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The Three Mile Island catastrophe was a partial core meltdown in one nuclear reactor and reached a severity rating of 5 on an international scale of 7. Chernobyl was a 7. Fukushima has hit 6 and while specialist teams are working to divert further disaster it seems little confidence is coming out of Japan.
The 20th century saw many industrial disasters. Three Mile Island in the USA (1979) and Chernobyl in Belarus (1986) were the high end of nuclear disasters. We also saw the mercury poisoning of Minamata in Japan (1953) and India’s chemical poisoning in Bhopal (1984). These incidents and others permanently disrupted the lives of populations, changed environments, influenced economies and delivered many costs to many peoples, directly and indirectly.
The population density in Japan is massive compared to the immediate area that surrounded Chernobyl.
While the World Health Organisation settled on 4000 Chernobyl deaths most organisations estimate that over 200,000 people died as a result of the fallout.
Several million people are now said to suffer from congenital malformations, cancer, pulmonary disease, etc. linked to the effects of radioactive contamination. Within a 30 mile radius of the power station that area is still uninhabitable 25 years after the disaster.
In the UK alone restrictions remain in place today on 750 square miles of farming.
The worst case scenario for Japan is unthinkable. Japanese government officials are saying that Chernobyl-like disaster is simply not possible since an explosion would be prevented by venting. Other experts contend that something worse than Chernobyl could occur if the containment structure fails.
The population of Japan is 127 million with almost 20 million children under 14 years of age. Experts suggest that there will be no Chernobyl-like explosion because of today’s reactor venting. In a worst case scenario of two or even one reactor meltdown there is no word on how humans maintain and secure the others.
In a best case scenario the fiercely competitive Japanese rebuild and everyone learns but that will be a long process. Businesses around the world are looking at cost and opportunity.
Japanese imports would be expected to increase dramatically while exports would suffer at least in the short term. Investments in Japanese ventures have already seen huge losses. Infrastructure in Japan is already under huge pressure with the worst being health resources that just cannot cope and it seems certain there is much more need to come.
Many experts predict world economies won’t be greatly affected by Fukushima but there is no mention of the cost to the little people propping up those economies. Will there be more bailouts?
No matter what the end result of Fukushima for people around the world this is a time for even the most devout atheist to pray for the people of Japan.