I chose Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant because I experienced a similar disaster of Chernobyl nuclear power plant explosion many years ago in Ukraine. I lived about 60 miles away from Chernobyl and remember all the details of the event. Even though I was not at the actual place, this type of the disaster covers a much bigger area and requires many more people to help and respond. Chernobyl disaster happened in 1986 and was caused by the failure of control of a fission chain reaction, whereas the Fukushima-1 accident (happened in 2011) was a loss-of-coolant accident in which the reactor cores of three units were melted by decay heat after losing the electricity supply (Imanaka et al., 2015). In the case of the Chernobyl accident, the explosion occurred inside the reactor core, and the reactor materials themselves were dispersed into the atmosphere. In Fukushima-1 accident, the reactor cores did not explode and the radioactivity discharge was mostly composed of gaseous and volatile radionuclides emitted from the damaged and melted reactor cores. Two hydrogen explosions occurred at Fukushima-1 under the roof of the reactor building of Unit 1 and Unit 3, but they were not inside the containment vessels (Imanaka et al., 2015). As a result, the release of the radioactive materials was far less from the Fukushima accident than that released from Chernobyl.
Even though it was extremely dangerous to be among the first responders for both disasters, a huge number of people responded and helped in these disasters. On the day of the Fukushima disaster, 50,000 members of the Japanese Self-Defense Forces (SDF) were sent to aid in the relief work of the earthquake (Mizushima, 2012). That number was increased to 100,000 in two days. Two hundred workers from SDF were immediately sent to inject water to the plant’s cooling systems (Mizushima, 2012). The first responders for the Chernobyl disaster were the firefighters. The first 28 people who responded died within a month (U.S.NRC, 2013). Additional 106 workers received high enough doses to cause acute radiation sickness. About 200,000 cleanup workers in 1986 and 1987 received doses of between 1 and 100 rem. Consider that the average annual radiation dose for a U.S. citizen is about 0.6 rem. Chernobyl cleanup activities eventually required about 600,000 workers, although only a small fraction of these workers were exposed to elevated levels of radiation (U.S.NRC, 2013).
Due to the high levels of radiation, the government ordered that the contaminated areas had be evacuated in both disasters. I was evacuated with many other local people (especially children). The hospitals, resort centers, and many other facilities opened up their doors for the refugees from the contaminated areas. I still had a couple of months before the summer break in my school and one of the local schools took me without any questions or paper work. Regular screenings were initiated in Ukraine to monitor the radiation levels and the health condition of the people who were exposed to high levels of radiation. Everybody showed so much kindness and compassion to the fellow citizens during this hard period in my country. I am sure it was a similar situation in Japan and people helped each other as well. Similarly, the governor of Fukushima Prefecture ordered an evacuation of residents and others within a 2 km, 3 km, and eventually 20 km radius of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant for the towns of Okuma and Futaba. Regular screenings were also initiated in Japan among the population potentially exposed to the radiation (Akiyama et al., 2012).
The international response in both disasters was also amazing. The United States offered a lot of technological help and also provided more than $400 million for the assistance with Chernobyl disaster (U.S.NRC, 2013). United Nations organization spent about $50 million to help reduce the effects of Chernobyl (Belarus Foreign Ministry, 2008). European Commission and G7 countries contributed about one billon euros towards the construction of a new safe confinement structure around the Chernobyl nuclear reactor (World Nuclear Association, 2015). The United States responded to the Fukushima disaster immediately and utilized their marine corps located in the military bases in Japan (Mizushima, 2012). These types of disasters affect multiple countries and many generations. It is important for the countries to provide technological, financial, and moral assistance for each other during the time of this kind of hardships.
Akiyama, N., Sato, H., Naito, K., Naoi, Y., & Katsuta, T. (2012, September). The Fukushima Nuclear Accident and Crisis Management: Lessons for Japan-U.S. Alliance Cooperation. The Sasakawa Peace Foundation. Retrieved November 30, 2015, from https://www.spf.org/jpus/img/investigation/book_fukushima.pdf
Belarus Foreign Ministry. (2008). Chernobyl Disaster. Retrieved November 30, 2015, from http://chernobyl.undp.org/russian/docs/belarus_23_anniversary.pdf
Imanaka, T., Hayashi, G., & Endo, S. (2015). Comparison of the accident process, radioactivity release and ground contamination between Chernobyl and Fukushima-1. Journal of Radiation Research, 1(3), 1-6.
Mizushima, A. (2012, December). The Japan-US “military” response to the earthquake, and the strengthening of the military alliance as a result. Retrieved December 1, 2015, from http://fukushimaontheglobe.com/the-earthquake-and-the-nuclear-accident/whats-happened/the-japan-us-military-response
U.S. NRC. (2013, May). Backgrounder on Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant Accident. Retrieved November 30, 2015, from http://www.nrc.gov/reading-rm/doc-collections/fact-sheets/chernobyl-bg.html
World Nuclear Association. (2015). Chernobyl Accident1986. Retrieved November 30, 2015, from http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/Safety-and-Security/Safety-of-Plants/Chernobyl-Accident/