MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) - Government scientists assured the public on Sunday that any nuclear meltdown in Japan will not affect the Philippines.
Department of Science and Technology (DOST) officials said unlike previous nuclear meltdowns such as Chernobyl, nuclear power plants in Japan have structures aimed at stopping the spread of the radioactive waste.
“Radiation, to minds of many, connotes negative effect,” said Dr. Alum dela Rosa, director of the DOST’s Philippine Nuclear Research Institute. “Radiation may reach us but from our interaction with the international atomic agency, we are ascertain that the design of this reactor is a boiling water reactor.”
“It is US-designed, it is different from Chernobyl design,” she explained.
DOST Secretary Mario Montejo told the ABS-CBN News Channel (ANC) that the situation in Japan should not be compared with Chernobyl.
“We have to distinguish that the plant in Japan is different from Chernobyl,” he stressed.
“It has [a] containment [unit],” he explained. “Even if there is meltdown, the radioactive waste is contained in reactor inside the structure.”
In a worst-case scenario, any radioactive cloud from Japan will not affect the Philippines, he added.
“Iyung worst case ng meltdown, for the next 3 days, it is not going to the Philippines to Australia,” Montejo said. “Even if, for the sense of comfort, ang wind pattern outside of Japan, ‘di pupunta sa atin.”
No immediate threat
The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRC) said in a press statement that the country is in no immediate threat amid the Japan nuclear power plant meltdown crisis.
NDRRMC officials convened a meeting on Sunday afternoon to discuss contingency plans in connection with potential effects on the Philippines of the nuclear emergency in Fukushima.
Representatives from the DOST-PNRI and DOST-PAGASA briefed member-agencies of the NDRRMC on possible scenarios arising from the damage sustained by the cooling system at the Fukushima nuclear power plant.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and DOST-PNRI are monitoring the situation in Fukushima, particularly the efforts of the Japanese government to contain the damage, the NDRRMC said.
If the Philippines will be affected, the agency said it will put into action the existing National Radiological Emergency Preparedness and Response Plan that covers nuclear emergencies.
Fukushima nuclear power plant accident
Japan's nuclear safety agency rated an accident at an earthquake-hit nuclear plant at four on the international scale from 0 to 7, an official said Sunday.
On the International Nuclear Event Scale, a level four incident means a nuclear reactor accident "with local consequences".
The 1979 Three Mile Island accident in the United States was rated five while the 1986 Chernobyl disaster was a seven.
It is on the same level as the worst nuclear incident Japan has experienced, matching the 1999 accident in which a critical nuclear reaction hit an uranium processing plant in Tokaimura resulting in a radiation leak.
"Right now we are considering the accident should be rated four," said the official of Japan's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, referring to the latest nuclear accident following Friday's monster earthquake.
"The rating may be changed in accordance with the development of the condition," he added.
An explosion sent plumes of smoke spewing from the ageing Fukushima No. 1 plant in northern Japan, raising fears of a possible meltdown a day after the facility's cooling system was damaged in a massive quake.
The government declared an atomic emergency and said tens of thousands of people living within 20 kilometres (12 miles) of the plant should leave after an explosion at the nuclear plant Saturday.
But the operator Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco) said the structure encasing the reactor had collapsed at the time of an earthquake aftershock but the steel reactor inside it was not ruptured. – ANC, Agence France-Presse