Fukushima Radiation Worse Then Feared

A new analysis suggests that more radioactive contaminants were released from the crippled nuclear power plant then accounted for in official Japanese estimates.

Bob Grant
Bob Grant

From 2017 to 2022, Bob Grant was Editor in Chief of The Scientist, where he started in 2007 as a Staff Writer.

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Nuclear power plant Dukovany, Czech RepublicWIKIMEDIA COMMONS, PETR ADAMEK

Japanese officials underestimated the amount of radiation released from the Fukushima Daiichi power plant after March's devastating earthquake and tsunami, according to a recently-published report analyzing data from a global array of sensors and detectors.  In June, the Japanese government released a report stating that 1.5×1016 bequerels (Bq) of caesium-137—a harmful radioisotope that was released in large amounts from the Chernobyl disaster in 1986—and 1.1×1019 Bq of xenon-133, which does not pose a serious health risk as it's not absorbed by the body or the environment, had spewed from the crippled power plant. But the new report, submitted and available for open peer review in Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics, revises those totals to almost twice the official estimate, calculating a release of 3.5×1016 Bq caesium-137 and 1.7×1019 Bq of xenon-133.

The new findings are...

For detailed coverage of the nuclear disaster and its effects on people, wildlife, and the environment, see our Fallout at Fukushima series.

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