Technology Review's Kevin Bullis points us to a package at Nature, on the long-term impacts of the Fukushima disaster. It's kind of a nice antidote to all the hysterical day-to-day coverage (the leak's stopped, by the way) as viewed through the cold, dispassionate eye of science. That doesn't mean it's rosy:

  • Fully decommissioning the plant could take more than a decade, in part because damage to the plant could be "worse than a partial meltdown."
  • Most of the radioactive material will clear relatively quickly, but not cesium-137, which 30 years from now will still be putting out half the radiation it's putting out today.
  • No one really knows the long-term effects of the low doses of radiation people near the plant have been exposed to.
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  • Turns out the Fukushima plant, built in the 1970s, was kind of a jalopy. Since then engineers have installed the equivalent of air bags, crumple zones, and shoulder belts in newer nuclear power plants. Many of the newer designs could never have failed in the same way as Fukushima Daiichi.