We've known Fukushima's been hemorrhaging radiation steadily since the disaster began in March. But now we've got a horrid new way to quantify it: the amount of terribly dangerous cesium-137 released by the plant is equal to 168 nuclear bombings.
The Guardian reports that the Japanese government's own calculations put the release of cesium-137—a particularly lethal isotope—at 15,000 tera becquerels. That's an esoteric unit of measurement, but you can ignore it. Just think of it this way: the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima released 89 tera becquerels of cesium-137 when it leveled the city.
Now this isn't an entirely apt analogy. The destruction of a nuclear bomb is inordinately greater than that of a plant meltdown, because the former is a weapon designed to create a massive explosion and release of heat. Fukushima did explode, yes, but with nothing resembling the blast of a nuclear bomb. Fukushima's release is slower—more insidious. A deadly leak that's seeped into the earth, water, food, and urine of Japan. The bomb dropped on Hiroshima obliterated civilization within a radius of several miles—the evacuation zone around Fukushima is considerably wider. [Telegraph]