On the Anniversary of the 3-11 triple disasters, some of our members submitted essays looking at the disaster, the last year and what lies ahead. This essay by group member Dean:
One Year at Fukushima
On March 10, 2011 everything in Fukushima Prefecture was going along like normal with daily activities, industries were conducting their business; children were attending school and playing outdoors. Everything was going so normal that most parts of the world was never thinking about Fukushima or the reactors at Daiichi and other areas around Japan. A Google search for Fukushima would probably have resulted in many links to the area, the arts, history and, events that would have been reasons for tourists to visit the area.
Fukushima is the southernmost prefecture of the Tohuku region that is closest Tokyo. There are thirteen cities located in the Fukushima Prefecture and many towns and villages located in each district. The coastal region lies on the Pacific Ocean and is the most temperate region. The coastal region specializes in fishing and seafood industries and is the site of the Daiichi nuclear power reactor units 1-4. The upland regions are more focused on agriculture. In March, 2011 Fukushima would have produced 21% of Japan’s peaches and 9% of Japans cucumbers. The capital city is Fukushima City and is a region of strong industry primarily in software and electronics. Fukushima holds 6 notable festivals from July to November and has 9 universities including the Fukushima Medical University. Thirteen railroad lines run through the Fukushima Prefecture along with 3 expressways and nineteen national highways. The Onahama Port is a major hub port for International and domestic goods and shipping containers. The Fukushima airport is home to 4 major airlines which services the area and has been used for filming of two popular TV dramas.
The Daiichi nuclear power plants 1-6 are part of 54 nuclear reactors which supply the majority of electrical power for Japan. Japan chose the GE BWR reactors for construction at the Daiichi site and began with the BWR-1 units and then incorporated upgrades to the BWR-2 and 3 reactors. During normal operations the plants run for approximately 18 months then shutdown to perform maintenance and change up to a quarter of the fuel elements with new or recycled ones. Following the work performed in the shutdown, the reactor is returned to service for another operating cycle. Fuel elements removed from the reactor are stored in an adjacent spent fuel pool where they undergo cooling and eventually are removed and transferred to a common spent fuel storage facility or to dry storage in a cask.
Japan has lived with earthquakes and has learned to design buildings and facilities to withstand assumed earthquake intensities. In addition, facilities on the coastal areas were also designed for protection against what was assumed to be the highest tsunamis. The coastal plants have endured most these forces of nature as well as typhoons, winters and hot summer weather.
Earthquake intensity and periodicity are taken into account when choosing a site and designing a reactor. At Fukushima the decision was made to appropriately protect against an approximate 7 meter tsunami which proved to be grossly inefficient when the near 14 meter tsunami arrived to the shores at Daiichi. Waves from the tsunami inundated all of the supporting service equipment as well as critical equipment such as diesel generators and tanks holding critical water and fuel oil. The loss of this equipment compounded the loss of capability at each plant to respond to the growing complexity of the accidents. At one point TEPCO management actually considered abandoning the reactors and evacuating only to be reversed by the prime minister who insisted that they stay at the facility and get it in a safe shutdown.
The events that happened on March 11, 2011, have changed Japan and the entire world like no other set of disasters in known history. First a massive magnitude 9.0 earthquake struck off the eastern coast of Japan and triggered 20-40 foot tsunami waves that hit the Japanese coastal areas. The earthquake, one of the largest in recorded history killed hundreds of people and the tsunami swept away cars, homes and buildings and crippled 4 of the Fukushima reactors. The damage to the Fukushima reactors we so extensive that 3 of 4 reactors moved towards fuel meltdown within the cores and placed the fuel stored in the spent fuel pool of another into a partial meltdown. The actions from the earthquake also severely damaged the electrical power grid system which cut off power to the nuclear facilities.
The Tsunami formed by the aftermath of the earthquake was20-40 feet in height and struck the eastern coast of Japan sending a wall of water 9 miles inland in some areas. At least 15,703 people killed, 4,647 missing, 5,314 injured, 130,927 displaced and at least 332,395 buildings, 2,126 roads, 56 bridges and 26 railways destroyed or damaged by the earthquake and tsunami along the entire east coast of Honshu from Chiba to Aomori. The total economic loss in Japan has been estimated at more than $309 billion US dollars. Clearly Fukushima will undoubtedly be the most expensive disaster in history.
Over 200,000 Japanese people were evacuated from areas around the Fukushima nuclear accident and an evacuation zone was ultimately established by the Japanese government of 19 miles. The president of the United States established an emergency zone of 50 miles around the Fukushima reactors and authorized a military assisted voluntary departure of military and civilians of the United States out of the country. The larger zone recommended by the United States was based on an analysis by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission that predicts possible radiation levels assuming conditions at the plant degrade. It is not based on current radiological conditions. It includes factors like whether containment vessels remain intact and weather patterns, among others. The 50 mile zone recommended by the United States included a total population of 2 million people. The zone established by the Japanese government included around 139,000 people. http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2011/03/16/world/asia/japan-nuclear-evaculation-zone.html
Today a Google search for Fukushima yields 4,730,000 results and page after page shows links related to recovery processes as the result of the Earthquake, Tsunami and Nuclear Disasters. The cleanup process has been extensive from the earthquake and tsunami and parts of Japan are beginning to reshape. Thousands of people are still displaced some in shelters, some staying in shacks while others have found relatives or housing. The Japanese people suffering from the aftermath of the nuclear disaster are perhaps among the hardest hit. They have lost everything they own and have had to walk away from their history, their land and their life. Confusion exists to this day on every segment of what to do on a daily basis for those victims. The government of Japan has done a great injustice to these people by their reluctance to truthfully inform the victims of what happened, how they have been exposed by radiation and how they are to proceed, with government help to relocate. Their land within the emergency zone may likely never be inhabitable or grow crops. Their lives have been devastated and each day brings no sign of hope from their government. The true spirit of the Japanese people has been those victims who have taken matters into their own hands and work in unity for survival.
During the last year I and other people from around the globe have grouped together to try and capture, through forensics and detailed research what truly happened at Fukushima so the world will have an archived history. In addition, it became apparent from the very first days in our blog that people from Japan were coming to the blog to gather any information that could be used to help save their lives. We all realized at that moment the true humanitarian role we would play by keeping the group together and continuing to press for the truth and do what we could to help those victims in Japan. We have also focused our attention to the United States and other countries to address nuclear and other disasters with the hope of bringing help. I commend the group for the combined effort and encourage us keep working.
In closing I’m reminded of one moment where a small girl was being taken for a walk outside with her grandfather. They both had masks on and were dressed for the cold weather. As they were walking, not far from their home, the small girl stopped and looked up at her grandfather and said “Grandfather, can we go back home, I’m afraid of the radiation”. This is the fear that the children of Japan will grow up with, many will not live normal lives, and many will be touched with illness caused by the radioactive fallout. Let us all not forget Japan and help them see a ray of hope to sustain them and keep them moving forward. Do not forget the children, the new generation who must be led to be leaders for the future of Japan.
Hoping she will be permitted into a shelter with her parents
Where is his future going to take him
In the long line of evacuees, a little girl was spotted with her mother. When her turn came, the child raised her
two hands toward the scanning machine as if she was being threatened. The child, taken into the shelter,
is now homeless. What will her fate be?
Some children make it to better shelters and better lives. Japanese Red Cross
organized an indoor playground called “Smile Park” in Fukushima City. More than 3,600
children had fun in using the pool of multi-coloured plastic balls, the bouncy castle and the inflatable roller .
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