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Rational Information on the Fukushima Plant Danger

March 22, 2011

I’ve heard a lot of conflicting information about the severity and danger presented by the leak at the Fukushima Nuclear Plant – everything from it’s not going to be a big deal to it’s worse than Chernobyl. I figure a little sanity is called for here.

First of all, it’s not going to be as bad as Chernobyl. The Russians paid little more than lip service to safety at their plant. They had little in the way of redundancy in safety, put their batteries, which produced explosive hydrogen gas, too near the main part of their plant and, when the building exploded, had no immediate plans to deal with the fallout. Fukushima has a safer design, better precautions implemented and better opportunities to get their problems back under control.

That said, no one plans for a Tsunami hitting them. Saying you have perfect confidence in the event of a tsunami is as ridiculous as saying you have perfect confidence in the event of a missile impacting the reactor. There is bound to be damage and the best you can hope for is some level of mitigation.

Of course, none of this answers the question of exactly how bad the situation is over there. Luckily, Randall Munroe of xkcd fame has a chart that answers that question:
Comparison of different levels of radiation

 

You’ll notice the average radiation from a day near the Fukushima plant is a little less than the amount you would get from a dental x-ray – not something you would want to be exposed to too often, but not enough to warrant blind panic either.  The Maximum amount was significantly more than the Maximum amount from 3-mile island, but significantly less than an hour on the grounds of Chernobyl.

Hopefully this provides some sense of proportion for people.

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