Japan 48 hours from Chernobyl - report

2011-03-17 09:57

Johannesburg - Disaster-struck Japan has 48 hours to bring its steadily growing nuclear crisis under control and avoid a catastrophe "worse than Chernobyl", reported The Telegraph on Thursday, citing a French nuclear expert.

"The next 48 hours will be decisive. I am pessimistic because, since Sunday, I have seen that almost none of the solutions have worked," Thierry Charles, a safety official at France's Institute for Radiological Protection and Nuclear Safety (IRSN), said according to the online version of the paper.

Alarm has been raised that the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant in north-eastern Japan may be on the verge of spewing more radioactive material because there was no water in a storage pool for spent nuclear fuel rods.

The troubles at several of the plant's reactors were set off when last week's earthquake and tsunami knocked out power and ruined backup generators needed for their cooling systems, adding a major nuclear crisis for Japan as it dealt with twin natural disasters that killed more than 10 000 people and left hundreds of thousands homeless.

Although Charles described the situation as "a major risk", he said added all was not "lost".

He told the paper the maximum possible amount of radioactive release would be "in the same range as Chernobyl".

Two killed at plant

Considered the worst nuclear disaster in history, the incident at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine on April 26 1986 is estimated to have caused 57 direct deaths, with around 4 000 additional deaths from cancer over the years.

French government spokesperson Francois Baroin also said in a worst case scenario, the nuclear crisis in Japan could "have an impact worse than Chernobyl" as the Japanese had visibly lost the essential of control", The Telegraph reported.

The report also said the owners of the crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant, Tokyo Electric, said five workers had been killed at the site while two were missing and 21 had been injured.

However, despite the grim forecast by the French, British nuclear expert at the Chatham House think tank, Malcolm Grimston told the paper Fukushima could not be compared to Chernobyl.

"We're nearly five days after the fission process was stopped, the levels of radioactive iodine will only be about two thirds of where they were at the start, some of the other, very short-lived, very radioactive material will be gone altogether by now," he said.

At one point on Wednesday, radiation levels at the plant rose to such dangerous levels that all workers were evacuated from the site. But work resumed hours later with a team of 180 continuing attempts to cool the reactor's fuel rods.


  • DW - 2011-03-17 10:08

    Every "expert" seems to have a different opinion. I guess we will have to wait and see. I hope and pray that they get it under control soon

      rammstein.f4n - 2011-03-17 11:48

      What bothers me is why this Frenchman didn't explain the fundamental differences between the Chernobyl and Fukushima core. The Fukushima nuclear plant does NOT have a combustible graphite core like Chernobyl. A total meltdown should flow into underground containment.

      Frungy - 2011-03-17 14:00

      rammstein.f4n has it right. Not only are the radiation levels about 400 000 times less in the Fukushima incident than in Chernobyl, but the reactor designs are completely different. Not to mention that the French nuclear agency is the ONLY agency world-wide that is assuming this alarmist position. Everyone else from the U.S. down is saying that it's messy but it should be ok.

      wesleywt - 2011-03-17 16:45

      A the torigraph, a bastion of accurate information lol.

      HowardX - 2011-03-18 13:20

      The authorities and experts have repeatedly downplayed this disaster and every one of their reassurances has so far turned out to be false. I no longer believe the argument that it will be "no Chernobyl" just because the core isn't graphite. There is 80 tons of spent fuel next to each reactor some of which has already been exposed to the atmosphere and lost its coolant. Some of the reactors are using much more dangerous MOX fuel, and they've stopped reporting on radiation levels in the evacuation zone. The authorities and experts have consistently told us not to worry, a further deterioration in the situation is unlikely, and then it happens anyway, followed by another round of reassurances.

  • Johann - 2011-03-17 10:17

    They will. The expert is sitting on his ass in France. If he was in Japan, helping, i would have been worried

      Louis III - 2011-03-17 10:48

      Well said mate! Agree 100%.

      John Seloa - 2011-03-17 10:54

      Johann, you deserve a Bells.

      Anton - 2011-03-17 10:58

      What do you want him to do? Take a high pressure hose, a generator and spray the reactors with sea water? He is not saying he has a better idea, just that so far nothing has worked.

  • Val - 2011-03-17 10:17

    Yes, its a waiting game. Those poor people.

  • WJ - 2011-03-17 10:33

    It takes 1000 years before a nuclear contaminated area can become habitable again. I sure hope that they can get it under control, especially as those who will be worst affected are newborns & generations to come!

      Ben - 2011-03-17 10:45

      Life is already back in full swing at Chernobyl. Deer , birds and whatnot. They estimate people returning to the deadzone in another 15 years.

      jakes147 - 2011-03-17 11:12

      Did you know that the current population of Nagasaki is about 450 000 and Hiroshima almost 1.2 million.

      modefan - 2011-03-17 11:22

      Another Einstein with his kitchen myths, lol

      Ian Calder - 2011-03-17 22:58

      Haha, damn, that kitchen mythmonger sure got his come-uppins. Just while we are on the point, plenty of people are back living near Tchernobyl, and a huge amount of the pictures that are supposedly caused by radiation (thanks to them being used in movies to convey that radiation causes a Mad Max style landscape with mutants), were actually taken after the liverating force of Americans dropping "Agent Orange" all over Vietnam. Don't disagree that its not exactly prime land after a bit of fallout, but heck, people live in Parklands right?

  • ian.d.samson - 2011-03-17 10:40

    "Disaster-struck Japan has 48 hours to bring it's steadily growing nuclear crisis under control" WHO is the IDIOT who puts an apostrophe in its? Read the sentence again as written and it reads: "Disaster-struck Japan has 48 hours to bring it is steadily growing nuclear crisis under control" and that is nonsense. PLEASE GET THE USE OF THE APOSTROPHE CORRECT or suffer a nuclear explosion and tsunami of corrections from me!

      Snoek - 2011-03-17 10:52

      Who cares or care''''''''''''''s. everyone understood sentence

      GASH5000 - 2011-03-17 11:16

      The author must have done lower grade english in school. You would expect better from someone reporting at this level.

      EmTee - 2011-03-17 11:19

      Well spotted Ian. @Snoek: should it be a case of "if all else fails, lower your standards"?

      CB - 2011-03-17 11:31

      @Snoek - Unfortunately I am with Ian on this one. If you want to call yourself a professional journalist, you should at least learn some basic style and grammar rules. Same as any other profession - learn your trade well. It might not change much to people's understanding of the sentence, but is does highlight a level of incompetence creeping into our journalism. Especially on the web. The same goes for the use of could of instead of could have. Well done Ian, maybe next time the author or an editor will at least take the time to read through the article before publishing.

      JohannV - 2011-03-17 11:35

      Even first language-speakers get this wrong. The way I was taught: "its is like his, it's is like he's. Some people also get "there and their" wrong. Irritating...

      Snoopy88 - 2011-03-17 12:04

      so big deal its just a little typo - someone stuffed up on the subs desk.. do you think the journalists do their own proofreading?

      darkwing - 2011-03-17 19:48

      And what about this tautology? "he said added all was not "lost"."

      Lawence - 2011-03-17 21:36

      Eats shoots and leaves

      jamesho - 2011-03-18 08:35

      ian the imbecile....apostrophe is also used for ownership...tsk....clearly you went to the same school as julius m

  • Mike Webber - 2011-03-17 10:45

    Can't we send the ANCYL there (ALL OF THEM) to shut down the nuclear reactor like they shut down Twitter??? Just asking ...

      John Seloa - 2011-03-17 10:56

      I think we need to send Mugabe to the east, where the sun rises.

      Picasso - 2011-03-17 11:49

      The ANCYL will nationalise the Nuclear Plant and blame Apartheid for the disaster.

  • Flinger - 2011-03-17 10:48

    I say we welcome all Japanese people to come and live here in SA, give them a roof, food and let them do what they do best...thrive.. and maybe teach our idiot nation a thing or 2.

      John Seloa - 2011-03-17 10:57

      Idiot nation??? Your profile picture says who the idiot monkey is.

      Barry - 2011-03-17 14:09

      @ John Seloa. You are an idiot nation. If this had happened here in SA half the population would be dead by now

      Michelle8 - 2011-03-17 20:38

      And then let them poach all the whales and dolphins in SA water.

  • Moi1980 - 2011-03-17 11:07

    Scary stuff...really hope they are able to get things under control.

  • liezll - 2011-03-17 11:14

    "48 hours to bring it's steadily growing nuclear crisis " ITS, NOT IT'S, What the hell happened to basic grammatical checks before publishing an article?!

  • modefan - 2011-03-17 11:15

    Tomorrow's headline 24HRS BEFORE MELTDOWN I think I'll check in next week to see if there was an actual meltdown

  • liezll - 2011-03-17 11:19

    "48 hours to bring it's steadily growing nuclear crisis " ITS, NOT IT'S. What the hell happened to a simple grammar check before publishing an article?

      Mike Webber - 2011-03-17 11:28

      The same thing that happend to the level of education in South Africa. Viva ANC Viva !!!

  • Hans - 2011-03-17 11:33

    People who care about the earth and who acknowledge the massive damage done to the planet by so-called human civilisation and 'development' will naturally advocate against nuclear power - and will also advocate against coal as it is also a massively polluting form of power generation. Thus to insist, as several ignorant commentators here do, that earth-lovers prefer coal over nuclear, is incorrect. Earth-lovers hate coal, and also hate nuclear. Why? Because both are MASSIVELY polluting and are devastating the planet. It is now common cause that coal is terribly dirty – most now accept that and repeat it in their comments. The disagreement lies over whether nuclear is 'clean' or not, and over whether it is safe. Remember, we're not comparing nuclear with coal - we're just talking nuclear. So is nuclear energy clean? Yes or no? Obviously, it’s not: when one adds ALL of the costs associated with a nuclear power station – contracting, design, uranium mining and processing, mining and refining of construction materials, power lines, transportation, construction, operation, ‘de-commissioning’, 10,000 years of secure storage of toxic waste, opportunity costs and the direct environmental damage … well it’s obviously a massively polluting exercise, and enormously costly in Rands and cents. And is it safe? Yes or no? Obviously, it’s not. Not from close up, and when things go wrong as they periodically do, also not from far away. So, no to nuclear and no to coal!

      Andre - 2011-03-17 12:09

      Let us go back to the dark ages. No electricity-no development. But we will breathe clean air. Most environmentalists say NO to everything potentially harmful but offer no alternative.

      buka001 - 2011-03-17 12:10

      So says Hans, the so-called human.

      jakes147 - 2011-03-17 12:12

      And yes to what?

      whereu - 2011-03-17 12:23

      No to nuclear power and no to coal. I assume that you are saying no to coal because it produces a greenhouse gas (carbon dioxide). This implies that you would also say no to oil and gas. What do you propose to use instead of these forms of energy that could provide sufficient energy to a energy hungry world? Sorry, to say that solar and wind don't provide sufficient reliable energy and hydro is limited. Other forms are yet to be developed. So here's the choice: pump the world full of greenhouse gases or work on making nuclear energy safer (through the use of small distributed plants, for example). I find it amazing that people who are not responsible for providing our energy needs make these far reaching statements (no to nuclear power and no to coal). Praat is maklik

      whereu - 2011-03-17 12:27

      No to nuclear power and no to coal. I assume that you are saying no to coal because it produces a greenhouse gas (carbon dioxide). This implies that you would also say to to oil and gas. What do you propose to use instead of these forms of energy that could provide sufficient energy to a energy hungry world? Sorry, to say that solar and wind don't provide sufficient reliable energy and hydro is limited. Other forms are yet to be developed. So here the choice: pump the world full of greenhouse gases or work om making nuclear energy safer (through the use of small distributed plant,s for example). I find it amazing that people who are not responsible for providing for our energy needs make these far reaching statements (no to nuclear power and no to coal). Praat is maklik

      trustable - 2011-03-17 12:45

      I agree with "whereu"... I would love to know what you propose other than nuclear and coal.The ignorance of people irritates me!

      L_Savage - 2011-03-17 16:06

      Yup, great in theory. Hans. No nuclear and no coal. Also no debate will follow since there will be no internet, and no computers. Also a lot of people will die due to the fact that we depend on electricity to make food, supply water, perform sanitation. Fact is that society relies on energy to survive. Any plans to move to sustainable and clean forms of energy production will take many years to implement. It will be a transition. Switching off coal or nuclear energy generation now, or in the near future will have far more catastrophic outcomes than continuing to use them until we can successfully migrate. And sorry to burst your bubble but the only rational argument for caring for the earth is that our survival as a species depends on it. A pristine earth with no human inhabitants to witness it is utterly pointless. So saving the earth at the expense of human life is a self defeating exercise. Bottom line: Saying no to nuclear and coal is like saying you want to have your cake and eat it. Reality dictates we should be selecting the lesser of the two evils. Bear in mind that even when when nuclear energy goes wrong, the effects are fairly localised. The potential threat posed by global warming is, well, global. So on purely logical grounds, even given the possibility of nuclear accidents causing several hundred fatalities, nuclear is still the way to go.

      Madelane - 2011-03-17 17:18

      There will be only negative response to your post Hans and the underlying negativity it based on fear. This fear is deep seated as people start to see the unraveling of our so called progress and the incredible damage that this ‘progress’ has done to the planet and which is ever escalating. There are alternative energy production methods but to actually place this at the disposal of the man in the street is met with fierce resistance from the corporate who also have immense political clout. An example: A certain municipality up the East Coast investigated installing a Bio Mass Reactor (it has nothing to do with nuclear) which would utilize the huge amount of rubbish at the waste dump and sewerage plant to meet the equipments fuel needs. The by-product of this reactor is carbon and bunker oil. This would have enabled them to produce sufficient electricity to remove the entire area from the national grid. A certain large state owned utility company immediately brought the entire project to a standstill with various veiled threats which the officials could not ignore and the company that was developing the reactor has since closed its doors. Now this reactor is presently being used at some six hundred green developments, housing many thousands, in the States and it is a proven sustainable net producer of energy. Can you imagine the reaction from the Nuclear lobby and the vested interests not to mention the oil giants to this threat of small players having access to comparatively inexpensive equipment that would make them independent of the corporate and the government. This is but one example of alternative energy effectively squashed by the powers that be and there are many more. Of course I realize that now the commentators will label be a conspiracy theorist as well as a bunny hugger. Oh well time will tell.

      joe2110 - 2011-03-17 18:12

      Do the people who propose alternative energy not realise that Solar energy is the single most damaging to the environment? In a mere 4 billion years or so the sun will consume the whole planet, turning it into vapour. Let’s do the right thing now! Not only should Solar energy be immediately banned, but in addition environmentalists should unite and demand that the sun be shut down immediately. This is the only solution to the ultimate destruction of our planet!

      Madelane - 2011-03-17 18:30

      Facetious remark noted thank you Joe. Do go have a slow really good look at the Chernobyl slide show and let these poor people suffering still from the effects of radiation or have a look at an article on the men working in Japan in the mailonline and make a few more remarks about what you see there and please do not say that it was an accident and won't happen again and again because we have learnt how to control what is ultimately not controllable.

      Madelane - 2011-03-17 18:54

      Having said all that I am starting a petition, if you would care to sign it, to prevent the sun from ultimately destroying our planet.....just have to figure out who to send it too when I have all two names on the list.....

      Michelle8 - 2011-03-17 20:41

      Nuclear is cleaner than coal.

  • - 2011-03-17 12:17

    Look at the bright side, our rugby players going to Japan will return as Supermen, with skills of the "fantastic four".

      wsk747 - 2011-03-17 13:14

      Can we send the Bulls over in time for this weekend?

  • Pate - 2011-03-17 12:54

    Uninformed fear-mongering.

  • thatmanvan - 2011-03-17 13:57

    The proplem is the use of nuclear enregy, no nuclear reactors, no nuclear risk, perhaps well spend our millions on safe power research, perhaps we need another catastrophe before we will succumb to evolution

      Steve Wonderboy - 2011-03-17 16:43

      One malfunctioning nuclear reactor, due to the effects of a tsunami and all the tree-huggers come out of the closet.

      Cire - 2011-03-18 09:52


  • straymom - 2011-03-17 14:08

    @ Hans, what do you drive? An ox-wagon? Do you use candles for light and live in a house without electricity?

  • TWG - 2011-03-17 14:19

    Please God help them out there...

  • Janine - 2011-03-17 14:42

    This is some scary s**t.

  • yeldarb - 2011-03-17 14:46

    Oh little people living on little earth always looking at the small picture. Place yourself in space looking at earth then comment on the impacts of natural disaster and man made ones. Eish

  • Cyril - 2011-03-17 15:30

    Agggggggggggg KAK man. Expert this, expert that. Japs are not DUMB Russians. They'll sort it out!!!

  • Cire - 2011-03-18 09:52

    Have a nice cup of tea and relax. Journalists are entertainers who have to dream up ever more effective ways to get you to wee in your pants - a nuclear accident is a godsend!! And it works, judging by the hysteria and paranoia this story has generated. Nuclear energy is here to stay - becuase its safe, cheap and clean.

  • Punani - 2011-03-18 13:58

    Quite simply, the press will always take the most dramatic and alarmist view. Would any body read the heading telling the public not to panic and that everything is under control? That's why that uneducated, racist freak Malema gets so much airtime. The headlines are just too easy.

  • pages:
  • 1