Japan's nuclear crisis: 6 reasons why we should – and shouldn't – worry

Japan’s nuclear disaster is not as bad as Chernobyl, but it’s the worst since. The recent 8.9-magnitude earthquake and tsunami that followed have severely damaged the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. It has suffered two explosions, with warnings of a third possible, and fuel rods are exposed. Over 20,000 people have been evacuated from the area. This crisis raises important questions about the future of nuclear power and our failures not just to prepare for natural disasters but also possible failures in nuclear security. Harvard Kennedy School's Matthew Bunn gives us six key points to consider, originally published on the Power & Policy blog.

2. Worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl

At the same time, this is the worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl, and in some respects worse than Three Mile Island (TMI). At TMI, they managed to avoid a hydrogen explosion; in this case, Japan had hydrogen explosions that destroyed much of the buildings at two reactors (though not the steel pressure vessels around the reactors themselves).

At TMI, there was only a very modest release of radiation. Here, you have at least one worker reportedly suffering from substantial radiation sickness and scores of people whose exposure is being carefully assessed and clear signs that there has been some significant release of radioactivity, including cesium and iodine (though reports seem to conflict as to how much). At TMI, one reactor’s core was destroyed. Here, it appears at least two have suffered fuel melting, a third reportedly has exposed fuel, and others are facing serious loss of cooling.

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