The earthquake and tsunami in Japan were terrible tragedies that hurt a proud nation and brought the world forward to help. But as frightening as the images of homes washed away and buildings swaying in the face of Mother Nature were, they’re nothing compared to the disaster currently unfolding at the Fukushima nuclear plant. Why the plant is becoming a long-term problem, and how Japan is reacting, today on Uproxx News.
On Tuesday, the Japan Atomic Energy Agency decided to raise the severity of the Fukushima disaster from 5 on the IAEA disaster scale to a 7, the highest possible ranking of a nuclear disaster and generally reserved for areas such as Chernobyl, and officially making the plant the site of Japan’s second nuclear disaster.
The trouble began March 11th, when the seawall protecting the three operating generators of the plant was overwhelmed by the tsunami, which was roughly three times the height the seawall was designed to withstand. The emergency cooling units were flooded and shut down, and the nuclear fuel began to overheat.
The quake also disabled the power grid and made getting assistance to Fukushima difficult at best. On March 12th, one of the buildings at Reactor Unit 1 exploded due to hydrogen igniting, injuring four workers. A second explosion followed on March 14th at Reactor Unit 3, with a fire at Unit 4 on the 15th that may have released some radioactivity, which began a problematic cycle of fires, radioactive release, and rising levels of danger.
Since then, the situation has gotten increasingly more hazardous, and towns within 12 miles of the plant have been evacuated, with five more towns asked to leave as of Tuesday, extending the danger zone to 24 miles surrounding the plant. Over a half million terabecquerels of radiation have been released into the atmosphere since the crisis began, which forced the JAEA to change the disaster ranking Tuesday. Radiation has been found as far afield as China and the US, and has caused food panics across the world. Most nations receiving Japanese exports have increased inspection of Japanese goods to avoid any contamination. However, the Japanese government has emphasized that the ranking change is due to IAEA standards, and that so far the health risks have been minimal. The radioactivity released is a tenth of what was dumped into the atmosphere after Chernobyl, and most of it has not reached any land, going over the sea instead.
Why is this crisis still unfolding? The main problem is that the reactors are so damaged that cooling them to prevent a meltdown was the first priority, and now the area is flooded with radioactive water making any attempts to repair the reactors themselves extremely dangerous at best and likely fatal. The IAEA and other organizations are working with the Japanese government to try and contain this crisis.
Our thoughts are with Japan during this time, especially as 145,000 Japanese citizens are still living in emergency shelters. If you haven’t already, consider donating to the Red Cross’ Japanese relief efforts. It only takes a minute, and helps considerably with efforts to get food and shelter to the displaced citizens in need.
- A brief comparison of Fukushima and Chernobyl, and why they’re not the same (Christian Science Monitor)
- A timeline of the disaster, using Nature’s coverage. (Discover)
- That donation link, one more time. (Red Cross)
- In drunken toddler news, Applebee’s is retraining its entire server workforce, it announced today. Why? Because, as you may have gathered, an Applebee’s server gave a toddler some alcoholic margarita mix instead of the apple juice that had been ordered. The toddler, fortunately, was absolutely fine, just extremely happy and suddenly very attached to his bros. Applebee’s, however, is not, and is also redesigning its drinks area so no grade-schoolers get crocked, simply the teenagers with the fake IDs that the bartender is too bored and underpaid to challenge. (Yahoo!)
- “Cross-Dressing Ninja Busted for Home Invasion” is already an awesome headline, but the best part? It was a woman cross-dressing as a man. “Victor/Victoria” just got REAL, people. I smell gritty remake! (KTAL News 6)
- No word on how many of them are ninjas (we’re guessing about half), or whether the woman was a transvestite or transgendered, but according to unreliable Internet sources, there are 300,000 transvestites in the US. (Answers.com)
- But only .25 to 1 percent of the US population is transgendered. (Human Rights Campaign)