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Earthquake, Tsunami and Nuclear explosions hit Japan
On March 11, 2011, The Tohoku region, North East Japan was hit by a 8.9 (later upgraded to 9.0) magnitude earthquake with devastating effects across the region. The main cities in this region are: Fukushima, Sendai, Yamagatam, Shinjo, Koryama and others. The quake led to tsunami which aggravated the damages to properties and lives. The tsunami swept away every houses, vehicles and structures on it's path. Over 1600 lives have been confirmed dead by 1700 hours on Sunday (March 13, 2011), while close to 10,000 lives could not be accounted for.
On March 13, there are fears that there could be nuclear meltdown on some of Japan's nuclear power stations which could lead to the release of radiations to the surroundings of the plants. The radiations could travel distances.
Japan has several nuclear power stations (up to 22 or more) providing about 35% of the energy need of the country. Each power plant has several reactors. Most of the nuclear power stations are located close to water sources (the ocean) for cooling the moderator water, which is the mediumthrough which heat that generates steam inside the nuclear rector is distributed. Click Nuclear Power to learn more on how nuclear power plants work.
The earthquake led to the tsunami and the tsunami led to the nuclear crisis and the fear of possible radiations emanating from the power stations. Specifically two (2) of the nuclear reactors at Fukushima nuclear power station was said to have lost substantial cooling water because of the tsunami to the extent that the reactors were overheating. For the fear that the reactors can meltdown and release radiations, Japanese Authorities issued evacuation orders to people living within 20 kilometres of the first plant and within 10 kilometres of the second plant. Furthermore, people living within 30 kilometres of the first plant are asked to remain indoors and close all windows. Japanese engineers have been working on cooling down the plants and apparently some progress is being made in this regard. Also, the spent fuel at another location not too far from Fukushima has been exposed and there are fears of radiation release; fire and a loud explosion were reported at this station. Partial meltdown was also reported one of the two plants earlier mentioned and it is feared that the second plant will meltdown too.
By the weekend of March 19th/20th, 2011, the number of confirmed deaths from the devastation caused by the combined effects of the earthquake and the tsunami had risen to over 7,000 people with over 10,000 still being searched. Officials said that the death toll is expected to rise to above 18,000.
Japan is not new to natural disasters, particularly earthquakes. There have been several occurrences in the past. The Japanese archipelago is located in an area where several continental and oceanic plates meet. Examples of past earthquakes are the Great Kanto Earthquake, (considered as the worst in Japanese history), hit the Kanto plain around Tokyo in 1923 and resulted in the deaths of over 100,000 people. Also, in January 1995 a strong earthquake hit the city of Kobe and surroundings. Known as the Southern Hyogo Earthquake or Great Hanshin Earthquake, it killed 6,000 and injured 415,000 people. 100,000 homes were completely destroyed and 185,000 were severely damaged.
- International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale. Other links: INES HTML - (IAEA Website) or INES pdf - (IAEA Website)
- World Nuclear Association - Chernobyl Disaster
- Nuclear Energy
- Japan's Nuclear Crisis Raised to INES Scale 7.0, same scale as Chernobyl
- Chernobyl Nuclear Accident - April 26, 1986