Japan: Fukushima radiation ‘two times higher’ than estimates

Scientists measured significantly higher levels than expected of the radioactive element cesium-137 in the earth’s atmosphere, according to a study by theNorwegian Institute for Air Research.

The Japanese government estimated that 15,000 terabecquerels of cesium were released from the damaged Fukushimanuclear plant, reports the Telegraph, yet the new study says the real figure is more than twice that: 36,000 terabecquerels, or 42 percent of the total radiation released in theChernobyl disaster.

Initial measurements in Japan did not factor in the radiation that was blown out to sea, the researchers say.

More from GlobalPost: Debris ‘twice the size of Texas’ from Japan’s tsunami expected to hit US shores

Based on data from radiation monitoring stations across Japan, Europe and North America, they believe only around 20 percent of the total cesium emissions fell over Japanese territory. The rest was carried over the Pacific Ocean, with around 2 percent landing in other countries.

The possible health risks of the radiation are unclear. Cesium-137 is linked to cancer and can remain in the environment for 30 years.

The impact of the disaster could have been much worse, however, lead researcher Andreas Stohl toldNature News.

In the days following the accident, clouds of radiation blew back over Japan, but fortunately they passed over Tokyo and other densely populated areas without any precipitation. If it had rained over the cities, the population would have been exposed to far greater quantities of radiation, Stohl said.

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