That’s what happens when there’s a nuclear meltdown — nuclear power plants have complex cooling and backup systems to make sure that the nuclear fission doesn’t get past the critical point where a chain reaction would consume all of the uranium-235 in the reactor. The flooding from the tsunami overwhelmed these safety systems, and instead of being safely confined, the radiation escaped. These levels of radiation are hundreds times greater than those that most people are exposed to over the course of a lifetime, but, for context, they’re not terribly high — chernobyl still very much dwarfs fukushima.
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