Europe is ill-prepared for a nuclear accident on the scale of Japan’s Fukushima disaster, a French safety authority said.
“There are doubts about the ability of some European countries to manage this type of situation,” Jacques Repussard, director of the Institut de Radioprotection et de Surete Nucleaire, or IRSN, said at a press conference in Paris today. “It’s extremely problematic. We need to progress in crisis management in many regions.”
Some European countries lack sufficient atomic crisis centers while health authorities across the region don’t agree on what instructions to give local populations in case of accidents, he said. “There isn’t enough coordination.”
The findings are part of an IRSN report nearly a year after a March 11 earthquake and tsunami destroyed the Fukushima Dai-Ichi station, sparking the world’s worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl in 1986. A Japanese independent probe, whose results were also released today, found the government response to the crisis was “haphazard” and top officials discussed a worst-case scenario that included the evacuation of Tokyo.
The IRSN is the technical adviser to France’s nuclear watchdog, which decides whether the country’s 58 atomic reactors operated by Electricite de France SA are safe. France relies on atomic power more than any other country.
The agency faulted Japanese authorities for failing to take measurements of radioactivity in the thyroids of people and especially children in the vicinity of Fukushima in the days after the accident. Data provided by authorities on radiation exposure by workers at the plant and local residents wasn’t precise or detailed enough, the study concluded.
“Today it’s too late to evaluate exposure to radioactive iodine,” Jean-Rene Jourdain, deputy director of human protection at the IRSN, said at the press conference.
IRSN calculations indicate the amount of radioactive iodine released at Fukushima was one-tenth that at Chernobyl and the amount of cesium was one-third. Most of the contamination at Fukushima was dispersed over the ocean.
“If the same accident had occurred in the heart of Europe where there is no ocean, it would have been much, much worse,” Didier Champion, head of the team that followed the Japanese crisis at the IRSN, said at the press conference.