Fukushima is not Chernobyl, but it is potentially worse

"The situation in Fukushima remains very serious", Amano told a press briefing at UN headquarters. Japan has struggled to contain its nuclear emergency since a 14-metre (45-foot) tsunami hit the Fukushima plant after a huge quake on March 11, with radioactive substances entering the air, sea and soil, plus foodstuffs from the region.

High levels of radioactive iodine-131 that are 10,000 times the government safety standard have been found in groundwater below the plant, located on the Pacific coast some 250 kilometres (155 miles) northeast of Tokyo. Radioactive iodine believed to be from a crisis-hit nuclear plant in Japan have been detected in rainfall over Scotland’s biggest city.

The crisis at Japan’s disabled Fukushima nuclear plant assumed another dimension Friday with detection of groundwater contamination near a reactor. With radioactive Iodine-131 rising to its highest levels in Pacific Ocean waters near the plant, latest tests Thursday night detected groundwater containing radioactive iodine 10,000 times the legal limit near the No. 1 reactor’s turbine building, Kyodo News reported.

The Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency warned Tokyo Electric Power Co. mistakes in its data are damaging its credibility, Kyodo said. The company admitted a programming mistake made its figures on substances other than radioactive iodine unreliable. "Chernobyl was a dirty bomb explosion. The next dirty bomb is Fukushima and it will cost much more in economic and human terms," Natalia Mironova said.

The first four reactors, including No. 1, damaged severely and continuously leaking radioactive substances with the failure of their cooling systems, are already scheduled to be de-commissioned or never to be used again. It is likely the cores at Nos. 1, 2 and 3 reactors were damaged, causing them to release radioactive substances, and the fuel rods at No. 4 reactor, kept in a spent fuel pool, are believed to have been exposed after its cooling functions failed. Additionally, the turbine buildings of some of the reactors are reported to be flooded with contaminated water, making it difficult to pump them out.

Ms Mironova is a thermodynamic engineer who became a leading anti-nuclear activist in Russia in the wake of the accident at the Soviet-built reactor in Ukraine in 1986. "Fukushima is much bigger than Chernobyl," she said, adding that the Japanese nuclear crisis was likely to eclipse Chernobyl on the seven-point international scale used to rate nuclear disasters.

Chernobyl, which a 2005 report by UN bodies including the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) called "the most severe in the history of the nuclear power industry", was ranked a seven on the International Nuclear Event Scale (INES). "Chernobyl was level seven and it had only one reactor and lasted only two weeks. We have now three weeks (at Fukushima) and we have four reactors which we know are in very dangerous situations," she said.

Japan’s nuclear safety agency has maintained its rating of the Fukushima accident at four, while a French watchdog has upgraded it to six.

Chernobyl’s death toll is hotly debated. UN agencies estimate up to 9000 people could be expected to die as a direct consequence of the accident, and the disaster will end up costing hundreds of billions of dollars. Environmental groups such as Greenpeace say up to 100,000 people could die.

Evidently, in the future, there will be some moment when all global energy will be mainly renewable, or, maybe, by 90% or 95%. It’s a question of time. Some experts are thinking about 2050, some experts are thinking about 2070, the global energy and the energy of the leading countries will be almost completely energy. 

China is a large country, there are very large resources of solar energy and wind energy, therefore they develop it very, very fast. First of all, solar power and wind power, while, geothermal energy also has a very good prospective in some regions of China.

Because for Fukushima tragedy lead to more costly nuclear energy, so, measures for the safety of nuclear energy will be more severe, restrictions will be harder, and, therefore, expenses on the reconstruction of nuclear power plants during exploitation, during work of nuclear plants will be higher.

Therefore, price competitions between nuclear energy and renewable energy or some other sources will be a bit shifted in favor of renewable energy. Then, it depends on the situation in a country. In some country, the shift could be significant, in another country, it should be smaller.

* Reactor 1: Damage to the core from cooling problems. Building holed by gas explosion. Radioactive water detected in reactor and basement, and groundwater.

* Reactor 2: Damage to the core from cooling problems. Building holed by gas blast; containment damage suspected. Highly radioactive water detected in reactor and adjoining tunnel.

* Reactor 3: Damage to the core from cooling problems. Building holed by gas blast; containment damage possible. Spent fuel pond partly refilled with water after running low. Radioactive water detected in reactor and basement.

* Reactor 4: Reactor shut down prior to quake. Fires and explosion in spent fuel pond; water level partly restored.

* Reactors 5 & 6: Reactors shut down. Temperature of spent fuel pools now lowered after rising high.