Radioactive Cesium With A Half-Life Of Approximately 30 Years Is Being Released At About 60 Percent Of Chernobyl Levels
Why does it seem as though the nuclear crisis in Japan just keeps getting worse with each passing day? TEPCO has announced that extremely radioactive water is now leaking from reactors 1, 2, and 3 at their damaged nuclear complex. On Thursday, three workers stepped into water in reactor 3 that contained 10,000 times the normal amount of radiation. Two of the workers experienced significant radiation burns and all three were sent to the hospital. Authorities have also announced that it is very likely that the containment vessel in reactor 3 has been breached. That is extremely alarming because reactor 3 is the one that uses plutonium-uranium mixed oxide fuel (“MOX fuel”). So is plutonium being released into the surrounding environment? That would be absolutely catastrophic. But what we know is happening already is quite catastrophic. According to a recent NewScientist article, radioactive iodine-131 is being released at 73% of the level that it was being released at during the Chernobyl disaster. But iodine-131 only has a half-life of about 8 days. According to that same article, radioactive cesium-137 is being released at 60% of the level that it was being released at during the Chernobyl disaster. Cesium-137 has a half-life of approximately 30 years. That means that all of this cesium is going to be with us for a very, very long time.
Also, it is important to keep in mind that the Chernobyl disaster only burned for 10 days.
The damaged reactors at Fukushima are still emitting radioactive material and will probably be for quite a while.