Fukushima disaster: what happened at a nuclear plant?

2021-03-21

A decade later, the exclusion zone remained in place and many residents did not return. Authorities believe that it will take up to 40 years, which cost Japan already trillions of yen. After 10 years. How did Japan handle the Fukushima disaster? Ten years ago, precisely on the afternoon of Friday, March 11, the strongest earthquake ever recorded in Japan hit the country's East Coast. The 9-magnitude earthquake on the Richter scale was so strong that it moved the earth away from its axis. This caused a tidal wave that swept through the main island of Honshu, killing more than 18,000 people, and wiping entire cities off the map. At the Fukushima nuclear power plant, a giant wave came over the defenses and flooded the reactors, causing a major disaster. The authorities set up a no-go zone and expanded further as radiation leaked from the plant, forcing more than 150,000 people to evacuate. A decade later, the exclusion zone remained in place, and many residents did not return. Authorities believe it will take up to 40 years to finish work in the region, which has so far cost Japan trillions of yen. Where is the factory located? Fall Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station in the Center for Fukushima Prefecture on the east coast of the country, about 220 kilometers (137 miles) north-east of the capital Tokyo. On March 11, 2011, at 14:46 local time (05: 46 GMT), the earthquake – known as the Great East Japan earthquake, or the 2011 Tohoku earthquake – struck east of Sendai city, 97 km north of the plant. Residents had only 10 minutes of warning before the tsunami hit the coast. Forced nearly half a million people to leave their homes as a result of the earthquake, and tsunami, and nuclear accident. What happened in Fukushima? Systems at the nuclear plant detected an earthquake and shut down nuclear reactors automatically. Emergency diesel generators were operated to keep the coolant pumping, which remains incredibly hot even after the reactions stop. But shortly after the wave reached a height of 14 meters hit Fukushima. Water flooded the defensive sea wall, flooded the station, and disabled emergency generators. Workers rushed to restore power but in the days that followed the nuclear fuel in three of the reactors overheated, and caused the core to partially melt – which is known as nuclear fusion. The plant was also hit by some chemical explosions that severely damaged buildings. Radioactive material began to seep into the atmosphere and the Pacific Ocean, accelerating evacuations and widening the exclusion zone. How many people were injured? There were no deaths immediately during the nuclear disaster. At least 16 workers were injured in the explosions, while dozens more were exposed to radiation while working to cool the reactors. At the time, three people were reportedly taken to hospital after being exposed to a high level of radiation. The long-term effects of radiation have become a matter of debate. Issued by the World Health Organization (WHO) report in 2013 stated that the disaster will not cause any significant increase in cancer rates in the region. Scientists inside and outside Japan believe that apart from the area directly around the plant, radiation risks remain relatively low. But in contrast, many see the risks as much greater, and the population remains cautious. Although officials have lifted restrictions in many areas, most of the people did not return to their homes. In 2018, the Japanese government announced the death of one worker after radiation exposure and agreed that his family should be compensated. However, some people were confirmed dead in the evacuation, including dozens of hospital patients who had to relocate due to fears of radiation exposure. The Fukushima disaster is classified as a level VII disaster by the International Atomic Energy Agency, the highest event of its kind and only the second disaster to meet this classification after Chernobyl. Who was wrong? Critics blamed the unpreparedness for an accident of this kind, as well as the poor response from both the plant operator ” Tokyo Electric Power (TEPCO) ” and the government. An independent investigation by Japan's parliament concluded that Fukushima was a “profound man-made disaster,” and blamed the energy company for failing to meet safety requirements or plan for such an event. However, in 2019, a Japanese court acquitted three former TEPCO executives of negligence. In 2012, the then Prime Minister of Japan, Yoshihiko Noda, said that the state bears responsibility for the disaster. A court ruled in 2019 that the government bears the partial liability and must pay compensation to evacuees. How does the cleaning process take place? Ten years later, several towns in northeastern Japan are still banned. Authorities are working to clean up the area so that residents can return. But significant challenges remain, and tens of thousands of workers will be needed over the next thirty to forty years to safely remove nuclear waste and the more than one million tons of radioactive water still kept at the site. But some residents have decided never to return, because they fear radiation, or have started a new life elsewhere, or do not want to return to the place where the disaster occurred. Tsunami-proof walls a huge legacy of the 2011 disaster in Japan High anti-tsunami walls were supposed to protect the small coastal town of Taro from the wrath of the ocean, but the waves that hit northeastern Japan on March 11, 2011, destroyed the ten-meter-high wall and swept away homes and cars, killing 140 people and losing 41.

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