Japan crisis level same as Chernobyl

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Japan crisis level same as Chernobyl

Japan yesterday revised upward the severity of the crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant to the same level as the worst global nuclear disaster ever at Chernobyl in 1986.

The sudden elevation - from level 5 to level 7 on the International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale - raised suspicions in neighboring Korea and China that the Japanese government had delayed disclosing critical information regarding radiation leaks, depriving them of time to come up with their own protective measures.

Seoul officials said they would watch closely to see if the situation worsens.

Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency announced the revision by admitting that the amount of radioactive material released from the crippled plant at an early stage was estimated to have reached 10,000 terabequerels per hour for several hours.

Kyodo News Agency yesterday quoted an official of Tepco, the owner and manager of the plant, as saying the radiation from the plant could surpass that leaked from Chernobyl if the crisis continues. Currently, Fukushima has released about 10 percent of the amount of radiation leaked by the Chernobyl disaster, the Nuclear Safety Commission of Japan estimated.

The Chinese government also urged Tokyo yesterday to provide it with information on the radiation more swiftly.

Nuclear experts from Korea and Japan began discussions yesterday in Tokyo on radiation from the plant, the first face-to-face briefing for Seoul officials since the onset of the crisis on March 11. A second meeting is slated for today.

“We will see what outcome the experts’ meeting in Tokyo will bring,” said an official of Seoul’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

According to the Korea Institute of Nuclear Safety yesterday, traces of radiation from the Fukushima plant were detected in the air at all 12 of Korea’s detection centers, though they weren’t high enough to pose health risks.

Meanwhile, Japan’s Nikkei newspaper reported yesterday that the Korean government requested from Japan a joint study of radiation in the seawater near the crippled plant, quoting a diplomatic source.

Japan stopped dumping low-level radioactive water into the ocean on Monday after disposing 10,400 tons.

The Nikkei said Korea appears to be concerned about the effect of contaminated water on its fisheries. The Japanese government is reviewing how to respond to Seoul’s demand, Nikkei reported.

The nuclear crisis showed little signs of a breakthrough, with the Japanese government saying Monday that it would order some people living outside its 20-kilometer (12.4-mile) exclusion zone to prepare to evacuate their villages or cities.

The top U.S. nuclear regulator told the Associated Press yesterday that he still sticks to a recommendation for U.S. citizens to stay at least 50 miles away from the plant.


By Moon Gwang-lip [joe@joongang.co.kr]

한글 관련 기사 [중앙일보]
레벨7은 최악의 원전 사고 등급

일본 원자력안전보안원이 후쿠시마(福島) 원전 사고를 최악 상황인 7등급으로 상향 조정한 것은 그만큼 방사선 피해가 크고 사태도 심각하다는 것을 의미한다. 7등급은 국제원자력기구(IAEA)가 만든 0~7까지의 국제원자력사고등급(INES) 중 최고 위험 단계로 소련 체르노빌 원전 사고와 동일한 등급이다.

  이에 따라 세계 원전 60년 역사상 최악 등급 사고가 체르노빌 사고에 이어 두 개로 늘어났다. 7등급은 방사성 요오드131이 수만TBq(테라베크렐, 1TBq=1조Bq) 이상 원자로 외부로 누출된 경우에 내리는 판정이다. 수천TBq~수만TBq 사이는 6등급으로 분류한다. 1만TBq은 채소류의 섭취 제한 방사선량인 ㎏당 2000Bq의 5조 배에 해당한다.

 체르노빌 사고 때는 요오드131이 176만TBq, 세슘137은 7만9500TBq, 제논133이 650만TBq 배출됐다. 하지만 INES 사고등급 기준은 유출된 방사성 요오드131의 양을 가지고 판단한다. 요오드131이 누출됐을 때 인체에 미치는 영향이 가장 크기 때문이다.

 일본 원자력안전보안원은 유출량이 체르노빌 때의 10%에도 미치지 못한다고 주장한다. 그러나 유엔의 포괄적핵실험금지조약(CTBT) 준수 여부를 감시하는 기관인 오스트리아 기상지구역학중앙연구소(ZAMG)는 지난달 24일 이미 “후쿠시마 원전이 체르노빌 원전 사고 때 새나온 방사성물질의 60~70%를 누출했다”고 추산했다.


 이러한 상황은 현재까지 누출된 방사성 물질의 양만 가지고 따져본 것이다. 문제는 후쿠시마 원전 사고가 아직도 진행형이란 점이다. KAIST 원자력공학과 장순흥 교수는 “후쿠시마 원전의 방사성 누출량은 아직 체르노빌에 미치지는 못하지만 사고의 심각성은 비슷하다”고 말했다.

◆테라베크렐(T㏃)=1테라(Tera) 베크렐은 1조 베크렐을 의미한다. 방사성물질이 방출하는 방사선의 양을 측정하는 국제단위(SI)가 베크렐(㏃)이다. 1㏃은 1초에 한 번꼴로 붕괴하는 방사성물질의 양을 가리킨다. 프랑스의 물리학자 앙투안 앙리 베크렐(1852~1908)의 이름을 땄다.

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