The wrecked Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan may have released more than twice the amount of radiation estimated by the Japanese government, a study by European and U.S.-based scientists said.
Tokyo Electric Power Co. s Fukushima station, which was wrecked in the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, may have emitted 35,800 terabecquerels of radioactive cesium 137 at the height of the disaster, according to a study in the Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics journal. Japan s nuclear regulator in June said 15,000 terabecquerels of cesium 137 was discharged.
The amount is about 42 percent of that released at Chernobyl in 1986, the worst civil atomic disaster in history, according to the study. The plant north of Tokyo may have also started releasing radioactive elements before the tsunami arrived about 45 minutes after the magnitude-9 quake struck, contradicting government assessments.
This early onset of emissions is interesting and may indicate some structural damage to the reactor units during the earthquake, according to the report.
Japan s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency remains convinced the quake didn t cause significant damage to the plant, Tadashige Koitabashi, a NISA spokesman, said by phone. He declined to comment on the report.
NISA and Tepco blame the tsunami, which swamped backup generators, causing a loss of cooling and the meltdowns of the three reactors operating at the time of the disaster. Explosions at the plant sent radiation into the atmosphere.