Worsening Japan Crisis Still Nothing Like Chernobyl - Experts

World | March 15, 2011, Tuesday // 13:33|  views

creengrab obtained on 15 March 2011 shows an explosion at the Fukushima nuclear plant after Friday's devastating earthquake in Japan. Photo by EPA/BGNES

Japan nuclear crisis is still nowhere near as bad as the Chernobyl disaster in Ukraine in 1986, even though there is a real possibility of a leak in the reactor container, which houses the nuclear fuel rods, according to experts.

"Chernobyl did not have a containment structure. It just had a sheet metal building.  So when that blew, it shot core material up into the atmosphere.  This won't happen here," said Murray Jennex, a professor at San Diego State University in California.

He has two decades of experience testing nuclear power facilities and said radiation probably did not escape the containment structure.

It is unclear what is the nature of the damage and its impact on the integrity of the containment structure, a thick steel vessel that surrounds the core.

"These containment structures that are around these reactors are designed to be virtually leak proof.  And they're designed to withstand a meltdown or partial meltdown," said Jennex.

He said there's no way this could be like the Chernobyl power plant explosions in the Ukraine in 1986.

Meanwhile Yukiya Amano, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), expressed confidence Japanese authorities were doing all they could to restore safety at the sites and said a Chernobyl-style disaster was "very unlikely."

"The Japanese authorities are working as hard as they can, under extremely difficult circumstances, to stabilize the nuclear power plants and ensure safety," Amano told the agency's first news conference since Friday's earthquake.

The April 26, 1986, explosion at Chernobyl's reactor No 4 spewed radiation across much of northern Europe over a 10-day period.

Official UN figures predicted up to 9,000 Chernobyl-related cancer deaths, but Greenpeace said illnesses could bring the toll up to 200,000.

The full effect of Chernobyl on Bulgaria remains unclear, largely because of the information blackout the authorities imposed following Soviet orders. Yet the rise in cancer rates and genetic defects speaks for itself. The blackout hid thousands of deaths, while safety concerns turned the nuclear energy issue into a political one – in Bulgaria and across Europe.

Tags: Japanese, Tokyo, Fukushima Daiichi, Fukushima, Japan, nuclear power, plant, Earthquake, tsunami, TEPCO, Tokyo Electric, radiation, nuclear, Chernobyl


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