I have stopped updating the main disaster facts but realize that 3 nuclear reactors and 4 fuel rods are still in the process of meltdown and will be for years as there’s no known way to solve the problem. Water continues to be used to cool them down thus making hundreds of thousands of tons radioactive…which is then released into the sea. 966 square kilometres of Japan will probably be a no-go area far longer than our lifetimes. This is worse than Chernobyl and far from being over. It’s tragic that the mainstream media are not reporting on this ongoing problem. Read this.
After reading so many news reports in order to gain an idea of what’s happened (and happening), i decided to make it easy for you and give you the main facts about the Japanese Tsunami and the damage to the nuclear plant.
T H E M A I N F A C T S
On March 11 2011, an earthquake at 9 on the Richter scale became the biggest earthquake in recorded history to hit Japan (and the fifth biggest in the world). Japan’s main island moved 2.5 meters and the earth’s axis moved 10 cm. There have been hundreds of aftershocks since (5 ranging from 6 to 6.2, the biggest a massive 7.1 on April 7 and 6.6 on April 11 2011.).
Tsunami wave was as high as 15 meters (North-Eastern Japan) and travelled as far as 10km inland. The worst hit was Kamaichi and the port town of Sendai as well as the nearest islands. At top speed, the tsunami travelled at 800km per hour.
THE DEAD & MISSING
Initially, the Japanese government made the absurd assumption that there’d only be 1000 dead. It was part of their continuous, seemingly deliberate, underestimation of the crisis. Here, early on this blog, i predicted 12 000. Currently, the confirmed death toll of the Japanese Tsunami is 13 500 whilst 17 000 people are missing. Over 5000 injured. That’s far worse than even i predicted.
THE NUCLEAR PLANT
THIS CRISIS WILL CONTINUE FOR MONTHS & THERE EXISTS THE POSSIBILITY THAT THE AREA COULD BECOME A NO-GO AREA (THINK CHERNOBYL) WHICH WOULD HAVE A LARGE EFFECT ON A SMALL COUNTRY SUCH AS JAPAN.
ON MARCH 30 2011, TEPCO, THE COMPANY MANAGING THE FUKUSHIMA REACTORS, SAID THAT IT WAS CONSIDERING DECOMMISSIONING REACTORS 1, 2, 3 & 4 AND COVERING IT UP SO AS TO STOP RADIATION LEAKS. REACTORS #5 & #6 ARE NOW STABLE.
ON APRIL 12, THE JAPANESE GOVERNMENT RAISED THE INES RATING TO A 7 ON A SCALE OF 7,THE WORST RATING FOR A NUCLEAR DISASTER.
3 nuclear power plants experienced problems with overheating reactors but 2 were brought under control, leaving all eyes focused on the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant where the tsunami overran the diesel powered generators in the basement of the facility, leading to the emergency shutdown of the reactors. 6 reactors experienced cooling problems and there’s been a radiation leak. One reactor exploded on Saturday, March 12. Another on Sunday, March 13. The rods in Reactor #2 were completely exposed twice. Sea water was pumped into #1, #2 & #3 it an attempt to cool them down.
On the first Tuesday there was a second explosion at Reactor #2 as well as a fire at Reactor #4 with a report that there was a crack in the containing roof. On Wednesday, March 16, they started pumping water into Reactors 5 & 6 too. These are apparently stable now. For a detailed synopsis on what has happened to each reactor and the dangers they pose, read this ARTICLE. The BBC also has a wonderful and simple to read ARTICLE detailing what has happened.
There were other visible signs to worry about; Reactors #2 and #3 were emitting steam and smoke; Reactor #1’s temperature was 30% higher than it should have been. Furthermore, an unknown cause is still emitting radiation into the air and this has been registered 20km away. According to a New Scientist ARTICLE, the radiation released so far is approximately two-thirds that of Chernobyl.
On March 23, black smoke was seen rising from Reactor #3. The cause was undetermined and workers were evacuated until the next day. It is believed that a highly toxic plutonium gas, called mox, is in that. The industry has little experience with this so difficult to determine the consequences.
As of March 28 2011, it was estimated that 218 000kg of salt would have accumulated in the reactors. As said earlier, using sea water to cool the reactors was a desperate measure as salt is a corrosive. Additionally, it can encrust the uranium rods and worsen heat build-up. The Japanese, with assistance from the USA, have now switched to clean water, dropping approximately 200 tons per day on the reactors.. The challenge is to remove the radioactive water whilst the new water is added.
Worrying is that radioactivity found in agricultural products which has lead to the banning of many food products from Fukushima and other prefectures. In the sea, 200m from Reactor #1, radioactive iodine was at 3,355 times the legal limit on March 29. By March 31, it had increased to 5000 times over. Radioactive water has also been discovered on the ground outside the reactors and in the ground water 15m below the plant. Plutonium was discovered in 5 soil samples. On April 5, a hardening agent was used to plug the crack in the pit below Reactor #2. The radiation leakage was stopped but officials admit that they do not yet know if their may be more leakages elsewhere.
22 people at the nuclear plant got radiation contamination but that figure will have risen. Earlier, on Tuesday, March 15, 750 workers were removed from the plant, leaving only 50 behind, but that figure climbed back up, with 180 working on the following day and by March 24 there were 700 engineers working in shifts.
Read Part 2 which discusses the damages to the citizens of Japan.