The March 2011 nuclear disaster at Fukushima, Japan, has overtaken Chernobyl and 3 Mile Island in its severity, according to The Nuclear Policy Program.
Spokesperson James Acton said, "Fukushima is the most complicated and dramatic nuclear accident ever."
It topped the International Nuclear Events Scale, scoring a record-breaking "7" out of 7 for "serious accident."
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Tremors from the devastating 9.0 earthquake off the coast of Japan were felt for hundreds of miles, and millions were affected by the subsequent tsunami that caused the shutdown of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. But the most lingering effects of the quake are invisible to the naked eye; high doses of radiation permeate the nuclear site, with a radius extending up to 70 KM.
Nuclear accidents take decades to clean up, mainly due to lethal radiation levels preventing workers from entering damaged areas. Chernobyl melted down in 1986, and cleanup is still incomplete. Fukushima disaster relief and cleanup efforts are moving quickly, but the complicated nature of the accident ensures that total restitution will be slow. And with over 250 tons of radioactive water leaked and cancerous levels of radioactive particles already released into the population, the long-term effects will reach far beyond the nuclear factory itself.
In the next 10 years, 120,894 Fukushima disaster-related cancer diagnoses are estimated. How long will the effects of Fukushima last? For thousands of radiation-exposed Japanese citizens, the answer is, "the rest of our lives."