Fukushima disaster: aftereffect could be worse than Chernobyl’s
Please allow me to react to the letter of Mr. Shinsuke Shimizu, minister, head of the chancery, Embassy of Japan in Manila, on the Fukushima nuclear disaster. (Inquirer, 5/14/11)
1) Entombing the whole site of the damaged reactors at Fukushima is not a conclusion I alone came to. Fairewinds, a consultant to the US nuclear industry, has suggested it as “the best solution,” apparently to protect life, health and the environment. It was the remedy given to the Chernobyl disaster in 1986.
2) Shimizu takes exception to the suggestion. He believes that Fukushima is very different from Chernobyl. There was no loss of lives in Fukushima and, in fact, only “50 persons” died from radiation-related sickness at Chernobyl. The State of the World (1992), the flagship publication of the Worldwatch Institute, belies Shimizu:
“The greatest human experiment with radiation exposure is taking place in the Ukraine and Byelorussia, where much of the 50 million curies the Soviet government says were released by the 1986 accident at Chernobyl is being felt…..Chernobyl legacy could include hundreds of thousands of additional cancer deaths… Current estimates predict anything from 14,000 to 475,500 deaths worldwide from Chernobyl.” (A curie measures the intensity of radiation and is equal to 37 billion disintegrations per second. As a reference point, the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs released an estimated 1 million curies.)
Shimizu admits that Fukushima has so far released about 10 percent of Chernobyl radiation, which is five times of the Hiroshima-Nagasaki atomic blasts or 5 million curies.
3) Shimizu says that Japan is transparent about Fukushima and nuclear issues. But for self-interests, nuclear states appear hesitant to divulge everything on their nuclear programs, especially on nuclear incidents and mishaps. The Soviet Union did not right away admit the Chernobyl accident. When the situation at Fukushima worsened, the Japanese nuclear authorities, as loudly suspected by the head of the US nuclear agency, indicated a level lower than what the international scale of nuclear accidents required.
Indeed, the State of the World believes that “Credibility problems plague government nuclear agencies” (as those of North Korea, Iran, Israel, Pakistan), “including those in France, the Soviet Union and the United States.” The world would not really care if the “roadmap” to rehabilitate or stabilize the Fukushima reactors takes six-nine months—as long as Japan continue to respect international environmental law and the tranquility of its neighbors.
—NELSON D. LAVIÑA,
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