Japanese government said on Tuesday that part of the container of a troubled nuclear reactor appears to be damaged. A spokesman for the Nuclear Safety Agency said at a news conference that the damage was caused by the latest hydrogen explosion that was heard at 6:10 a.m. Tuesday (2110 GMT Monday). Tokyo Electric Power Co. owner said, the explosion occurred near the suppression pool--the bottom part of the container, which contains water used to cool down the reactor and control air pressure in--in the reactor's containment vessel. The pool was later found to have a defect indicating possible serious radiation leaks.
International scientists have said there are serious dangers but not at the level of the 1986 blast in Chernobyl. Japanese authorities were injecting seawater as a coolant of last resort, and advising nearby residents to stay inside to avoid contamination.
So if there would be a serious nuclear radiation leak, what could be its adverse effects on humans? The medical effects of a nuclear blast upon humans can be put into four categories:
  1. Initial stage -- the first 1–2 weeks, in which are the greatest number of deaths, with 90% due to thermal injury and/or blast effects and 10% due to super-lethal radiation exposure
  2. Intermediate stage -- from 3–8 weeks. The deaths in this period are from ionization radiation in the median lethal range
  3. Late period -- lasting from 8–20 weeks. This period has some improvement in survivors' condition.
  4. Delayed period -- from 20+ weeks. Characterized by “numerous complications, mostly related to healing of thermal and mechanical injuries coupled with infertility, sub-fertility and blood disorders caused by radiation.” Also, ionizing radiation from fallout can cause genetic effects, birth defects, cancer, cataracts and other effects in organs and tissue.
The main long term effects of a nuclear blast are infectious diseases caused by contaminated water, untreated sewage, crowded living conditions, poor standard of living, and lack of vaccines in the aftermath. These diseases include:
  • Dysentery
  • Infectious hepatitis
  • Salmonellosis
  • Cholera
  • Meningococcal meningitis
  • Tuberculosis
  • Diphtheria
  • Whooping cough
  • Polio
  • Pneumonia