Japan raised its nuclear severity level to the maximum 7 on Tuesday, setting the disaster on par with the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear disaster.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano told reporters, however that unlike Chernobyl, “we have not seen cases of direct damage to health because of the accident.” Although if you count the men who stayed behind at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant to try to prevent the disaster, this may only hold partially true (with lower numbers). During a news conference in Tokyo, Japan’s nuclear industry chief Hidehiko Nishiyama said the radiation at Fukushima is one-tenth of that released by Chernobyl.
The damage caused by Ukraine’s Chernobyl nuclear power plant was mostly caused after the incident. When an accident destroyed the plant’s fourth reactor, the Soviet regime hadn’t told firefighters and cleanup crews what was really taking place, so they went in unprepared. Within three months, 30 of the operators and firefighters died from nuclear exposure.
According to the World Nuclear Association:
Acute radiation syndrome (ARS) was originally diagnosed in 237 people on-site and involved with the clean-up and it was later confirmed in 134 cases. Of these, 28 people died as a result of ARS within a few weeks of the accident. Nineteen more subsequently died between 1987 and 2004 but their deaths cannot necessarily be attributed to radiation exposured. Nobody off-site suffered from acute radiation effects although a large proportion of childhood thyroid cancers diagnosed since the accident is likely to be due to intake of radioactive iodine falloutd. Furthermore, large areas of Belarus, Ukraine, Russia and beyond were contaminated in varying degrees. See also sections below and Chernobyl Accident Appendix 2: Health Impacts.