Saturday, April 2, 2011

Fukushima 'much bigger than Chernobyl'

Top parts of explosion-damaged reactors (from left) Unit 4, Unit 3, Unit 2 and Unit 1 of the tsunami-stricken Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear complex are seen. -- PHOTO: AP

WASHINGTON - JAPAN'S unfolding nuclear disaster is 'much bigger than Chernobyl' and could rewrite the international scale used to measure the severity of atomic accidents, a Russian expert said here on Friday.

'Chernobyl was a dirty bomb explosion. The next dirty bomb is Fukushima and it will cost much more' in economic and human terms, said Ms Natalia Mironova, a thermodynamic engineer who became a leading anti-nuclear activist in Russia in the wake of the accident at the Soviet-built reactor in Ukraine in 1986.

'Fukushima is much bigger than Chernobyl,' she said, adding that the Japanese nuclear crisis was likely to eclipse Chernobyl on the seven-point international scale used to rate nuclear disasters.

Chernobyl, which a 2005 report by UN bodies including the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) called 'the most severe in the history of the nuclear power industry,' was ranked a seven on the International Nuclear Event Scale (INES).

But Japan's ongoing crisis, triggered by a massive earthquake and tsunami three weeks ago which took down the main electricity and back-up power supplies needed to power cooling systems at several reactors at Fukushima, could be 'even higher' on the INES scale, said Mironova.

'Chernobyl was level seven and it had only one reactor and lasted only two weeks. We have now three weeks (at Fukushima) and we have four reactors which we know are in very dangerous situations,' she warned. -- AFP

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