Japanese nuclear reactor accident is second worst in history

Date released: Mar 16 2011

No immediate implications for Ireland.

Japan’s current nuclear situation is the second most serious nuclear reactor accident in history, according to radiation experts at the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland (RPII). 

The RPII has reiterated that any radioactive material released in Japan is extremely unlikely to reach Ireland. 

Dr Ann McGarry, Chief Executive at the RPII compared the current situation in Japan to two other serious nuclear accidents: “The situation at Fukushima-Daiichi is very complex and while certainly not as serious as Chernobyl it has become more serious than the accident at Three Mile Island in the US where one reactor went into meltdown.” 

“The continuing concerns for the Japanese authorities are the cooling of the three reactor cores and stabilising the situation at the spent fuel pond at reactor number four so as to avoid further releases of radioactivity to the atmosphere.” Dr McGarry concluded. 

The RPII is continuing to monitor the situation with international colleagues. 


For further information:

Murray Consultants 01 498 0346 

Aoibheann O’Sullivan 087 629 14 53 

Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland 

Marie Kelly 269 7766

David Dawson 206 6913 

Notes to editors 

Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland (RPII) 

The Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland (RPII) is the national organisation with regulatory, monitoring and advisory responsibilities in matters relating to ionising radiation. In particular, the RPII concerns itself with hazards to health associated with ionising radiation and with radioactive contamination in the environment. The RPII is an independent public body under the aegis of the Department of Environment, Heritage and Local Government and was established in 1992 under the Radiological Protection Act, 1991. The RPII’s role is to ensure that Irish people and the environment are adequately protected from the harmful effects of ionising radiation. We do this by providing advice to the public and the Government, by monitoring people’s exposure to radiation, by regulating and licensing those who use radiation, by providing technical support to Ireland’s plan to deal with radiation emergencies (NEPNA) and by cooperating with similar bodies internationally. 

RPII’s Monitoring Network 

The RPII with support from Met Éireann, local authorities and the Defence Forces operates a national network of permanent radiation-monitoring stations which are operational around the clock. These stations include air samplers and gamma dose rate monitors. Data from the gamma monitors is continuously fed back to a central computer at RPII and displayed here.

This network would provide the first measurements in the event of a radioactive 'cloud' reaching Ireland. If elevated radiation levels are detected, an alarm system is automatically triggered. 


The International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna keeps national authorities informed of nuclear incidents and emergencies under the Emergency Notification Convention.

For further information visit http://www.iaea.org/   

Department of Foreign Affairs 

The Department of Foreign Affairs is providing up to date advice for citizens in Japan. This can be accessed at www.dfa.ie


Although Ireland has neither nuclear weapons, nor a nuclear power industry we have a detailed National Emergency Plan for Nuclear Accidents, known as NEPNA. The central goal of the plan is to substantially reduce public exposure to any radioactive contamination which might reach Ireland from a nuclear accident abroad. This in turn would minimise the potential long term health risks to the population.

The national emergency plan is coordinated by the Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government and involves a number of other government departments and agencies working together. 

More information on NEPNA is available on:


National Emergency Plan for Nuclear Accidents (NEP)