Japanese authorities admit they are coping with an unprecedented crisis at Fukushima-1 nuclear power plant and insist there is still a chance to avert a nuclear disaster. But many in the nuclear field do not share their hope.
Uzi Even, a chemistry professor from Tel Aviv University, claims that the reports provided by the Japanese government are misleading. He believes the worst scenario has happened.
“All reactors were damaged in the earthquake. The containment vessels are breaking down and they will continue breaking down”, says Even. “The question now is: what will happen to the content of these reactors, these highly radioactive isotopes? Especially worrying is the presence of plutonium in these reactors. It is something which has not happened in Chernobyl – it did not contain plutonium, which is very, very poisonous. Contamination by plutonium is very difficult to handle. On the other hand, unlike what happened in Chernobyl, there is no graphite in the reactors that can burn and send the contamination into the air and hence disperse to a wide area. So, contamination is there. It is spreading slowly. Hopefully, it will be carried to the sea, but no one can guarantee that.”
“All the reactors are dead; all the rescue efforts are in vain,” continues Even.
To minimize the damage brought by the nuclear crisis at Fukushima-1 power plant, the reactors could be stored deep in the concrete, the pollution should be monitored, the areas that are polluted are to undergo decontamination, and the people need removing from dangerous zones, Even concludes.
Dr. Lam Ching-Wan, a chemical pathology specialist at Hong Kong University, reminds people to stay indoors and try to monitor the dose of radiation they have been receiving. He would not depend on the data released by the officials and advises people to maintain individual surveillance in order to get more adequate and accurate data on radiation levels to personalize cancer risks.
“Those who have high exposure levels of radiation, many months or many years later can develop cancer, thyroid cancer or leukemia. At this moment we should tick a baseline for the patients exposed to radiation and then we will follow them up. In case they have cancer, we can do an early diagnosis and early treatment,” says Lam Ching-Wan.
Dr. Gerhard Wotawa, a senior meteorologist whose team has been mapping the movement of radiation from the Fukushima power plant, says so far the wind has been blowing in a good direction for Tokyo. He says it’s blowing toward the Pacific Ocean and therefore not affecting Japan’s capital nor most of the country’s territory.
“In a bad case scenario over the next weeks the radiation will spread over vast areas of the world but it would not pose any significant health risks beyond the immediate areas near the [damaged] reactor, so for some hundreds to thousands of kilometers there will be low levels of radioactivity.”