It's a hard rain that's going to fall
Quote:Twenty years after Chernobyl, in 2006, Swedish National Television (SVT) did a news piece titled "Chernobyl still affects Gavle every day" (Tjernobyl paverkar annu Gavle-vardagen). Among other items, it discusses how wild game is checked for radiation, and how residents now often travel to pick the wild berries or mushrooms that they once collected locally.
The effects of radiation proved lasting, and recent news reports revealed radiation has entered Japan's food chain.
In an article titled "Progress at Japan Reactors; New Signs of Food Radiation", the March 20 New York Times noted: "Spinach from a farm in Hitachi, about 45 miles [72 kilometers] from the plant [Fukushima], contained 27 times the amount of iodine that is generally considered safe, while cesium levels were about four times higher than is deemed safe by Japan. Meanwhile, raw milk from a dairy farm in Litate, about 18 miles from the plant, contained iodine levels that were 17 times higher than those considered safe."
Highlighting what many perceive as a substantive part of the ongoing problem, The Times quoted Japan's deputy chief cabinet secretary, Tetsuro Fukuyama, as observing that he would let his own children "eat the spinach" from Fukushima. The IAEA has stated that only "up to four thousand" fatal cancers will result from Chernobyl.
In contrast to the IAEA's fatality figures, a 2006 Greenpeace report forecast 100,000 cancer fatalities, and a 2010 book by leading Eastern European scientists utilizing original "Slavic language" documents ("Chernobyl: Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and the Environment"), claims a death toll of 985,000.
While some uncertainties exist, there are hard facts.
Gavle is about 1,600 kilometers from Chernobyl, and the amount of nuclear fuel present at Chernobyl during the 1986 accident is reported as about 180 tons, none of which contained plutonium, an element considerably more toxic than the uranium used in standard reactor fuel. Estimates of the amount of nuclear fuel present at the Fukushima reactors are roughly in the 2000 ton range, dwarfing Chernobyl, and one of the six reactors (number 3) does use a mixture of plutonium and uranium, "mox".
If nothing else, it would appear nuclear power is not the "clean, safe, inexpensive and reliable" energy source some claim. As to what nuclear power is, Fukushima could well prove its defining moment.