Will Japan Have To Deal With A Nuclear Meltdown Next?

8.9 Magnitude Earthquake, Followed By Tsunami, In Japan

If you’ve just awoken from a coma it may be news to you that on Friday, March 11th 2011, at 2:46 PM Tokyo time, an 8.9 magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of Sendai, Japan, triggering a tsunami with waves as tall as 32 feet.  It was the strongest known earthquake in Japan’s history, with a death toll expected to exceed 1,300 and with over 215,000 people in Japan currently displaced.  Nearly 800 people are still missing as of earlier this morning.  Over 100 aftershocks of at least 5.0 magnitude have occurred so far and the full scope of destruction is not yet certain.  We’re going to focus on one aspect of the aftermath: the potential for a nuclear meltdown.

Explosion at Fukushima Nuclear Plant, Evacuation In Progress

At about 3:30 PM Tokyo time today, four workers were injured after an explosion at the Fukushima Daini nuclear power plant located 155 miles (250 km) northeast of Tokyo and only 12.4 miles (20 km) away from Minamisoma (population 72,000).  Over 45,000 people within a 20 km radius are being evacuated. In the meantime, people in the area are urged to stay indoors, turn off air-conditioners, and avoid tap water.  Radiation levels in the control room at Fukushima No. 1 reached 1000X normal levels.

The tsunami had wiped out the plant’s off-site electricity source, and the earthquake damaged the on-site backup diesel generators.  Workers have been scrambling to restore power in order to keep the reactors cool, as cooling them without an electrical source is problematic.  Japan has also declared a state of emergency at the Daiichi nuclear plant, which is located near the Fukushima Daini plant and is experiencing similar difficulties in cooling the reactor cores without electricity.


  • The death toll from the earthquake/tsunami is expected to exceed 1,300.  More than 215,000 people are currently in temporary shelters in Japan. (Guardian)
  • Explosion at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant (CNN)
  • More than 45,000 people are being evacuated from the area surrounding the Fukushima plant. (NewsLimited)
  • Radiation levels at Fukushima measured at 1000X normal levels. (KyodoNews)
  • “Japan may have hours to prevent nuclear meltdown” (Reuters)
  • Japan has declared a state of emergency at two nuclear power plants (HoustonChronicle)
  • An ungoing roundup of Fukushima updates is available at SAI.
  • Banner picture via anotabien.



  • Pictured at left:  KCRA in Sacramento, CA has the least important news break about the earthquake.  Pray for Omarion. (Buzzfeed)
  • BoingBoing posted two large picture galleries on the Japan Sendai quake and tsunami.  This gallery is incredible, and the second picture in this gallery should win a prize.
  • Here’s a gallery of before and after pictures of the Sendai Airport in Northeastern Japan. (Buzzfeed)



  • Here’s an infographic on the earthquake and the reach of the ensuing tsunami. (LiveScience)
  • The quake, at 8.9 magnitude, was the most severe quake in the past year and the strongest earthquake ever recorded in Japan’s history. (NYT)
  • The US Geological Survey reports the coast of Japan has shifted 8 feet and the Earth’s axis has shifted 10 inches due to the quake. They estimate the quake ruptured a 180 mile by 50 mile section of the Earth’s crust, and there have been over 100 aftershocks of 5.0 or higher magnitude so far.  They also issued a warning that coastal areas under tsunami advisory should not assume that the next wave will be smaller than the last: in Samoa, the seventh wave from the tsunami was much larger than the first.  They don’t need Somoa that. (VancouverSun)