Chances are highly likely you have watched at least one hour of news coverage of the nuclear disaster and tsunami in Japan. It may now be in your verbal repertoire to discuss such highly unusual subjects as nuclear energy, nuclear explosions, cooling units and meltdown of nuclear plants, iodine packs and how nuclear exposure affects the body. What is occurring in Japan right now will eventually affect everyone worldwide. As to the extent and how much remains to be seen.
Image: public domain
Patient’s skin is burned in a pattern corresponding to the dark portions of a kimono worn at the time of the nuclear explosion.
What Nuclear Plants were Affected and Where Exactly are They?
There were two nuclear plants that were seriously affected by the tsunami. One is located in the Senai area, which infamously will be known as ground zero for the tsunami. It was the hardest hit. It is called Fukushima Daiichi – literally, Fukushima Number 1 – and has six units, each housing its own nuclear reactor. Only the first three units were working when the quake struck.
Japan Nuclear explosion 2011
The second power plant involved, Fukushima Daini – Fukushima Number 2 – has four units, and all were working at the time of the quake. Each of the aforementioned power plants ran and had installations completed by the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO). Updates on the status of both and all their individual reactors can be learned in real time here.
Image: carl montgomery
Chernobyl maternity ward
Is the Disaster in Japan as Bad as Chernobyl?
According to Fox and PBS News, the answer to this question is a resounding no. There is a simple explanation for why this is. In the Chernobyl disaster, the containment units holding the nuclear reactors were melted down and leaked all of the nuclear energy or radiation out. The explosion occurred while everyone in the area was asleep and had no time to react or to evacuate. Many, many people died without knowing what had happened to them. Of those who survived, many more had cancers later on in life. Babies had birth defects and the effects of that disaster lasted for many decades.
Chernobyl OBGyn clinic
The containers holding the nuclear energy have not been compromised in Japan. The cooling units are unable to cool, causing them to overheat, kind of like with the radiator on your car. This sends fumes of radiation leaking slowly into the atmosphere. People have obviously reacted, gotten help with exposure, and there are complete evacuations. It is the residual radiation exposure to the land that will be the most notable part of this disaster. Hundreds of thousands of acres of farmland have been destroyed by the radiation exposure because, obviously, any food or animals using the land will be poisoned.
Image: stahlman design
Farmland poisoned by radiation
Did These Nuclear Plants Work in the First Place and What’s Happening Now?
Yes, these nuclear plants were reportedly up to code and earthquake safe. The problem is that TEPCO had not expected to ever experience an earthquake over the 8.0 Richter Scale. Because of this, the nuclear power plants have been severely damaged. According to one source, these damaged plants are in a “cold shutdown” until the plants can be safely repaired. One can learn more about the “cold shutdown” here.
It’s important to know that even as we speak, Japan is still experiencing aftershocks of the earthquake, and massive flooding is evident in many parts of Japan. The nuclear crisis is top priority, but recovering bodies and victims is first on the agenda.
Radiation affected amusement park in Pripyat
Speaking of Victims, How Will This Nuclear Disaster Affect Us Physically?
There are images from medical sites that clearly explain the affects of radiation on the body, from mild to severe. The images show what Japanese victims are currently experiencing in respect to radiation exposure.
In accordance to this site, most Japanese have had exposure to low levels of radiation, which causes little symptoms. These symptoms can include:
With proper treatment, especially early on, these victims can have transfusions, transplants and medical care rushed to them, preventing infection from loss of white blood cell production. Cancer obviously can’t always be cured or prevented at this point, but regular cancer screenings are advised.
Chernobyl elementary school
One can’t avoid radiation exposure. Those in Colorado, those who eat bananas, live in brick homes and those who become President of the United States are at higher risk of being exposed to abnormal radiation levels. There are many other risks as well.
The Japanese nuclear disaster and tsunami’s effects on the environment and the Japanese people will not be known for at least 5 to 10 years. This is how long radiation can take to completely take hold in the body and do its damage.
This will likely also be the time frame in which it will take Japan to reconstruct its damaged cities. It’s at that point that the world will be reminded of the infamous deadly tsunami that rocked Japan in 2011, because the poorest, most destitute people there will no longer be able to make a living as farmers. This is because the land will be poisoned. And, rich, affluent Westerners will not be able to indulge in Japanese cuisine as they once did.