Tens of millions live in nuclear `danger zone`

India has nearly 57 million people living within 30km of a nuclear reactor.

Paris: Some 90 million people worldwide live within 30km of a nuclear reactor, equivalent to the exclusion zone around Japan`s crippled Fukushima plant, a study released on Friday shows.

The United States alone has nearly 16 million people within this range, followed by more than nine million each in China, Germany and Pakistan, and five to six million in India, Taiwan and France.

When the radius is expanded to 75km, the number of people potentially at risk in case of a nuclear accident jumps to nearly half a billion, according to the analysis published by Nature.

More than 110 million are in the United States, with 73 million in China, 57 million in India, 39 and 33 million in Germany and Japan, respectively. Looked at another way, more than a third of Americans live within 75km of a nuclear power plant, and nearly half of all Germans.

Population concentration near a reactor is not a measure of danger, which depends on numerous factors including earthquake risk, quality of maintenance, regulatory oversight and the amount of radioactive material on site. But it does suggest how many people will be at risk if something does go terribly wrong, as happened in Fukushima, and in Chernobyl 25 years ago, Nature said.

Some 172,000 people lived in the 30km zone around the Japanese plant, which was hit by a 9.0-magnitude quake on March 11 and then, minutes later, a devastating tsunami. Two-thirds of the world`s 211 active nuclear power plants have populations within the same radius that exceed the number of residents forced to leave their homes in Japan, the analysis revealed.

Bureau Report