The Fukushima nuclear accident released double the amount of cesium-137 into the atmosphere than the government initially estimated, reaching 40 percent of the total emitted during the Chernobyl disaster, a preliminary report said.
The estimate of much higher levels of cesium-137 comes from a worldwide network of sensors. Report coauthor Andreas Stohl, of the Norwegian Institute for Air Research, said the government estimate came only from data in Japan and didn’t include emissions blown out to the Pacific Ocean.
Cesium-137 is considered harmful because it can remain in the environment for decades, releasing cancer-causing radiation. The report did not consider the health implications of the emissions.
Japan raced to avert a catastrophe on Wednesday after an explosion at a quake-crippled nuclear power plant sent radiation wafting into Tokyo, prompting some people to flee the capital and others to stock up on essential supplies.The Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency said two workers at the Daiichi plant in Fukushima were missing after two more blasts at the facility on Tuesday blew a hole in a building housing a reactor and cooling pool for spent fuel rods.Prime Minister Naoto Kan urged people within 30 km 18 miles of the facility — a population of 140,000 — to remain indoors, as Japan grappled with the worlds most serious nuclear accident since the Chernobyl disaster in Ukraine in 1986.Officials in Tokyo — 240 km 150 miles to the south of the plant — said radiation in the capital was 10 times normal at one point but not a threat to human health in the sprawling high-tech city of 13 million people.Toxicologist Lee Tin-lap at the Chinese University of Hong Kong said such a radiation level was not an immediate threat to people but the long-term consequences were unknown."You are still breathing this into your lungs, and there is passive absorption in the skin, eyes and mouth and we really do not know what long-term impact that would have," Lee told Reuters by telephone.Around eight hours after the explosions, the U.N. weather agency said winds were dispersing radioactive material over the Pacific Ocean, away from Japan and other Asian countries.As concern about the crippling economic impact of the nuclear and earthquake disasters mounted, Japans Nikkei index fell as much as 14 percent before ending down 10.6 percent, compounding a slide of 6.2 percent the day before. The two-day fall has wiped some $620 billion off the market.
Japan warned radioactive levels had become "significantly" higher around a quake-stricken nuclear power plant on Tuesday after explosions at two reactors, and the French embassy said a low level radioactive wind could reach Tokyo by the evening.
Prime Minister Naoto Kan urged people within 30 km (18 miles) of the facility north of Tokyo to remain indoors, underscoring the dramatic worsening of Japan’s nuclear crisis, the world’s most serious since the Chernobyl disaster in Ukraine in 1986.
As concern about the crippling economic impact of the nuclear and earthquake disasters mounted, Japanese stocks plunged 13 percent – heading for their biggest drop since 1987 — compounding a slide of 7.6 percent the day before. The two-day fall has wiped $720 billion off the market.
In a sign of mounting fears about the risk of harmful radiation, Air China said it had canceled flights from Beijing and Shanghai to Tokyo, but there was no sign that people were rushing en masse to the capital’s airports to leave.
"There has been a fire at the No. 4 reactor and radiation levels in the surrounding area have heightened significantly. The possibility of further radioactive leakage is heightening," a grim-faced Kan said in an address to the nation.