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Japan's nuclear safety agency rated the accident at four on the international scale of zero to seven. The 1979 Three Mile Island accident in the United States was rated five, while the 1986 Chernobyl disaster was a seven.
As news of the accident poured into the global media, the public was assured there were no radiation releases.
That quickly proved to be false.
The public was then told the releases were controlled and done purposely to alleviate pressure on the core.
Both those assertions were false.
The public was told the releases were "insignificant." But stack monitors were saturated and unusable, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission later told Congress it did not know---and STILL does not know---how much radiation was released at Three Mile Island, or where it went. Using unsubstantiated estimates of how much radiation was released, the government issued average doses allegedly received by people in the region, which it assured the public were safe. But the estimates were utterly meaningless, among other things ignoring the likelihood that high doses of concentrated fallout could come down heavily on specific areas.
Official estimates said a uniform dose to all persons in the region was equivalent to a single chest x-ray. But pregnant women are no longer x-rayed because it has long been known a single dose can do catastrophic damage to an embryo or fetus in utero.
The public was told there was no melting of fuel inside the core.
But robotic cameras later showed a very substantial portion of the fuel did melt.
The public was told there was no danger of an explosion.
But there was, as there had been at Michigan's Fermi reactor in 1966. In 1986, Chernobyl Unit Four did explode. The public was told there was no need to evacuate anyone from the area.
But Pennsylvania Governor Richard Thornburgh then evacuated pregnant women and small children. Unfortunately, many were sent to nearby Hershey, which was showered with fallout.
The public was assured the government would follow up with meticulous studies of the health impacts of the accident.
In fact, the state of Pennsylvania hid the health impacts, including deletion of cancers from the public record, abolition of the state's tumor registry, misrepresentation of the impacts it could not hide (including an apparent tripling of the infant death rate in nearby Harrisburg) and much more.
The federal government did nothing to track the health histories of the region's residents. In fact, the most reliable studies were conducted by local residents like Jane Lee and Mary Osborne, who went door-to-door in neighborhoods where the fallout was thought to be worst. Their surveys showed very substantial plagues of cancer, leukemia, birth defects, respiratory problems, hair loss, rashes, lesions and much more.