March 12 2011 – The BBC reports the accident at Fukushima. A powerful explosion has hit a nuclear power station in north-eastern Japan which was badly damaged in Friday’s devastating earthquake and tsunami. A building housing a reactor was destroyed, but authorities said the reactor itself was intact. The government sought to play down fears of a meltdown, but officials later announced the cooling system of a second reactor at the plant had failed. The earthquake and subsequent tsunami are thought to have killed more than 1,000 people. An estimated 200,000 people have been evacuated from the area, the International Atomic Energy Agency says. link

The quake hit at 2.46pm (5.45am GMT), about 6 miles below sea level and 78 miles off the east coast of Japan. It was swiftly followed by five powerful aftershocks of up to 7.1 magnitude. The shock was so powerful it was felt as far away as Beijing. The series of massive earthquakes unleashed a 10-metre tsunami that swept buildings, vehicles, crops and debris across swaths of farmland. The first 8.9 magnitude shock is said to be the biggest to have hit Japan in 140 years, rocking buildings 380km away in Tokyo and sparking fires. link



  • The accident develops
  • Fukushima – 6 years on
The accident develops

April 2011: The upgrading of Japan’s Fukushima incident to a level seven – the maximum – on the International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale (INES) – puts it on a par with Chernobyl. A spokesman for Tokyo Electric Power Company suggested it could even end up being worse than Chernobyl. link  [Photo Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant reactor no. 4 (center) and no. 3 (L)  March 15.]

June 2011: Fukushima is the biggest industrial catastrophe in the history of mankind. Scientific experts believe Japan’s nuclear disaster to be far worse than governments are revealing to the public. “We have 20 nuclear cores exposed, the fuel pools have several cores each, that is 20 times the potential to be released than Chernobyl,” said Arnold Gundersen, a former nuclear industry senior vice president. “The data I’m seeing shows that we are finding hot spots further away than we had from Chernobyl, and the amount of radiation in many of them was the amount that caused areas to be declared no-man’s-land for Chernobyl. We are seeing square kilometres being found 60 to 70 kilometres away from the reactor. You can’t clean all this up. We still have radioactive wild boar in Germany, 30 years after Chernobyl.” link  The value of the land unusable, plus the cost of evacuating 80,000 people was between $70 billion and $120 billion according to the Japanese Center for Economic Research. link (Dismantling the crippled plant is expected to take at least 30 years.)  

March 2011: Japan disaster – nuclear power’s future compromised. The troubles of the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan have dealt a severe blow to the global nuclear industry, a powerful cartel of less than a dozen major state-owned or state-guided firms that have been trumpeting a nuclear-power renaissance. But the risks that reactors like Fukushima face from natural disasters are well-known. Indeed, they became evident six years ago, when the Indian Ocean tsunami in December 2004 inundated India’s second-largest nuclear complex, shutting down the Madras power station. Many nuclear-power plants are located along coastlines, because they are highly water-intensive. Natural disasters such as storms, hurricanes, and tsunamis are becoming more common, owing to climate change, which will also cause a rise in ocean levels, making seaside reactors even more vulnerable. The central dilemma of nuclear power in an increasingly water-stressed world is that it is a water-guzzler, yet vulnerable to water. link  

August 2013: Fukushima leak much worse than believed. A nuclear expert has told the BBC that he believes the current water leaks at Fukushima are much worse than the authorities have stated. The independent consultant who has previously advised the French and German governments says water is leaking out all over the site and there are no accurate figures for radiation levels. Meanwhile the chairman of Japan’s nuclear authority said that he feared there would be further leaks. link  (In Fukushima end-game, radiated water has nowhere to go – link)  (February 2015) Fukushima problems continue. Fresh nuclear leak detected at Fukushima plant in Japan. link  (June 2016) According to a new report, the Japanese government worked in concert with TEPCO to purposely cover up the meltdown at Fukushima in 2011. link 

June 2013: After more than two years, radiation levels skyrocket at Fukushima: the accident is not contained. Record high levels of radioactive tritium have been observed in the harbor at Fukushima. The Japan Times notes the density of radioactive tritium in samples of seawater from near the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant doubled over 10 days to hit a record 1,100 becquerels per liter, possibly indicating contaminated groundwater is seeping into the Pacific. link

Fukushima – 6 years on

July 2017: Nuclear waste will be dumped into the ocean. Toxic waste from Fukushima will be dumped into the sea, according to the head of the Japanese company tasked with cleaning up the radioactive mess, despite protests from local fishermen. Nearly 777,000 tons of water tainted with tritium, a byproduct of the nuclear process that is notoriously difficult to filter out of water, will be dumped into the Pacific Ocean as part of a multibillion-dollar recovery effort. The earthquake and tsunami killed more than 15,000 people and led to a series of meltdowns – the company has yet to deal with the water that was used to cool the plant’s damaged reactors, causing it to become tainted with tritium. As for the rest of the Fukushima prefecture, life has started to resume, albeit slowly. Of the estimated 150,000 who fled, only 13% have come back. link

 March 2017: Fukushima – 6 years on. Cleaning up the plant after it was struck by a magnitude-9 earthquake and tsunami on the afternoon of 11 March 2011, is expected to take 30 to 40 years, at a cost  to Japan’s trade and industry ministry recently estimated at $189bn, nearly double an estimate released three years ago. Exploration work inside the nuclear plant’s failed reactors has barely begun, with the scale of the task described as ‘almost beyond comprehension’.  link

December 2015: Over 9 million bags of nuclear cleanup waste piled high. The 1-cubic-meter bags are found at some 114,700 interim storage or decontamination sites across Fukushima prefecture. In the town of Tomioka, covered by a nuclear disaster evacuation order, mounds of bags have grown so tall that they obscure the power shovels used to move and stack the waste, the black balls covering every sliver of landscape. The bags of waste are typically stacked four layer high, with a fifth layer of uncontaminated soil laid on top to block radiation. Waterproof sheets are also used to stop rainwater from getting into the bags and becoming contaminated. link