a main factor in the population’s decline.

CTV transcript excerpt, Dec 23, 2016: Dr Anna Hall zoologist: “It died virtually in the prime of its life… It’s very, very concerning that a second animal just died.”…

CTV transcript excerpts, Dec 21, 2016: The numbers keep declining, mothers and babies dying — some experts say because of a lack of food…. so the death is really quite troubling.

Alaska Dispatch News: Nov 11, 2016: Kachemak Bay has seen massive die-offs of sea stars and other species. What’s going on? — I came to the beach to count sea star corpses..  About 10 species once were common in the intertidal zone here…hundreds of which had been dismembered and scattered over the beach, as if a monster had stalked through before us, tearing their bodies apart… We’re left with an absence, another mystery… A few months earlier… tens of thousands of murres starved to death and washed up along beaches all over Southcentral and Southwest Alaska. Biologists counted more dead seabirds than they ever had before, but there were more than anyone could count, leading to the second consecutive summer of empty nesting colonies… It was also the second summer in a row with no clams or clammers on Ninilchik beaches, and no young clams to promise a recovery. Otters washed up dead on the shores of Kachemak Bay. Dead whales rotted on the surface… How weird is all this? And does it all fit together?… Soon there were no more sunflower stars to be found. Other species followed… and then almost no sea stars at all… [Katie Aspen Gavenus, a naturalist with the Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies] reported dead sea stars to researchers in California, as she’d reported dead seabirds to researchers in Washington state. “Sometimes this summer, it felt like I was doing nothing but counting dead animals.”… “It’s probably a pathogen plus environmental factors,” said Melissa Miner, a researcher with University of California, Santa Cruz who’s been tracking the outbreak for years… We don’t know what will happen with the sea stars. We don’t even know what is happening with the sea stars. The scientists I spoke to didn’t know why the Kachemak Bay sea stars died this summer — they didn’t even know it had happened… Last winter, tens of thousands of murres starved to death. This summer, the remaining murres abandoned their nesting colonies and failed to raise chicks.

Watch the CTV broadcast here