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“How Fukushima is and isn’t like Chernobyl” via the Great Beyond, Nature.com

This morning, the Japanese government officially upgraded Fukushima on the International Nuclear Events Scale to a 7, or “Major accident”. The new rating is the highest on the scale, and puts Fukushima on a par with the worst nuclear accident in history—Chernobyl. Understandably, the press has made quite a big deal out of new rating, but the reality is that Fukushima is a very different accident than Chernobyl.

The maps on the right do show a passing similarity between the two accidents. The top one shows overflight measurements of radiation in the region around Fukushima. The bottom one shows Caesium-137 measurements from Chernobyl. The data are not completely analogous, but I think the maps give a sense of how both accidents have contaminated large areas and created regional hotspots that will require additional evacuations.

But there are very important differences between Fukushima and Chernobyl.

“How Fukushima is and isn’t like Chernobyl”

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