Its official: Fukushima is not Chernobyl

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Japan and the world at large can breath it easy over the long-term potential impact of the catastrophic Nuclear disaster happened in Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant in March 2011. A dedicated UN report assessing the probable health complications due to this disaster has found the radiation-induced effects to be too small to matter.

Introduction

  • UN had assigned the task to guage the levels of exposure and radiation risks due to this calamity to the specialized agency UNSCEAR in January 2012.
  • United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR) - is the independent international body set up in the 1955 to give impartial advice on the effects of radiation on people and the environment.

What does the Report Says?

  • It concluded that the rates of cancer or hereditary diseases are unlikely to show any discernible rise in affected areas because the radiation doses people received were too low. 
  • The study appreciates the prompt rescue operation conducted by the government which 
  • reduced their radiation exposure by a factor of ten.
  • Its notable that people from the vicinity as well as neighbouring areas of the plant were summarily relocated to a safer zone.
  • Due to remarkable safety mechanism in place, the victims are expected on average to receive less than 10 mSv of radiation energy over their lifetime.
  • The figure looks impressive in the contrast to the amount of radiation an average Japanese recieve (170 mSv) from natural background over his lifespan.

So is everything fine?

  • No such luck there. 
  • Children are believed to be vulnerable to the chances of thyroid cancer.
  • They were exposed to iodine-131 during the nuclear fallout which tends to accumulate in the thyroid gland infecting the subject with thyroid cancer.
  • The disease, though rare in children under normal circumstances, is thankfully treatable with good success rate.

Comparison with Chernobyl Nuclear Disaster

  • These two are the only two nuclear disaster in the world classified as a level 7 event (the maximum classification).
  • In 1986, Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine was hit by accidental explosion throwing up large quantities of radioactive particles into the atmosphere.
  • The death toll due to this calamity is still being counted.
  • Japan must be given credit for its nuclear safety measures which kept the releases of iodine -131 and caesium-137 lower by a factor of 10 and 5 respectively as compared to Chernobyl.
  • These two particles are significant radio-nuclides in terms of exposure to the people.

The Background of Disaster

  • On the fateful day of 11 March 2011, the plant was hit and destructed by the highrise tsunami triggered by the major earthquake measuring 9 on the richter scale.
  • Subsequently, three of the 6 reactors melted and began releasing substantial amounts of radioactive materials into the atmosphere.

What is mSv?

  • The standard unit of measuring amount of radiation energy absorbed by the body is Sieverts (Sv). 
  • One mSv (milliSievert) is one thousandth of a Sievert (1000 mSv = 1 Sv).
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