In the shadow of the unusualness of the Olympics taking place during the global pandemic, the concept of the Recovery and Reconstruction Games seems to be almost out of the spotlight. Not sure what this means? Primarily, Tokyo 2020 aims to support Japan’s recovery efforts from the devastating 2011 earthquake of magnitude 9.0 and related disasters. Needless to say, one of the catastrophes was Fukushima nuclear disasters.
Today, ten years since then, Fukushima hosted the Olympic softball and baseball games. Despite some concern, the radiation levels of Fukushima are now no different from major cities in the world. In fact, Fukushima measures between 0.04 μSv/h and 0.13 μSv/h, while Tokyo 0.04 μSv/h, New York 0.05 μSv/h, Seoul 0.12 μSv/h, and London 0.11 μSv/h. But how severe was Fukushima accident? To answer this question, knowing a classification method definitely helps.
INEC is IAEA’ s Tool to Rate Nuclear-Related Events
The visual content above shows the ten most severe nuclear disasters in the world, using the International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale (INEC). International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) introduced this scale to determine the severity of nuclear events in 1990. It rates a given nuclear event by level raging from 0 to 7. The severity of an event is about ten times greater for each increase in level of the scale. To clarify, INEC considers events in terms of impact on people and the environment, impact on radiological barriers and control, and impact on defence in depth. The classifications are:
- Events without safety significance – Level 0
- Anomaly – Level 1
- Incident – Level 2
- Serious Incident – Level 3
- Accident with local consequences – Level 4
- Accident with wider consequences – Level 5
- Serious Accident – Level 6
- Major Accident – Level 7.
Two Level-Seven Nuclear Disasters in the Past 70 Years
For the sake of thinking of impact, the visual content displays those events rated as ‘accident.’ In other words, it focuses on level-seven to level-four accidents.
Firstly, IAEA classifies the 1986 Chernobyl disaster in Ukraine and the 2011 Fukushima disaster in Japan as level-seven accidents. Unfortunately, significant release of radioactive material to the environment resulted in widespread effects in the regions. And most importantly, they have caused health effects as well.
Next, the Kyshtym, Russia, in 1957 is a level-six accident. In this event, a high activity waste tank exploded, which likewise resulted in significant release of radioactive material to the environment.
There are four level-five accidents. They are: the Chalk River accident in Canada in 1952, the Windscale Fire accident in the UK in 1957, the Three Mile Island accident in the US in 1979, and the Goinia accident in Brazil in 1987. Reportedly, these accidents resulted in releasing a limited amount of radioactive material and caused several deaths.
Lastly, the scale classifies a number of accidents as level four. They include: the 1969 Saint Laurent accident in France, the 1983 Buenos Aires accident in Argentina, and the 1999 Tokaimura accident in Japan. As a result, the level-four accidents caused a smaller impact than the others. For instance, minor release of radioactive material, at least one death, fuel melt or damage, and so on.
Go Nuclear to Go Green?
In the global struggle to combat climate change, nuclear power is coming back on stage. According to World Nuclear Association, nuclear power plants produce no greenhouse gas emissions during operation. However, tremendous impact that some nuclear disasters left certainly must not be ignored. Through the Recovery and Reconstruction Olympics, we could take some time out to ponder how our energy future could be.
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