Ukraine: Comparing Fukushima to Chernobyl?

This post is part of our special coverage Japan Earthquake 2011.

The devastating earthquake and the resulting tsunami that hit Japan on Friday caused significant damage to Fukushima-1 nuclear power plant, where the shut-down of the cooling system has triggered an unfortunate chain of events resulting in several blasts, a fire and temperature rises at the plant’s nuclear reactors.

As events unfolded, the media increasingly presented the situation at Fukushima as the world’s worst nuclear accident since the Soviet-era disaster of Chernobyl. This news has hit home in Ukraine, where the Chernobyl nuclear plant is located and where memories of the terrible events of 25 years ago are still very much alive.

Abandoned schoolroom near Chernobyl. Image by Vlad Sokhin, copyright Demotix (04/04/08).

Abandoned schoolroom near Chernobyl. Image by Vlad Sokhin, copyright Demotix (04/04/08).

Ukrainian bloggers and twitterers have closely followed and commented on the situation in Fukushima. Kyiv-based LJ user nadiya55 wrote this [ru]:

Электричество – это хорошо, удобно, привычно. Ядерная энергетика – удобно и выгодно. Но это опасная игрушка в руках невежественного существа – человека, не умеющего предусмотреть и обезопасить в форс-мажоре.

Чернобыль, ещё чернобыли..???

Electricity is good, convenient and routine. Nuclear power is convenient and profitable. But it is a dangerous toy in the hands of such an ignorant creature as a human being, which is unable to foresee and protect [itself from] force majeure.

Chernobyl, more chernobyls…???

Kharkiv-based LJ user slobozhanyn wrote this [uk]:

Ясності що саме сталося немає… Воно й ясно. Ніхто в умовах, коли Японія зазнала катастрофічного лиха внаслідок землетрусу та цунамі нічого не скаже, бо це просто підніме паніку. А так – народ там дисциплінований, тому зайвого кіпішу не буде.

І ось останні повідомлення, що аварія подібна до того, що сталося на Трі-Майл-Айленді у 1979-му… Тобто “вибухнула мусорна бомба”, але не наружу, як в Чорнобилі, а в середину…


Зараз повідомили, що аварії на даний момент надали 4-й рівень з 7-ми за класифікацією МАГАТЕ. До слова, 5-й у Трі-Майл-Айленд'а, а 7-й … не будемо про погане…

[…] It is unclear what has actually happened [at Fukushima-1]… But it is understood. In the situation when Japan has just been devastated by an earthquake and a tsunami nobody would tell something [openly], because it would only cause panic. Well, the people there are disciplined, so there would not be unnecessary [upset].

And the last reports are about the accident being similar to the one on the Three Mile Island in 1979… Which means that “a waste bomb blew up”, although not outwards, like in Chernobyl, but inwards…


Now it has been reported that the incident is currently rated at 4 on a 0 to 7 scale [International Nuclear Event Scale]. By the way, [level] 5 – on the Three Mile Island, and 7… but let’s not talk about the bad stuff [the Chernobyl accident was the only one classified as level 7].

LJ user astarot-reload posted maps, pictures and links to news reports about Fukushima-1 and wrote this [uk]:

[…] Таки є там радіаційне зараження зі слів Японської влади. […]в країні землетрусів 55 реакторів…

повернемось до новин: новини пагані – системи охолодження на деяких реакторах вийшли з ладу, інженери качають в ті реактори морську воду.. тобто варто очікувати більш серьозних викідів радіації..[…] Землетрус – Цунамі – ядерне зараження.. кожний раз здавалось куди вже щє. […]

[…] So there is radiological contamination, according to the Japanese authorities. […] In the country of earthquakes there are 55 reactors…

But let’s get back to the news: the news is [bad] – cooling systems on some reactors have failed, engineers are pumping sea water in… this means more serious radiation leaks are to be expected… […] Earthquake, tsunami, radiation contamination… Every time it seems things could not get any worse. […]

Many Twitter users have noted that the hashtag #Chernobyl was trending and commented about the speculations on similarities between the incidents:

@Misterio_SS tweeted this [uk]:

Чорнобиль в трендi. Невже в #Japan справдi все так погано?

Chernobyl is trending. Are things in #Japan really that bad?

@2X_ tweeted this [uk]:

@spotko всі так перелякались землетрусу, цунамі і апокаліпсу що вже і Чорнобиль згадали #Ukraine #Japan #Chernobyl

@spotko everyone got so scared of the earthquake, tsunami and apocalypse that [they] are already remembering Chernobyl #Ukraine #Japan #Chernobyl

@antiolya tweeted this [uk]:

Привіт японський “чорнобиль”. В СРСР спочатку теж казали, що нічого серйозного у вибусі АЕС не буде.

Hello, Japanese “chernobyl”. In the USSR at first [they] were also telling [us] that nothing serious would come from a [nuclear power plant] blast.

@serg_lukyan tweeted this [uk]:

@dvrnd Цілком може бути, що для ядерної енергетики японські події стануть ударом, страшнішим за Чорнобиль. В сенсі громадських настроїв.

@dvrnd It is entirely possible that for the nuclear energy the Japanese events would cause a distress far more serious than Chernobyl. In terms of public opinion.

Ukraine's ex-prime minister and current opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko (@Yulia Tymoshenko) tweeted this [uk]:

@kino4ka Я стежу за ситуацією в Японії.Ми знаємо, яка це велика біда (Чорнобиль).Слава Богу, реактор цілий. До Токіо всього [200] км.

@kino4ka I am following the situation in Japan. We know what a great disaster it is (Chernobyl). Thank God, the reactor is intact. It is only [200] km from Tokyo.

A journalist and blogger Kyrylo Lukerenko posted this [uk]:

За 25 років після Чорнобиля ми встигли звикнути до виключності нашого нещастя. Пережите лихо в очах багатьох навіть певною мірою виправдовувало довгі роки наших економічних труднощів і безбарвний побут багатьох наших співвітчизників.

Тепер у нас все менше підстав вважати наше горе унікальними, таким що і надалі заслуговує на співчуття цілого світу.

Крім того, ми просто звикли до Чорнобиля, а події у Японії знову нагадують усім нам про його небезпеку: зокрема і про те, що через 25 років після катастрофи на ЧАЕС над зруйнованим реактором не існує надійного укриття, яке б убезпечило витоки радіації назовні. […]

До чого я веду – як воно буде далі невідомо, але якщо зведення нового саркофага над ЧАЕС дійсно настільки потрібне, як нас переконують, то ставитися до нього треба навіть з більшим ентузіазмом, ніж до підготовки до Євро-2012.

During the 25 years since Chernobyl we have gotten used to the exclusivity of our misfortune. In the eyes of some, the tragedy we went through even justified the long years of economic hardship and the bleak everyday life of many of our fellow countrymen.

Now we no longer have the right to consider our grief unique, such that still deserves sympathy of the whole world.

Moreover, we have simply grown accustomed to Chernobyl, and the events in Japan again remind us all of its dangers: in particular, of the fact that 25 years after the [Chernobyl] disaster there is still no reliable cover that would safeguard against radiation leaks. […]

What I’m trying to say is this – how things would develop remains unclear, but if the construction of the [new sarcophagus around Chernobyl] is as important as they are trying to convince us, we should treat it with even bigger enthusiasm than our preparations for Euro-2012 [UEFA European Football Championship].

This post is part of our special coverage Japan Earthquake 2011.


  • I was at Chernobyl twice during my time in the United Nations Development Programme in Kyiv, Ukraine in 2001. It was a powerful experience, especially standing in the streets of the nuclear ghost town of Pripyat. Haunting place.

    I wrote a blog about it yesterday morning, linking it to the Fukushima Daiichi plant. Please, have a read of it:

  • Augus Menmar


  • Thank you, Keith, I just read your blog. Nuclear energy scares me, too. I was about two years old when Chernobyl blew up. In the following days my family took a walk down a river in Kyiv, when the least we could do was to stay home with our windows shut. Not that we knew about the accident at that point.

    I am concerned about Ukraine’s dependence on nuclear power. While our government has already said that we cannot do without it, I hope the events in Japan would at least result in new attempts to clean up after Chernobyl and finally finish the new sarcophagus.

  • Hello Tetyana,

    I’d be interested in speaking more with you about your take on Chernobyl/Pripyat. I am currently developing a reportage and artistic work about Chernobyl 25 years, and am in Kiev.

    You can read about the projects at

    I’ve left you my email in the comment box registry.


  • ayaka kawagishi

    hello Tetyana, i am japanese and living in japan now.
    i really appriciate to hear from ukraine citizen.
    as i got information, fukushima have not been expolusion for inside of nuclear reactor thanks to you. we even had learn by Chelnobyl. so it is not same as Chelnobyl.
    don’t warry very much about its. however we appriciate your thinking about japan. thank you !!! god bless Ukraine !!!

  • ayaka kawagishi

    hello again Tetyana,
    I would like you to watch this video.
    Please listen to the news from Japan. Please…

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