Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Fukushima: one year on

By Various experts

A year since a magnitude 9.0 earthquake hit the coast of Japan, triggering a powerful tsunami and resulting in the most serious nuclear accident since Chernobyl, nuclear and disaster experts examine the current situation and what lessons can be learnt.

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Dr Don Higson is a retired nuclear safety specialist and Fellow of the Institution of Engineers Australia, Fellow of the Australasian Radiation Protection Society

On Engineering
“At Fukushima Daiichi, the reactors shut-down safely when struck by the fourth largest earthquake ever recorded. The nuclear emergency was due entirely to loss of on-site power supplies when the power station was inundated by a much larger tsunami than had been anticipated in its design. Clearly, the design of nuclear plants against the risk of flooding needs to be brought up to the level of design against seismic risk.”

On the health effects
“Rating the nuclear accident at Fukushima as 7 on the International Nuclear Event Scale (INES) has given the misleading impression that it was as bad as the Chernobyl accident. At Fukushima, no physical health effects of radiation have been observed among the general public and effects on workers have been far lower than those at Chernobyl. The INES was meant to aid public understanding of nuclear safety but has, in fact, made it more confused. The INES should be substantially modified or scrapped.

As at Chernobyl, the major public health effect of the Fukushima accident has been psychological, due to the forced relocation of population and exaggerated fears about radiation....

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.

Source: AusSMC