Nuclear power plant
The radiation release from the Fukushima nuclear power complex in Japan may have been twice as bad as initial estimates. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

The amount of radiation that leaked in the Fukushima nuclear disaster is estimated at double what was initially thought. The Japanese nuclear regulatory agency has doubled the projected amount of radiation released by the meltdown of three reactors at the Fukushima nuclear power complex.

Fukushima reactors found to have melted down

The three reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power complex that breached and leaked radiation were recently found to have suffered a fuel rod meltdown, reports Bloomberg. The reactor chambers of all three reactors that were affected by the earthquake and tsunami have all been found to have holes in them. Reactor Number One, the first to leak any radiation, was found to have been breached within 15 hours of the March 11 earthquake that decimated Japan. The immediate concern is for contaminated water leaking from the three damaged reactors, but since no new holes have been formed in any of them, further release of radioactive water or material is less likely.

Estimates of radiation leak double

Ultimately, it will be difficult to determine how much radioactivity was released into the ocean or atmosphere by the Fukushima nuclear disaster. However, the previous estimate was recently doubled by Japanese nuclear regulatory authorities, according to CNN. The initial estimates from Japan’s nuclear regulatory body, the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, were that about 370,000 terebecquerels of radioactive material had been released in the accident. The estimates have been doubled to 770,000 terebecquerels of radioactive energy. A terebecquerel is one billion becquerels. A becquerel is the measure of how much energy is lost by a given amount of radioactive material while losing the nucleus of an atom, or the central mass of an atom, per second. According to Wikipedia, the average human has 4,400 becquerels at any given time from the small amounts all people have of potassium 40, an isotope of the common alkaloid potassium that is found in many foods.

Europe shuttering nuclear plants

Though the nuclear disaster in Japan is bad, it is far from the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. The Chernobyl disaster released an estimated 5.2 million terebecquerels of nuclear energy into the atmosphere, and the reactors at the Chernobyl complex were far less advanced than the reactors at Fukushima. However, various European nations are phasing out or cutting back their nuclear power infrastructures in response to the incident. Japan, Italy and Switzerland have announced plans to drastically reduce their use of nuclear energy, according to the Christian Science Monitor. German Chancellor Angela Merkel intends to have phased the German nuclear industry out completely by 2022.

Sources

Bloomberg: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2011-05-24/tepco-confirms-meltdown-of-no-2-3-reactors-at-fukushima-1-.html

CNN: http://www.cnn.com/2011/WORLD/asiapcf/06/07/japan.nuclear/index.html?hpt=wo_c2

Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terabecquerel

Christian Science Monitor: http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/2011/0607/Germany-to-phase-out-nuclear-power.-Could-the-US-do-the-same

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