The European Union's energy commissioner Guenther Oettinger said today that the Japanese nuclear disaster is a lot worse than what Japan is declaring. In fact, he believes it could be an apocalypse:
There is talk of an apocalypse and I think the word is particularly well chosen [...] I hope that it doesn't happen, but we can't rule out that the worst case scenario [a complete meltdown a la Chernobyl] happens in the next few hours or days.
The European view on the subject is way darker than what the IAEA, the Japan government and most of the United States' media is portraying.
Oettinger said that the situation is "almost completely out of control" and that it's only going to get worse as workers get evacuated. Nuclear emergency experts believe that you can't keep the situation from escalating without enough personnel on site, pointing at the 50 engineers now at the nuclear complex. Spanish radiobiology scientist Eduard Rodríguez-Farré says that Fukushima is like a "slow-motion camera Chernobyl". According to him, the situation is now "running wild."
Yesterday, André-Claude Lacoste, president of France's national organization for nuclear safety, said that the level threat should be 5 and perhaps 6. Today, the French energy agency said that this disaster is only second to Chernobyl and has recommended to raise the alert to 7, the maximum in the nuclear event scale. France has 58 operating reactors, only second to the United States' 104.
Japanese officials previously suggested that the primary containment vessel at the No. 2 reactor of Japan's Fukushima Daiichi may have been breached. European experts, however, are saying that all signs and known data point to a certain breach.
Japan is still insisting that this is a level 4 accident—even after officials removed all workers from the plant and extended the evacuation area to a 30 kilometer radius. Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Ka says that, while the situation is bad, "people need to keep calm" after the third explosion. Japanese officials said that, despite the morning spike, the radiation level is now "down to the level that can do no harm." However, all the plant personnel have now been evacuated except for 50 engineers who are managing the situation.
The International Atomic Energy Agency hasn't changed its previous statement yet. Speaking yesterday in a news conference at the agency's Vienna headquarters, the IAEA president Yukiya Amano said that a Chernobyl was "very unlikely":
Let me say that the possibility that the development of this accident into one like Chernobyl is very unlikely [...] there is no chain reaction going on.
But Chernobyl clean-up expert Iouli Andreev accused the IAEA of not being "interested in the concentration of attention on a possible accident in the nuclear industry. They are totally not interested in all the emergency organizations." He also accused the United Nations organization and the companies involved of willingly ignoring the lessons from the worst accident in history:
After Chernobyl all the force of the nuclear industry was directed to hide this event, for not creating damage to their reputation. The Chernobyl experience was not studied properly because who has money for studying? Only industry. [...] The Japanese were very greedy and they used every square inch of the space. But when you have a dense placing of spent fuel in the basin you have a high possibility of fire if the water is removed from the basin.
For their part, the Russians are closely working with their Japanese neighbors, and already have nuclear emergency workers on site providing assistance. Andreev said that they need to think creatively and improvise to solve this crisis or face a complete catastrophe. [Reuters, El Mundo, Sydney Morning Herald, RTL, El Mundo, AFP and The Telegraph]
Update: The Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO)-the company that runs the Fukushima nuclear plants-says that 70% of the fuel rods have been damaged on the reactor 1 and 33% have been damaged on reactor 2. "The reactors' cores are believed to have partially melted" according to the Kyodo News agency.
Update 2: Kyodo News agency is reporting now—11:31PM ET—that all workers have been evacuated. Reactor 3 vessel is probably damaged and radioactive steam may be leaking right now. A new cloud is now rising from the plant.