Fukushima not as bad as Chernobyl - UN

2011-04-06 22:13
Vienna - The chairperson of the United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR) Wolfgang Weiss, says Japan's nuclear accident is not expected to have any serious impact on people's health, based on the information available now.

He said the Fukushima disaster was less dramatic than Chernobyl but much more serious than Three Mile Island.

Weiss said: "It's in between in terms of environmental effects, not in terms of health impact."

While after Chernobyl in the then Soviet Union, people in villages continued to ingest radioactive iodine that had contaminated milk and vegetables, those living near the crippled Fukushima plant were evacuated, he said.

"From what I have seen now, from the information I have now, I would not expect anything ... serious," he said, when asked about the possible health consequences as a result of Fukushima.

"In food people are talking about levels which would give you 1 millisieverts per year, five millisieverts per year ... this is nothing where we would expect major health impacts."

Radiation is measured using the unit sievert, which quantifies the amount absorbed by human tissue.

But Weiss, saying the committee would look into the Japanese situation, stressed the emergency was not yet over.

He spoke after Japan earlier on Wednesday stopped highly radioactive water leaking into the sea from the severely damaged nuclear power plant.

Despite the breakthrough, experts in the country said the damaged reactors were far from being under control almost a month after they were hit by a massive earthquake and tsunami.

Weiss said: "We have seen traces of iodine in the air all over the world now but they are much, much, much lower than traces we have seen at similar distances after Chernobyl."

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