According to two recent reports the release of radiation after the Fukushima Daiicha nuclear power plant was far greater than admitted by either the Japanese government or the operating company TEPCO.

One report addresses the atmospheric impact, the other the marine impact as reported by Medical News Today.

Impact on atmosphere after Fukushima disaster

The Norwegian Institute for Air Research (NILU) led research on the release of the radioactive noble gas xenon 133 and aerosol-bound cesium 137 after the Fukushima event. The lead author, Dr Andreas Stohl, said ‘There is no doubt that the Fukushima accident is, at least in terms of the isotopes xenon 133 and cesium 137, the most significant event after the catastrophe in Chernobyl 25 years ago’.

The amount of xenon 133 is called the ‘largest civilian noble gas release in history’ with strong evidence that emissions started in the morning of the earthquake on 11th March.

Cesium 137 has a half life of some 30.17 years, which means that the amount of radiation it emits halves every 30.17 years. Exposure to this element can increase the risk of cancer and, if exposure is very high, it can cause burns and even death.

Radioactive iodine was also released but with a half life of around a week the risks have now become extremely small.

Although xenon 133 is not a health hazard, the sheer amount released does show how big the incident was.

Marine impact of Fukushima incident

The Institute for Radiological Protection and Nuclear Safety (IRSN), France’s nuclear monitor, has updated earlier research and called the release of cesium 137 into the Pacific Ocean ‘greatest single contamination by artifical radionuclides of the sea ever seen’.

Although the report says that the Pacific will soon dilute the risks, John C K Daly writing in, citing a Mainichi news agency report, says that the amount of cesium 137 that entered the Pacific was actually about thirty times that stated by the Fukushima reactor operator Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO). This study has, he said, ‘effectively demolished TEPCO and the Japanese government's carefully constructed minimalist scenario’.

He points out that cesium 137 can build up in the food chain contaminating seafood stocks ‘as evidenced by mercury contamination of swordfish, none of whom swam around ingesting globules of the silvery metal’ he writes.

He goes on to say that the health impact of long term exposure to cesium 137 has not been assessed and that Japan owes it to the rest of us to stop down-playing the event and come completely clean about true state of affairs.

While trillions of dollars are at stake in the worldwide nuclear industry, the potential health consequences are now simply too significant to ignore.’ He said.

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