Comparative Overview: Fukushima or Chernobyl? Which is Worse? (Pt. 8)

(EnviroNews DC News Bureau) — Editor’s Note: The following news piece represents the seventh in a 15-part mini-series titled, Nuclear Power in Our World Today, featuring nuclear authority, engineer and whistleblower Arnie Gundersen. The EnviroNews USA special encompasses a wide span of topics, ranging from Manhattan-era madness to the continuously-unfolding crisis on the ground at Fukushima Daiichi in eastern Japan. The transcript is as follows:

Voice of CNN Field Reporter Kyung Lah: A year after these reactors at the Fukushima nuclear plant exploded in a triple meltdown, reporters were reminded this is still one of the most hazardous places on the planet.  We wore head-to-toe protective gear, full facial respirators and hazmat suits, and then we drove up to the world’s worst nuclear accident in 25 years.

Josh Cunnings (Narrator): Hello, and thank you for tuning into EnviroNews USA.  I’m your host, Josh Cunnings.  Tonight, in this eighth episode of 15 in our mini-series, we will do our best to clear up a misconception, in an effort to set the record straight on topics that are surrounding Japan’s massive, still ongoing, nuclear nightmare at Fukushima Daiichi.

At EnviroNews, we’ve read one particular phrase – practically plagiarized and recycled in Fukushima news articles so many times, that we’ve lost count many, many moons ago.

The repeated slogan in these many articles, refers to the Fukushima disaster as “the worst nuclear accident SINCE Chernobyl,” implying that Chernobyl is actually worse than Fukushima.  On and on these articles roll, containing almost always the exact same verbiage.  We wonder if any of these reporters bothered to do any investigation into the comparative magnitude of these two massive meltdowns, or if any of them ever made an effort to understand the scope and scale of either Fukushima, or Chernobyl.

To set the record straight on this topic, and to put the matter in perspective, we go again to the excellent interview with nuclear engineer and whistleblower Arnie Gundersen, conducted by EnviroNews USA Editor-in-Chief Emerson Urry.

Urry: One thing I want to ask you about since we’re talking about Fukushima.  One thing that we have read, over and over and over again in the media – and I’m talking about almost every news company across the board is, in reference to Fukushima, “the worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl. Since Chernobyl.”  We have repeatedly reported that Fukushima is the worst manmade environmental catastrophe in the history of mankind.  Are we wrong?

Gundersen: No.  Fukushima released more radioactive gasses into the atmosphere than did Chernobyl, because there were three nuclear reactors that exploded and Chernobyl was only one.  These gasses are called noble gasses – and in Seattle, the noble gas concentration in the air was measured by university professors to be 400,000 times higher than normal.  We had air filters in Seattle – little things like a cigarette filter – and they were pulling in exactly what you and I might breathe, and the average person in Seattle was breathing in 10 particles a day of radioactive dust from Fukushima.  So, this issue of is Fukushima worse…

Urry: Which is very dangerous to actually inhale the particles correct?  Even possibly more dangerous than ingesting them?

Gundersen: Right, because it lodges in your lung and over time will cause lung cancers.  So, is Fukushima worse than Chernobyl?  It released more noble gasses. It released more iodine – and as far as releases into the ocean, Chernobyl was child’s play compared to what’s happening in Fukushima.  Fukushima is probably 100 times worse than Chernobyl as far as releases into water.

Urry: Why do you think the media continues to report it this way?  — that it’s the “worst accident since Chernobyl?”

Gundersen: Well there’s a couple of isotopes, like cesium, that are roughly the same as Chernobyl.  But, what the Japanese have successfully focused on are the ones that are roughly the same, and they’re totally ignoring the ones that were three to five times higher.  I think it’s a game of bait-and-switch.  Those noble gasses have disappeared – and we saw after Three Mile Island (TMI) that there was a statistically meaningful increase in lung cancer about ten years out.  That came from noble gas releases.  We’re going to see the same thing at Fukushima, but if the corporate memory has forgotten about these noble gas releases, then there’ll be nobody to blame.

Urry: Well, and back to General Electric for a moment.  They pretty much have owned a good portion of the world’s mainstream media for a long time.  You know, they owned 100 percent of NBC Universal at one point in time.  Now, they’ve obviously sold that to Comcast.  Is that a factor there?  We remember, when Fukushima happened, it was in the news very strongly for about two months, and almost overnight, it just disappeared.  What’s your thought process on that?

Gundersen: I’d even say that Fukushima was disappeared from the very first day.  I was CNN’s expert, and CNN did a really good job of covering the accident, but the networks didn’t.  And it isn’t just the networks that were owned by GE.  You know, Westinghouse owned some networks.  Network television didn’t do a great job on Fukushima.  I think CNN did the best, and not really because I was one of their experts, but because they had a crew over there.  Anderson Cooper was over there, and on and on and on.  So, my hat’s off to a couple of news agencies.  Al Jazeera, RT and CNN all did a good job.  But all the mainstream media – they’re owned by one corporation or another that doesn’t really want its buddy in trouble.   I think that people forget that those reactors were designed in California by General Electric, and the engineering firm that built them was in Manhattan.  This is an American tragedy, not a Japanese tragedy.

Cunnings: One thing we want to be clear about in concluding this segment is that in comparing the magnitude of these unbelievable cataclysms, Fukushima and Chernobyl, we mean in no way to reduce the significance of the suffering experienced by victims in one disaster or the other.  Rather, the goal here is to call a spade a spade and to acknowledge Fukushima for what it really is – the most destructive manmade environmental disaster in world history – a tragedy without end, which has never been contained – a disaster that continues to poison the Pacific on a daily basis.

Perhaps if the media would start owning these facts, and calling Fukushima what it really is, the world might stand a better chance of mobilizing and responding to what has become a radioactive runaway nightmare of unparalleled proportions.

The next five short films in our mini-series, Nuclear Power in Our World Today with Arnie Gundersen, are all devoted to exploring the various components of the ongoing, and seemingly never ending, crisis at Fukushima Japan.

Tune in tomorrow, when we discuss a massive radiation release from Fukushima in September of 2015 – an event that received very little news coverage.

Signing off until then — from the EnviroNews USA news desk – Josh Cunnings.

CNN Reporter Kyung Lah: Saori Kanesaki used to give tours to the public at the Fukushima nuclear plant. “Before the accident I explained to many people that the nuclear power plant is safe,” she says. “Now that this has happened, I feel very sorry I ever said that.” Kanesaki also lived here in Tomioka. She’s now an evacuee, uncertain of when or if she can ever return home.  A year later, she, and 78,000 others, are the legacy of this accident, paying the price when nuclear energy goes wrong.

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Comparative Overview: Fukushima or Chernobyl? Which is Worse? (Pt. 8)

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FILM AND ARTICLE CREDITS

  • Josh Cunnings - Anchor, Narrator
  • The Editors - Author
  • Emerson Urry - Interviewer, Research Journalist, Producer, Video Editor, Sound Editor, 3D Animator, Director of Photography (News Desk), Lighting, Transcript
  • Louis Ekrem - Director of Photography (Gundersen Interview), A Cam, B Cam, C Cam, Lighting (Interview)
  • Dakota Otero - Production Assistant