The explosion at Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant was elevated to a "serious accident" on a level just below Chernobyl. The International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale -- or INES -- goes from Level 1, which indicates very little danger to the general population. "It's clear we are at Level 6, that's to say we're at a level in between what happened at Three Mile Island and Chernobyl," Andre-Claude Lacoste, president of France's nuclear safety authority, said today.
Due to higher safety standards, advance warning, and evacuation notices, it's not likely that things will get as bad as in Chernobyl. Below is a rare silent film was taken on location just days after the Chernobyl meltdown- even the filmmaker was killed in the process.
His name was Vladimir Shevchenko and he worked for Central TV in Ukraine in 1986. He was given unprecedented access to the Chernobyl zone right after the meltdown and explosion destroyed reactor number four at the nuclear power plant. Radiation levels weren't entirely understood at the time- most of the people you see received lethal doses while working close to the reactor. Shevchenko himself climbed on the roof of the plant to get footage of the destroyed reactor core wearing just a cotton facemask for protection. He died of cancer a few weeks later.
At the plant in Daichi, about 200,000 people in a 12.4 mile radius were previously evacuated. Still, according to David Lochbaum, director of the Nuclear Safety Project for the Union of Concerned Scientists, "The contamination levels aren't linear, so the farther away you get doesn't necessarily mean you get a lower dose rate. Chernobyl, in some cases, had areas 100 miles away from the facility having significantly higher radiation levels than areas only 10 or 15 miles away."