A large-scale radiation leak at a major nuclear reactor in Japan could kill more than 400,000 people and cost up to 460 trillion yen over 50 years, according to a study by a Kyoto Sangyo University researcher released Monday.

Pak Sung Jun, a full-time lecturer at the university, made the estimate assuming an accident similar to the one in Chernobyl, Ukraine, occurred at a 1,180-mw reactor in Japan such as either the No. 3 or No. 4 pressurized water reactors of the Oi nuclear plant in Fukui Prefecture.

Few estimates have been made on the damage a nuclear accident in Japan would cause since the former Science and Technology Agency’s estimate in 1959, made before the government began building nuclear plants on a large scale. The agency came up with a cost of 3.7 trillion yen, experts said.

The late Takeshi Seo, a former Kyoto University Research Reactor Institute worker, estimated how radiation would spread and affect people in a nuclear meltdown. But no one has expressed the estimates in terms of monetary cost, according to Hiroaki Koide of the institute.

Pak applied various data, including income, agricultural output and population, to a formula Seo developed in calculating the cost of damage over 50 years.

High-level radiation would prevent people from being able to live within 160 to 200 km downwind of the nuclear plant, and no farming could occur within at least 500 km.

The most damage would occur if north winds blew from Fukui toward the major cities of Kyoto and Osaka. Relocation costs and the losses for agricultural and fisheries industries would total 391 trillion yen, and the costs of human suffering would reach 66 trillion yen, including medical costs.

The death toll would be the largest, at 410,000, if west winds blew to contaminate the more populous Tokyo and Kanagawa Prefecture. Immediate deaths were estimated at up to 17,000.

The average damage estimate came to 104 trillion yen. But liability insurance, to which nuclear reactor operators are obliged to subscribe, caps coverage at 60 billion yen, less than one-1,700th of the average damage estimate.

Pak said the current insurance system allows victims to receive only small sums as compensation. He called for discussion on Japan’s nuclear-reliant energy policy to be based on actual estimates.

The 1986 Chernobyl accident involved a meltdown of the reactor core and explosions. Thirty people were killed immediately and radiation was released into the atmosphere.

In a time of both misinformation and too much information, quality journalism is more crucial than ever.
By subscribing, you can help us get the story right.