You may have heard that the cooling system in the spent fuel pools at Fukushima has failed for a second time in a month.
This is newsworthy stuff … but completely misses the big picture.
Japanese experts say that Fukushima is currently releasing up to 93 billion becquerels of radioactive cesium into the ocean each day.
How much radiation is this?
A quick calculation shows that it is about ten thousand times less than the amounts released by Chernobyl during the actual fire at the Russian nuclear plant. But the Chernobyl fire only last 10 days … and the Fukushima release has been ongoing for more than 2 years so far.
Indeed, Fukushima has already spewed much more radioactive cesium and iodine than Chernobyl. The amount of radioactive cesium released by Fukushima was some 20-30 times higher than initially admitted.
Fukushima also pumped out huge amounts of radioactive iodine 129 – which has a half-life of 15.7 million years. Fukushima has also dumped up to 900 trillion becquerels of radioactive strontium-90 – which is a powerful internal emitter which mimics calcium and collects in our bones – into the ocean.
And the amount of radioactive fuel at Fukushima dwarfs Chernobyl … and so could keep leaking for decades, centuries or millenia.
The bottom line is that the reactors have lost containment. There are not "some leaks" at Fukushima. "Leaks" imply that the reactor cores are safely in their containment buildings, and there is a small hole or two which need to be plugged. But scientists don't even know where the cores of the reactors are. That's not leaking. That's even worse than a total meltdown.
So what are the consequences for people living outside of Fukushima itself?