Government scientists assured the public on Sunday that any nuclear meltdown in Japan will not affect the Philippines.
Department of Science and Technology (DOST) officials said unlike previous nuclear meltdowns such as Chernobyl in Russia, nuclear power plants in Japan have structures aimed at stopping the spread of the radioactive waste.
“For the Philippines right now, there is no significant effect but we are monitoring situation so we can advise officials on what is the best action,” said Dr Alum dela Rosa, director of the DOST’s Philippine Nuclear Research Institute.
DOST Secretary Mario Montejo told ABS-CBN News Channel (ANC) that the situation in Japan should not be compared with Chernobyl.
“We have to distinguish that the plant in Japan is different from Chernobyl,” he stressed.
“It has [a] containment [unit],” he explained. “Even if there is meltdown, the radioactive waste is contained in reactor inside the structure.”
In a worst-case scenario, any radioactive cloud from Japan will not affect the Philippines, he added.
“Iyung worst case ng meltdown, for the next 3 days it is not going to the Philippines to Australia,” Montejo said. “Even if, for the sense of comfort, ang wind pattern outside of Japan, ‘di pupunta sa atin.”
Fukushima nuclear power plant accident
Japan’s nuclear safety agency rated an accident at an earthquake-hit nuclear plant at four on the international scale from 0 to 7, an official said Sunday.
On the International Nuclear Event Scale, a level four incident means a nuclear reactor accident “with local consequences”.
The 1979 Three Mile Island accident in the United States was rated five while the 1986 Chernobyl disaster was a seven.
It is on the same level as the worst nuclear incident Japan has experienced, matching the 1999 accident in which a critical nuclear reaction hit an uranium processing plant in Tokaimura resulting in a radiation leak.
“Right now we are considering the accident should be rated four,” said the official of Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, referring to the latest nuclear accident following Friday’s monster earthquake.
“The rating may be changed in accordance with the development of the condition,” he added.
An explosion sent plumes of smoke spewing from the ageing Fukushima No. 1 plant in northern Japan, raising fears of a possible meltdown a day after the facility’s cooling system was damaged in a massive quake.
The government declared an atomic emergency and said tens of thousands of people living within 20 kilometres (12 miles) of the plant should leave after an explosion at the nuclear plant Saturday.
But the operator Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco) said the structure encasing the reactor had collapsed at the time of an earthquake aftershock but the steel reactor inside it was not ruptured.