Despite the scary race to prevent two meltdowns in Japan, the man who led the Chernobyl response explains how advances in nuclear design and the swift response will prevent any damage along the lines of 1986 Soviet disaster. Plus, Josh Dzieza talks to a nuclear scientist about how bad the situation could get.
The partial meltdown of Reactor 3 at the Fukushima Daiichi power station is the most serious nuclear accident since Chernobyl, but Russian experts say the differences mercifully outweigh the similarities.
Indeed it may be thanks in part to the terrible legacy of the April 1986 disaster that Fukushima's meltdown can be contained. "The accident at Fukushima shows that experts around the world drew some important lessons from what happened at Chernobyl," said nuclear engineer Ilgiz Iskhatov, who was decorated for his role in containing the fallout of the Chernobyl blast. "Now nuclear power-station designs and safety systems are capable of withstanding much more serious accidents [than Chernobyl]."
The meltdown of the Chernobyl reactor blew the unit's casing apart and voided the core to the atmosphere. Fukushima hasn't yet melted through the reactor vessel, thanks to engineers pumping seawater into the cooling systems.