If one or more of the Fukushima nuclear reactors experiences a full meltdown, its consequences will be felt world wide. Some precautions can delay the exposure and negative impacts considerably.

The Hydrogen-Zirconium Explosion in Fukushima reactor complex

All the six boiling water reactors located at Fukushima in North eastern coast of Japan hit by the tsunami are reportedly damaged. One of them has suffered a core melt down and others may be on way. This is suspected to be a hydrogen-zirconium explosion. All six reactors commissioned between 1971 and 1979 have an installed capacity of 4692 MW (electricity) year – more than four times the capacity of the exploded in 1986.

In the Chernobyl explosion, radioactive plume consisting of about 30 deadly radioactive isotopes - iodine, cesium, plutonium to name a few- was lofted to the stratosphere (15 kms from sea level) and reached almost part of the northern hemisphere of this planet. The total radioactive atoms released during 10 days of reactor instability numbered 60,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 all of them as single atoms. The northern half of the earth has an area of 250 trillion square meters - each square meter of land and ocean was gifted with a trillion particles. At the time of release, the radio-nuclides were irradiating at the rate of 50,000 dis-integrations every second in every square meter of land and ocean. Part of the debris is still there in our top soil, irradiating at 3000 dis-integrations per second in each square meter of land. Each one of these disintegration has the potential to induce a gene mutation that will lead to cancer in the exposed person or a disability to their offspring.

Studies of Chernobyl show that:

Very high levels or radiations were found in Ukraine, Belarus and Russia. On the whole, places receiving high rainfall also got the highest doses. Half the continent of Europe received medium level doses.

The plume reached India during the second week of May 86 via Japan and the Pacific Ocean. Chernobyl radionuclides were detected in air at Kalpakkam and in the thyroid of goats butchered the next day by nuclear scientists of India. The High rain fall regions of the Western Ghats in India (3000 mm rain) is known as the female thyroid cancer corridor. The excess of thyroid cancer seen since 1992 may be due to the exposure of Chernobyl iodine133.

Incidence of thyroid cancer among children was alarmingly high during 1990-2000. Belarus, Ukraine and parts of Russia were the worst hit.

Genetic changes in the form of decrease in female birth (due to dominant lethal mutation of X chromosome) has been reported for the children born in Europe a year after the accident.
Higher incidences of childhood leukemia, Down syndrome and other genetic diseases have been attributed to Chernobyl radiation

Iodine131, a radioactive isotope that concentrate in thyroid constituted about 10% of the atoms released in Chernobyl. This iodine gets to us through milk. Cow graces today ... tomorrows milk has radioiodine. The well water route is faster. If it rains and radioactive particles are there in the atmosphere, they will be swept in by water droplets and they deposit the well. The particles deposited in the oceans can reach us via fish within hours of deposit.

Children and adults too who drink milk laced with iodine133 are at a higher risk of thyroid cancer - not every child will get, but many will.

Good practice advisory:

Postpone all reproductive activities for at least 80 days after the exposure.
Covering well water sources

Keeping the grazing animals indoor till iodine activity is reduced

Converting milk into long shelf life products like ghee, cheese etc

Postpone all reproductive activities until the next advisory.
Avoiding or reducing consumption of milk

Delaying the harvest of leafy vegetables

Cleaning leafs, vegs and fruits

Avoiding foods like mushrooms - they concentrate high levels of cesium137

Being indoor during the first few rains

Think of having dosimeters in your office, mohalla so that you can measure what is there.


There are not many dosimeters in India outside the atomic energy establishment. In Chennai there were just two portable systems in 2007. I asked a scientist friend what he will do in case of a radiological emergency. He said his friends in BARC will tell them. Later he bought a system for his lab.

BARC and ISRO should share the data their monitors detect on a regular basis with the civil society. Some one must try the RTI route also.

Commissioning of Koodamkulam and preparations for other reactors must be delayed till things settle down.

VT Padmanabhan

Independent consultant on ionizing radiation's eco-sytem impacts
12 March 11

e-mail:: phone:: 919747458988

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