May 18, 2011

Fukushima Nuclear Incident Pales In Comparison To Chernobyl

Japanese health officials said on Tuesday the potential health consequences of the nuclear crisis at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi plant are not equal to those caused by the disaster at Chernobyl.

Makoto Akashi of Japan's National Institute of Radiological Sciences said the levels of radioactive materials Cesium 134 and 137 are "much less than those of the accident at Chernobyl."

Akashi made the Chernobyl comparison during a special event devoted to the Fukushima crisis at the World Health Organization's 64th General Assembly.

"We do not think the radiation in Japan will contribute to an increase risk of cancer and leukemia," he said, adding that there is need "to study the issue very closely."

The tsunami triggered by the massive magnitude-9.0 earthquake on March 11 knocked out the Fukushima plant's water-cooling systems, which fuel rods inside several reactors to partially melt and create explosions.

Japan's vice-minister for health Kouhei Otsuka said during the event, "the number of deaths from radiation is zero for the moment."  He said the Japanese government evacuated about 85,000 people from the area affected by the disaster.

He said it was crucial for all people who worked at the plant "to be closely monitored."

Akashi said no one has needed medical treatment for radiation poisoning since the accident.

Japanese authorities estimate the amount of radioactive material released into the atmosphere at Fukushima represents about a tenth of the emissions at Chernobyl.


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