Comparing Japan and Chernobyl


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Seems like the headline should be "Contrasting Fukushima and Chernobyl",

but let's just keep up appearances, shall we?

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Agree we can't compare Fukushima to Chernobyl. We know the immediate vicinity of the plant will be off limit for a long time and land a little further away must be abandoned for a while too.

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It is at least some relief that the cesium that could be around the area for quite some time does not seem to be as harmful a radiation as the iodine.

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Didn’t people die at Chernobyl?

Thirty-one men died mostly from being exposed to very high levels of radiation trying to contain the accident.

And the couple of thousand who were forced to clean it up who died in the months and years following...

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Pretty fair article, though somewhat dry. Chernobyl had about 4000 cancer deaths (from the worst-case scenario for nuclear power; compare this to tens of thousands that die from chemical disasters). Most of those deaths could have been avoided if the Soviet government hadn't covered up the disaster for days. They didn't even attempt to evacuate the locals until Sweden detected radiation 3-4 days later. They also didn't stop people from eating contaminated food. The Soviet response was completely inhumane and criminal.

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sengoku38: They also didn't stop people from eating contaminated food. The Soviet response was completely inhumane and criminal.

Were they trying to avoid panic?

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Were they trying to avoid panic?

Possibly, that is one way to spin it. Other theory leans toward "they didn't want to admit they had a problem the mighty Red Army couldn't handle" Don't think the Soviets cared enough about the Ukrainians to worry about a panic.

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Were they trying to avoid panic?

Yes and no. Probably they did not know themselves a lot at that time. The scale of the event was much bigger than estimated/expected and there was lack of knowledge regarding contamination of food and the dangers associated.

Also, obviously they did not want to acknowledge the weakness of their system, and their inability to handle the situation. While it was not purposeful criminal, the way the Soviet officials handles that situation can be only be described as such now.

This is in high contrast to what happened at Fukushima, where the officials did try as much as possible to save human life, at least to the best of their knowledge and understanding of the situation.

While there might be a few cases of cancer in the future (among the workers), it will probably not be at the scale of what happens currently in Cheronbyl.

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Yes, the two crises are different in scale and type... The fact that the rating is the highest on the scale indicates that the situation is extremely critical; this is radiation we are talking about. Photographs of the effects of radiation contamination at Chernobyl.

Google: magnum photos essay chernobyl

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Agree that this is a fair/balanced article. The one gripe I would have is why it does not try to explain why it took Japanese authorities several weeks to make these "new assessments of radiation leaks". As is stated, the vast majority of the radiation was released in the first days of the crisis. What took so long to judge the severity of the leaks? Logically, only two reasons exist for it, neither of which is very positive -- either the officials deliberately chose to minimize the risk assessment, and/or, they simply were not competent enough to accurately measure the realease.

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I hear TEPCO is changing the title from "Executive Committee" to "Putzmeisters".

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The Soviet response was completely inhumane and criminal.

ahh communism...

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Well the Japanese government's reaction to the Minamata mercury-poisoning was rather similar to the Soviet one: keep face, don't care about locals that are not important for the big picture. And very similar: many of the locals at Minamata died because they had to eat contaminated fish for lack of money or help, and the ukrainians also ate local contaminated food for the same reasons and thus developed high cancer rates.

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If comparing or contrasting the two events I would say that one of the key differences was the immediate response of the authorities. In the Chernobyl case it seems that the Soviets sent men to almost certain death to try and contain the situation as quickly as possible.

Whereas in Japan (and I admit that this is only my personal take) the authorities seem to have spent the initial period at least trying to salvage the reactors for continued use.

Perhaps I’m very wrong but I am sure the Soviet mind set was snuff it out fast and try not let the west know. And the Japanese mind set was these are expensive, we must try not to write them off.

Like I say, this is just the impression I get and I’m not saying that the Japanese should have sacrificed men either, just that they may have been able to do something had they accepted that the reactors would be lost from the offset.

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See? The last 5 comments are DEMA. They raise questions that are really irrelevant. They don't really intend to foster inquiry, they are intended to raise fear, uncertainty, and doubt in people who need to make important decisions with their lives.

"why it took Japanese authorities several weeks to make these "new assessments of radiation leaks". "

Why is that an important question? The IAEA level is supposed to reflect what HAS happened, not what is going to happen. If the government had made this determination NEXT YEAR it would not matter. Again, the purpose of this statement by the poster is to make people distrust their government in a time of crisis.

"I hear TEPCO is changing the title from "Executive Committee" to "Putzmeisters"."

Translated, this is, Do not trust the most knowledgeable people working to save your health, life and welfare. Would you tell someone in a hospital that their doctor is a murderer? That is what is happening here. Why is this allowed? Where is the victim? It is the guy in Fukushima wondering if he is going to survive or see his house again. Why can't we assume the best about people making a sincere effort? Just for a little bit.


This is topical? OK. Whatever.

"Japanese government's reaction to the Minamata mercury-poisoning was "

The implication is that the government NOW is going to do the same thing again. That government is somehow lying or trying to protect someone who is harming taxpayers. In any normal time, it is criticism, but in a time of crisis, is this appropriate? And you mention cancer and contaminated food. Really. We are still burying bodies in Miyagi. The government is monitoring conditions and food responsibly. Why are we benefited by thinking that government is trying to kill us?

"the authorities seem to have spent the initial period at least trying to salvage the reactors for continued use"

This is just false. The poster is not even sure that it is true, but again, we have an allegation of a profit motive that is stronger than teh desire to save lives. This is not true and it is not appropriate or justified in any way.

All of these are panic-mongering. I urge JT and other readers to reject this. These are baseless statements that might be pretty funny to all of the people posting them, but there are people who need reliable information and really DO look to JT. Don't get sucked in. When foreigners flee in panic, I blamed them. But now I see that most of their information was given to them by idiots on opinion forums.

I personally do not trust Kan to get tax messes straightened out, and I think that TEPCO probably charges its customers too much money, but now is not the time for that. It is a terrible shame that at a time when Japanese people here are trying (desperately in some places) to keep things together, foreigners have to drive wedges between them.

The aftershocks and the Fukushima thing are going to continue for quite a while. If we are civilized, then let's ACT civilized.

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Klein2. I have no intention of raising fear nor do I think my doubt ridden thoughts above have the potential to raise any fears – especially buried in this forum.

And yes you are correct. I didn’t know if it was true but some reporting has suggested that TEPCO hoped to salvage the reactors and I merely brought it up in a discussion. I am glad that you are so certain that they did not compromise people’s safety to save their assets. It’s good to know.

And finally, I am not panic mongering and I certainly don’t think any of this is funny in the least. I have family in Japan and I love the place and all I hope for is as swift and clean an outcome as is possible.

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Klein, come on man, I was making a joke. You are the one telling everyone to lighten up, then when someone makes a joke you get bent out of shape. It was a joke to make people laugh - giving your own advice: lighten up man.

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And by the way, I do not believe TEPCO executives are the most knowledgable. NO ONE on their board is a nuclear scientist, they are all stock holders and retired pols.

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Mukai san, you are a true black sheep. Don't change for anything, I love to see a Japanese man speaking so UNJAPANESE. Keep it up bro!

Moderator: Readers, please focus your comments on the story, not at or about each other.

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well, one difference in treatment of both disasters is how media and all kinds of spectators were quick to claim Chernobyl spelled the indigment of soviet political and economic model while we don't see that kind of conclusions released in this case.

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Who exactly is answering these questions?

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IMHO, the fact that an incident that is at 1/10th the radiation release of another incident, yet earns the same rating on the IAEA scale means the scale is inadequate and needs to be re-worked. Chernobyl is not the absolute worst that could happen to a nuclear plant, so why is it at the top of the scale?

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