those are some interesting numbers but I keep seeing quotes like this
"Prime Minister Naoto Kan yesterday blamed inadequate tsunami defenses at the plant for the world’s worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl in 1986"
So if the Prime Minister actually made that comparison he is either wrong or maybe we should expect more than 200 people to die from the nuclear incident at Fukushima.
I suppose it's also possible that the Prime Minister made the first part of the quote and someone added the comparison in the process of translation or paraphrasing a translation that seemed poorly worded.
But we should also remember that the number of cancer deaths is not the total number of deaths from a incident like this. The workers who died in the first few days of Chernobyl didn't die from cancer. So looking at a table of cancer deaths doesn't tell the whole story.
Saying that the accident at Fukushima is the worst since Chernobyl does not necessarily mean he is saying that they are comparable. It means that Fukushima is the most serious since
Chernobyl, even if Chernobyl may have been far worse (because there was no containment structure at all, whereas Fukushima apparently has a leak it its containment structure.
However, I do believe that Fukushima is a lot worse than the US media is reporting (rarely getting top billing on news broadcasts or web pages).
Good point, "since" does not equal "second only to". I just keep thinking about how bad this is and how big the disconnect is between how bad it is and people saying "It isn't like Chernobyl so it must be more like 3 Mile Island".
This nuclear disaster is so bad no one has even laid eyes or camera lens on the containment vessels yet. Like this post says:
I don't think anything with a camera or eyeball has actually "seen" the exterior of the reactor pressure vessels since the earthquake. The sensors aren't working and the void around the vessels themselves is highly radioactive now. I've not seen any reports saying robots are on the site yet.
Everyone's working off of other data; the presence of radiated water, low pressures in the vessels, etc, and are coming up with explanations as to what is causing these things to happen. The media tends to report people's opinions as hard facts, when no one really knows what the pressure vessel conditions are right now. I've seen both TEPCO and JAIA officials give different explanations as to why there's radiated water everywhere; leaking pipes, leaking pressure vessels, even leaking secondary containment structures. I don't think anyone knows for sure right now if they've got holes in them or not.
Quick summary from the current Wiki article
Evidence arose of partial core meltdown in reactors 1, 2, and 3; hydrogen explosions destroyed the upper cladding of the buildings housing reactors 1, 3, and 4; an explosion damaged the containment inside reactor 2; and multiple fires broke out at reactor 4. In addition, spent fuel rods stored in spent fuel pools of units 1–4 began to overheat as water levels in the pools dropped.
On 25 March, Japan's nuclear regulator announced a likely breach and radiation leak in the containment vessel of the unit 3 reactor, the only one at the plant using MOX fuel. New Scientist reported that measurements taken by the Japanese science ministry and MEXT in areas of northern Japan "far from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant" showed the radioactive caesium fallout levels rival those from the Chernobyl disaster. Previously the publication had reported that world wide measurements of radioactive fallout released from the reactors were "nearing Chernobyl levels". It reported that the preparatory commission of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization had measured levels of iodine-131 at 73% and caesium-137 at 60% the levels released from Chernobyl
Radiation releases during the initial hydrogen explosions
The severity of a nuclear accident is rated on the International Nuclear Event Scale (INES). This scale runs from 0, indicating an abnormal situation with no safety consequences, to 7, indicating an accident causing widespread contamination with serious health and environmental effects. The Chernobyl disaster is the only level 7 accident on record, while the Three Mile Island accident was a level 5 accident.
The Japan Atomic Energy Agency initially rated the situation at Unit 1 below both of these previous accidents; on 13 March it announced it was classifying the event at level 4, an "accident with local consequences". On 18 March it raised its rating on Unit 1 to level 5, an "accident with wider consequences", and also assigned this rating to the accidents at Units 2 and 3. It classified the situation at Unit 4 as a level 3 "serious incident".
The Wall Street Journal reported on 25 March that authorities were considering raising the event to level 6, a "serious accident," one level above the Three Mile Island accident, and second only to Chernobyl. On the same day, Asahi Shimbun supported this upgrading, based on the amount of radioactive contamination.
Several parties have disputed the Japanese classifications, arguing that the situation is more severe than they are admitting. On 14 March, three Russian experts stated that the nuclear accident should be classified at Level 5, perhaps even Level 6. One day later, the French nuclear safety authority ASN said that the Fukushima plant could be classified as a Level 6. As of 18 March 2011 (2011 -03-18)[update], the French nuclear authority—and as of 15 March 2011 (2011 -03-15)[update], the Finnish nuclear safety authority—estimated the accidents at Fukushima to be at Level 6 on the INES. On 24 March, a scientific consultant for Greenpeace, a noted anti-nuclear environmental group, working with data from the Austrian ZAMG and French IRSN, prepared an analysis in which he rated the total Fukushima I accident at INES level 7.
The latest news doesn't make it sound like things are under control so I still expect the severity to increase at this point. I'm not suggesting it'll go critical and blow up, I'm just saying they don't have control of the situation and they haven't acknowledged how bad it was let alone how bad it will be nor do they have a solid plan for what to do next or how to wrap it all up.