Comparisons to Chernobyl slammed as images of Japan tsunami emerge
Tokyo Electric Power Co. released images Thursday of the devastating tsunami rolling toward its nuclear plant.
May 19th, 2011
01:22 PM ET

Comparisons to Chernobyl slammed as images of Japan tsunami emerge

The Tokyo Electric Power Co. has released dramatic tsunami images on its website, as a nuclear expert slammed comparisons between the Japan nuclear disaster and Chernobyl.

The photos, which are available on TEPCO's website, show the tsunami that crippled the Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear plant barreling toward the facility before inundating it with water.

The news came as the power company continued to issue press releases reporting radiation in the groundwater and seawater around the plant. It also came two days after the company said it learned that a pressure vessel in reactor No. 1 may be leaking and that the reactor's fuel rods almost melted completely hours after the tsunami hit.

A U.S. physicist said, if accurate, the revelations would indicate a "very, very bad accident" that would be difficult to clean up.

Reactor No. 2 may also be leaking, TEPCO said, and it warned that reactor No. 3 faces the same risk.

TEPCO announced revised plans to cool the reactors this week but said the changes would not affect the current deadline to end the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl by the beginning of next year.

The tsunami sweeps up cars outside the Fukushima-Daiichi plant.

Meanwhile, comparisons between Japan's nuclear disaster and the 1986 catastrophe in Ukraine came under fire Wednesday when Robert Wakeford of the University of Manchester's Dalton Nuclear Institute called the likenesses overblown.

The International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale, Wakeford wrote in the June issue of the Journal of Radiological Protection, is designed to let people know the severity of a nuclear event. It characterizes both Chernobyl and Fukushima as Level 7, or major, accidents, even though Fukushima had released only 10% of the radioactivity leaked at the Chernobyl plant when the INES designation was made.

“Since Level 7 is the highest rating on INES, there can be no distinction between the Fukushima and Chernobyl accidents, leading many to proclaim the Fukushima accident as ‘another Chernobyl’, which it is not," Wakeford wrote.

Also on Wednesday, TEPCO released a silent video walking tour of the damaged plant, much of it showing what we already knew: that the March earthquake and ensuing tsunami destroyed significant portions of the facility.

The 13 minutes of footage, which are among myriad videos the company has released as the disaster unfolded, show workers in radiation suits walking amid gutted buildings. Some of the buildings have massive holes punched through their walls, exposed rebar and smashed windows.

Earlier this week, the International Atomic Energy Agency announced it would send about 20 international experts to Japan between May 24 and June 2 to conduct a fact-finding mission.

The agency's head, Yukiya Amano, told Reuters on Thursday that despite signs of progress - including the restoration of electricity and instrumentation - the situation at Fukushima remains a "very serious accident."

Post by:
Filed under: 2011 tsunami • Earthquake • Energy • Environment • Japan • Natural Disasters • Nuclear • Tsunami • World
soundoff (13 Responses)
  1. Jeff Frank - (R-Ohio)

    The core doesn't physically shut itself down in the face of imminent danger huh? OFF TOPOIC : $4 gas is now here. Don't buy gas on Fridays.

    May 19, 2011 at 3:34 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ilya

      Jeff Frank:
      "The core doesn't physically shut itself down in the face of imminent danger huh?"

      Unfortunately, fuel rods are so hot it takes months of constant cooling by circulated water to lower their temperature. Thus – the cooling pools in the reactor buildings where rods cool untill it is safe to transport them away. Without new cold water coming in, the present water boils away (blowing away the roof with a cloud of steam), and rods melt.

      May 19, 2011 at 7:39 pm | Report abuse |
  2. banasy

    Oh, Jeff!

    May 19, 2011 at 3:46 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Frank

    CNN,where are my POST on this topic!!!

    May 19, 2011 at 4:22 pm | Report abuse |
  4. stewie

    I suppose we'll find out for sure in a year or so.

    May 19, 2011 at 5:28 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Cricket

    I've said it before and I'll say it again: poor J apan!

    May 19, 2011 at 7:31 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Ellis from Panama

    Comparisons? How about Elton John and Ricky Martin. Hmmmm, I'll take Ricky, he is much more gentle.

    May 19, 2011 at 11:32 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Ellis from Panama

    Dear Ricky, I love you so much it hurts.

    May 20, 2011 at 12:40 am | Report abuse |
  8. Spluge

    Hi Ellis, your dying from @ids

    May 20, 2011 at 1:56 am | Report abuse |
  9. Jon

    Eerie video this. It should humble us as the the power nature can wield. It should also make us thank those guys in white, particularly those early few who were there trying to stop the whole lot from going up. This event was totally unprecedented. Bad, yes, very bad. But it could have been far, far, worse without their dedication and willingness to get things under control.

    May 20, 2011 at 3:09 am | Report abuse |
  10. Ellis from Panama

    Spluge you should know since you gave it to me.

    May 20, 2011 at 5:22 am | Report abuse |
  11. nunster

    It takes 10 days or 240 hours of coolant going around the rods after they have been put back into (please forgive me I have hard time with names and exact details) but it takes ten days after they are put back into the material that absorbs the radiation/heat coming off the rods that are made of a lot of smaller rods. But if the coolant drops below the rods that are put back in place in shut down mode. It starts getting hotter and take even longer to cool down. If all the coolant pumps worked and there was no leaks it would of only taken taken ten days to cool the reactor. Just now they need to try to keep it cool enough for 30 years and then burry them in boriac and dirt mixture. But it does not look like they can even do that. Around 70,000 gallons of radiated water had to be dumped into the ocean. To my knowledge there is still more radiated water to be dumped into the ocean yet. In about two years that will hit Hawaii and the five years where I live the west coast of the usa. The same with all the debry in the ocean now.

    May 21, 2011 at 5:10 pm | Report abuse |
  12. PhilG.

    This is a great picture.

    It shows exactly where the seawall was supposed to be built at.

    Too bad the power plant owners decided they did'nt want to spend the money for it..

    June 6, 2011 at 10:37 pm | Report abuse |