warning Hi, we've moved to USCANNENBERGMEDIA.COM. Visit us there!

Neon Tommy - Annenberg digital news

Why Japan's Fukushima Is Not Chernobyl

Callie Schweitzer |
March 18, 2011 | 6:12 p.m. PDT


 Smoke billows from the Fukushima Daiichi plant. (Photo from Flickr via daveeza)
Smoke billows from the Fukushima Daiichi plant. (Photo from Flickr via daveeza)
Much discussion of Japan's 9.0 magnitude earthquake, tsunami and subsequent nuclear meltdown has been comparing Fukushima to the Chernobyl disaster of 1986 in the Ukranian SSR.

Though the initial explosion at the Chernobyl plant caused the deaths of two workers, estimates place the number of people affected by the disaster's radiation in the thousands. Similar concern surrounds the situation in Japan.

According to insurance industry estimates, the losses from the disaster "could be as high as $35 billion," which would make the March 11 quake the most expensive in history. 

ProPublica rounded up experts to talk about why Japan's Fukushima Daiichi is not, and will not be, the next Chernobyl.

Their list includes:

1. "Chernobyl's reactor had no containment structure.

2. Chernobyl's reactors had several design flaws that made the crisis harder to control.

3. The carbon in Chernobyl's reactor fueled a fire that spewed radioactive material further into the atmosphere.

4. Unlike Chernobyl, however, a meltdown at Daiichi could end up contaminating the water table.

5. Much of the public health impact of Chernobyl was the result of the Soviet government's attempt to cover up the crisis, rather than moving quickly to inform and protect the public.

6. Emergency workers at Chernobyl took few precautions, and may not have been fully informed about the risks they were taking."

Read the rest at ProPublica here.

To reach editor-in-chief Callie Schweitzer, click here.

To follow her on Twitter: @cschweitz



Craig Gillespie directed this true story about "the most daring rescue mission in the history of the U.S. Coast Guard.”

Watch USC Annenberg Media's live State of the Union recap and analysis here.