This timeline aims to record the long-term domino effect of the series of disasters -earthquake, tsunami, nuclear reactors failure, floods, fires, etc. This is done in four layers of events including: impacts of disasters; measures taken by the Japanese public services; international help and preventive measures taken abroad against possible scenarios. Were there mistakes in the handling of the crisis by Japan's public services? Could they be avoided and lessons applied globally? This mega-disaster should be studied in details by public services anywhere. Old models could be reviewed and new created on how public services should react and what they should expect. I avoid making assessment. The timeline is open for everyone to familiarise with events and actions and draw conclusions. I will appreciate feedback. Thank you. Vlado Stoenchev
Images released by the operator of the Fukushima nuclear plant show the dramatic moment the tsunami hit the power station.
To learn how earthquakes are measured click on the link below.
How earthquakes are measured
Ten metres high tsunami waves hit a coast where the tsunami protection concrete walls are 3 m high only, while everywhere south of Sendai prefecture this wall is 10 m high. Like the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami, the damage by surging water, though much more localized, was far more deadly and destructive than the actual quake. Factors causing the high death toll and distructions from the tsunami:
(1)The tsunami walls at several of the affected cities were based on much smaller tsunami heights and did not exceed three metres height.
(2) In addition to this, as geophysicist Ross Stein, a 400-kilometer (250 mi) stretch of coastline dropped vertically by 0.6 m (2.0 ft) during the earthquake, allowing the tsunami to travel farther and faster onto land. (Chang, Kenneth (2011-03-13). “Quake Moves Japan Closer to U.S. and Alters Earth’s Spin”. The New York Times.)
(3).Overall, the water surge happened to be unexpectedly high at a coastline which has low heights above sea level and a tsunami wall 3 m high. Japan has invested the equivalent of billions of dollars on anti-tsunami seawalls which line at least 40% of its 34,751-kilometer (21,593 mi) coastline and stand up to 12 meters (39 ft) high
(4)Also, many people caught in the tsunami thought that they were located on high enough ground to be safe.
Impacts of the earthquake and tsunami:
The aggregates at Fukushima NPS that had already been automatically switched on to provide power for the water pumps cooling the nuclear fuel rods in the pond were swept away by the tsunamy wave.
Tsunami hits (video)
Tsunami hits (video 2)
Features of the earthquake:
(1)The earthquake occured at its epicentre at 2:43:50. Buildings were rattled at 2:46- 2:47 pm. A powerful earthquake occured of magnitude 9.0 (Richter scale); subsequently ranked 5th strongest in the world in the past 100 years.
(2) The epicenter was approximately 72 kilometers (45 mi) east of the Oshika Peninsula of Tōhoku, with the hypocenter at an underwater depth of approximately 32 km (19.9 mi).
Impacts of the earthquake:
(1)The quake moved portions of northeast Japan by as much as 2.4 meters (7.9 ft) closer to North America making portions of Japan's landmass "wider than before," according to geophysicist Ross Stein.Stein also noted that a 400-kilometer (250 mi) stretch of coastline dropped vertically by 0.6 m (2.0 ft), allowing the tsunami to travel farther and faster onto land. (Chang, Kenneth (2011-03-13). "Quake Moves Japan Closer to U.S. and Alters Earth's Spin". The New York Times.)
(3) The earthquake triggered extremely destructive tsunami waves of up to 29.6 m (97 ft)
The Fukushima I, Fukushima II, Onagawa Nuclear Power Plant and Tōkai nuclear power stations, consisting of a total eleven reactors, were automatically shut down following the earthquake. Higashidōri, also on the northeast coast, was already shut down for a periodic inspection. Cooling is needed to remove decay heat after a reactor has been shut down, and to maintain spent fuel pools. The cooling process is powered by emergency diesel generators, as well as in the case of Rokkasho nuclear reprocessing plant. At Fukushima I and II tsunami waves overtopped seawalls and destroyed diesel backup power systems, leading to severe problems at Fukushima I, including two large explosions and radioactive leakage. Sea water was pumped onto the plant to attempt attempt to cool it.
To learn what causes tsunamis click on the link below.
What causes tsunamis
A 220,000-barrel-per-day oil refinery of Cosmo Oil Company was set on fire by the quake at Ichihara, Chiba Prefecture, to the east of Tokyo, while others halted production due to safety checks and power loss. In Sendai, a 145,000-barrel-per-day refinery owned by the largest refiner in Japan, JX Nippon Oil & Energy, was also set ablaze by the quake. Workers were evacuated, but tsunami warnings hindered efforts to extinguish the fire until 14 March, when officials planned to do so.
According to Tōhoku Electric Power (TEP), around 4.4 million households in northeastern Japan were left without electricity. Several nuclear and conventional power plants went offline after the earthquake, reducing TEPCO's total capacity by 21 GW. (Kyodo News, "Utilities' monopoly on power backfires", Japan Times, 30 March 2011, p. 2.)
Japan's transport network suffered severe disruptions. Many sections of Tōhoku Expressway serving northern Japan were damaged. The expressway did not reopen to general public use until 24 March 2011. All railway services were suspended in Tokyo, with an estimated 20,000 people stranded at major stations across the city. In the hours after the earthquake, some train services were resumed. Most Tokyo area train lines resumed full service by the next day-12 March. Twenty thousand stranded visitors spent the night of 11–12 March inside Tokyo Disneyland.
Damage to overhead lines on the Tōhoku ShinkansenA tsunami wave flooded Sendai Airport at 15:55 JST,[ about 1 hour after the initial quake, causing severe damage. Narita and Haneda Airport both briefly suspended operations after the quake, but suffered little damage and reopened within 24 hours. Eleven airliners bound for Narita were diverted to nearby Yokota Air Base.
Various train services around Japan were also canceled, with JR East suspending all services for the rest of the day. Four trains on coastal lines were reported as being out of contact with operators; one, a four-car train on the Senseki Line, was found to have derailed, and its occupants were rescued shortly after 8 am the next morning.
There were no derailments of Shinkansen bullet train services in and out of Tokyo, but their services were also suspended. The Tōkaidō Shinkansen resumed limited service late in the day and was back to its normal schedule by the next day, while the Jōetsu and Nagano Shinkansen resumed services late on 12 March. The Tōhoku Shinkansen line was worst hit, with JR East estimating that 1,100 sections of the line, varying from collapsed station roofs to bent power pylons, will need repairs. Services on the Tōhoku Shinkansen partially resumed only in Kantō area on 15 March, with one round-trip service per hour between Tokyo and Nasu-Shiobara, and Tōhoku area service partially resumed on 22 March between Morioka and Shin-Aomori. Services on Akita Shinkansen resumed with limited numbers of trains on 18 March. Services on Yamagata Shinkansen resumed with limited numbers of trains on 31 March.
Cellular and landline phone service suffered major disruptions in the affected area. On the day of the quake, American broadcaster NPR was unable to reach anyone in Sendai with working phone or Internet. Internet services were largely unaffected in areas where basic infrastructure remained, despite the earthquake having damaged portions of several undersea cable systems landing in the affected regions; these systems were able to reroute around affected segments onto redundant links. Within Japan, only a few websites were initially unreachable. Several Wi-Fi hotspot providers have reacted to the quake by providing free access to their networks. and some American telecommunications and VoIP companies such as AT&T, Sprint, Verizon and VoIP companies such as netTALK and Vonage have offered free calls to (and in some cases, from) Japan for a limited time.
The Fujinuma irrigation dam in Sukagawa ruptured, causing flooding and washing away homes. Eight people were missing and four bodies were discovered by the morning.
The day after the biggest earthquake on record to hit Japan revealed the extent of the destruction across the country.
Te get a comprehensive video impression on the scale of impacts, click on the link below.
The cooling system of a second reactor at the plant had failed.
Japanese authorities have informed the IAEA that the explosion at Unit 1 reactor at the Fukushima Daiichi plant occurred outside the primary containment vessel (PCV), not inside. The plant operator, Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), has confirmed that the integrity of the primary containment vessel remains intact.
As a countermeasure to limit damage to the reactor core, TEPCO proposed that sea water mixed with boron be injected into the primary containment vessel. This measure was approved by Japan's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) and the injection procedure began at 20:20 local Japan time.
Japan has reported that four workers at Fukushima Daiichi were injured by the explosion.
NISA have confirmed the presence of caesium-137 and iodine-131 in the vicinity of Fukushima Daiichi Unit 1.
Before the explosion, Japan's nuclear agency had said that radioactive caesium and iodine had been detected near the number one reactor. The agency said this could indicate that containers of uranium fuel inside the reactor may have begun melting.
Japan's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) has informed the IAEA's Incident and Emergency Centre (IEC) that there has been an explosion at the Unit 1 reactor at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, and that they are assessing the condition of the reactor core. The explosion was reported to NISA by the plant operator, Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), at 0730 CET. Further details were not immediately available.
Japanese authorities have extended the evacuation zone around the Fukushima Daiichi plant to a 20-kilometre radius from the previous 10 kilometres.
On 12 March a large explosion caused by the buildup of hydrogen gas, blew away the roof and outer walls of the Reactor 1 building, releasing a large cloud of dust and vapor, but the reactor itself was not damaged in the explosion. Government spokesman Yukio Edano said the force of the explosion had destroyed the concrete roof and walls of a building around the plant's number one reactor, but a steel container encasing the reactor had not been ruptured.
Mr Edano said radiation levels around the plant had fallen after the explosion.
(1) An explosion has destroyed the building housing reactor No. 3 at the Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear plant, injuring eleven people.
(2) Cooling systems have failed at the plant's No. 2 reactor, which is being cooled with seawater in the same way as the plant's other two reactors (see below).
Rolling blackouts began on 14 March due to power shortages caused by the earthquake. The Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), which normally provides approximately 40 GW of electricity, announced that it can currently provide only about 30 GW. This is because 40% of the electricity used in the greater Tokyo area is now supplied by reactors in the Niigata and Fukushima prefectures. The reactors at the Fukushima Dai-ichi and Fukushima Dai-ni plants were automatically taken offline when the first earthquake occurred and have sustained major damage related to the earthquake and subsequent tsunami. Rolling blackouts of three hours are expected to last until the end of April and will affect the Tokyo, Kanagawa, Eastern Shizuoka, Yamanashi, Chiba, Ibaraki, Saitama, Tochigi, and Gunma prefectures. Voluntary reduced electricity use by consumers in the Kanto area helped reduce the predicted frequency and duration of the blackouts. By 21 March 2011, the number of households in the north without electricity fell to 242,927.
Tōhoku Electric Power cannot currently provide the Kanto region with additional power, because TEP's power plants were also damaged in the earthquake. Kansai Electric Power Company (Kepco) cannot share electricity, because its system operates at 60 hertz, whereas TEPCO and TEP operate their systems at 50 hertz; this is due to early industrial and infrastructure development in the 1880s that left Japan without a unified national power grid. Two substations, one in Shizuoka Prefecture and one in Nagano Prefecture, can convert between frequencies and transfer electricity from Kansai to Kanto and Tōhoku, but their capacity to do so is limited to 1 GW. With the damage to so many power plants, it could be years before electricity productions levels in eastern Japan return to pre-quake levels.
In effort to help alleviate the shortage, three steel manufacturers in the Kanto region are contributing electricity produced by their in-house conventional power stations to TEPCO for distribution to the general public. Sumitomo Metal Industries can produce up to 500 MW, JFE Steel 400 MW, and Nippon Steel 500 MW of electric power.
(Power Outage To Deal Further Blows To Industrial Output". Nikkei.com. 14 March 2011. http://e.nikkei.com/e/fr/tnks/Nni20110313D13JFF08.htm. Retrieved 2011-03-14.)
Another explosion occurred at Reactor 3 of the Fukushima I plant just after 11:00 JST on 14 March. An exterior wall of the building collapsed, but the reactor vessel was not damaged according to a government spokesperson. Unlike the other five reactor units, the fuel in reactor 3 contained plutonium, (MOX fuel), making it more dangerous, due to the neutronic effects of plutonium on the reactor and the carcinogenic effects in the event of release to the environment
Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) tried to reduce the pressure within the plants by venting contaminated steam from the reactor vessels into the atmosphere. According to Tomoko Murakami, of the nuclear energy group at Japan's Institute of Energy Economics, this would not result in the release of significant radiation. Residents living within a 20 km (12 mi) radius of the Fukushima I plant were evacuated, as well as residents within 3 km (1.9 mi) of the Fukushima II plant.
It was reported on 14 March at 07:00 EDT that the fuel rods of Reactor 2 at the Fukushima I plant were fully exposed, and a meltdown of the fuel rods, with the risk of damage to the reactor vessel and a possible radioactive leak, could not be ruled out. As of 14 March 2011 (2011 -03-14)[update], about 160 people have been exposed to dangerous radiation levels near the power stations. One plant employee was killed while operating a crane, eight others had been injured. An additional eleven employees were injured when the Reactor 3 building exploded. Several people received some radiation doses.
(Meltdown alert at Japan reactor". BBC News. 2011-03-14. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-pacific-12733393)
On 15 March, at 6:10 am JST an explosion occurred at Reactor 2 of the Fukushima I plant. After the explosion, the radiation level spiked to 8,217 microsieverts (µSv) per hour. The government admitted it was "very probable" that the cores of Reactors 1, 2 and 3 had experienced (partial) meltdowns due to high temperatures. A fourth Fukushima I reactor, Reactor 4, was also rocked by an explosion on 15 March. Radiation levels of up to 400 µSv per hour were recorded near Reactor 4; up to 100 millisieverts (mSv), or 100,000 µSv, per year is considered safe.
It was reported that radioactive iodine was detected in the tap water in Fukushima, Toshigi, Gunma, Tokyo, Chiba, Saitama, and Niigata, and radioactive cesium in the tap water in Fukushima, Tochigi and Gunma Radioactive cesium and iodine were also detected in the soil in some places in Fukushima. There may be a need to replace the contaminated soil. (Asahi Shimbun. 2011-01-03. http://www.asahi.com/special/10005/TKY201103160286.html. Retrieved 2011-03-17)
On 15 March, the radiation level in Tokyo reached 20 times the normal level. The highest level in the Kantō region was 40 times the normal level in Saitama at 11:00 JST but then receded to ten times the normal level. Local officials have assured the public that this is not a threat to human health. It was reported that radioactive iodine was detected in the tap water in Fukushima, Toshigi, Gunma, Tokyo, Chiba, Saitama, and Niigata, and radioactive cesium in the tap water in Fukushima, Tochigi and Gunma. Radioactive cesium and iodine were also detected in the soil in some places in Fukushima. There may be a need to replace the contaminated soil.
What happened to Fukushima reactors- animated explanation by BBC.
Hundreds of aftershocks have continued to shake Japan, days after the massive magnitude 9 earthquake that triggered a devastating tsunami on Friday, 11 March.
Click on the link below and, once opened, press the play button or use the slider to see the spread, size and frequency of earthquakes in Japan greater than magnitude 5 since 10 March.
Japan has said it will cost as much as 25 trillion yen ($309bn; £189bn) to rebuild the country after the deadly earthquake and tsunami.
The cost is about 6% of Japan's total economic output in 2010 and is the biggest estimate so far.
According to the World Bank, Japan will need up to five years to rebuild and recover from the damage caused.
The confirmed death toll from the earthquake and tsunami is now 9,079, with 12,645 missing.
According to the government, the damage caused to infrastructure and the uncertainty surrounding the future of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant may derail Japan's fragile economic recovery.
Japan is facing power shortages as well as difficulty shifting products around the country.
"The impact from the planned power outages is likely to be significant," said Fumihira Nishizaki, director of macroeconomic analysis at the Cabinet Office.
These issues are making it difficult for some of the country's biggest exporters, such as carmakers and electronics firms, to restart production at their factories.
Japan's economic growth is powered by its successful export sector.
Analysts say that growth will suffer until infrastructure issues are solved and factories start running at full capacity again.
The Bank of Japan warned of the impact on growth.
"This quake will cause the condition of Japan's economy and output to be severe," Bank of Japan Governor Masaaki Shirakawa said.
Japan's economy was struggling to come out of recession and the global economic slowdown even before the earthquake and tsunami struck.
It was overtaken by China as the world's second-largest economy after its economy shrank by 1.3% in the last three months of 2010.
1.A shortfall in supply of parts has already seen some of Japan's biggest companies, including carmakers and electronics manufacturers, shut down production at their factories.
The problem will come in the middle of April when companies run out of inventories and supplies”
Global carmakers fear Japanese parts shortages
It has also started to have a global impact, with Toyota Motors saying that it will curb its North American production due to parts scarcity.
General Motors has also announced suspension of production at one its plants in the US, blaming parts shortages.
"Manufacturers are currently using up the inventories that they may have in stock before the quake struck," said Rajiv Biswas of IHS Global Insight.
Mr Biswas added that companies could also fall back on supplies that may have been in transit over the past few weeks and are in the process of being delivered to them.
However, once that stock is used, things will get complicated, he pointed out.
"The problem will come in the middle of April when companies run out of inventories and supplies," he said.
2.Car manufacturing is not the only sector that is suffering from the breakdown of the supply chain.
Japan accounts for some 60% of the global silicon wafer supply. These are used in the manufacture of integrated circuits and other micro devices.
These circuits and devices are key parts used to make a wide range of electronic equipment.
Some of the biggest silicon manufacturing units in Japan have been damaged by the earthquake and tsunami.
Analysts say that a shortfall in the supply of these materials may have serious consequences for global manufacturers.
There is a very high chance that silicon wafers being marketed by non-Japanese companies may have actually been sourced from Japanese manufacturers, he said.
3.Getting their factories up to speed is the only bit that Japanese manufacturers control.
They have to wait and hope that the rest of the infrastructure repair takes place quickly.
First and foremost, there needs to be an uninterrupted supply of electricity provided.
This may take some time as the Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco) has lost some of its power supply because of the damage caused at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.
It has to start generating power in other ways to replenish the loss before its supply can return to pre-quake levels.
Till that happens, some specific industries will find it difficult to operate at optimum levels.
"You can't just switch off and on the power supply if you are manufacturing high-tech products like silicon wafers," said Mr Biswas.
"The key question is, will they be able to restore back power quickly enough?"
On Sunday, anti-nuclear protesters held a large rally in Tokyo, calling for change in Japan's nuclear industry.
1.Tepco apologised on Sunday for the "mistake" in reporting a radiation spike 10 million times above normal.
"The number is not credible. We are very sorry," said Tepco spokesman Takashi Kurita.
Tepco has been criticised for a lack of transparency and failing to provide information more promptly and for making a number of mistakes, including worker clothing. Tepco's erroneous report has created more confusion around a crisis that is already causing widespread unease in the country, our correspondent says.
Japan's nuclear watchdog said the level of radiation in water near reactor 2 was confirmed at 1,000 millisieverts an hour.
The radiation levels are so high, that emergency workers near the contaminated water would have received four times their maximum annual dose of radiation in just one hour.
The nuclear safety agency said levels of radioactive iodine in the sea near the plant were 1,150 times the legal limit. Previous readings reached 1,850 times the usual level.
2.Emergency workers have now switched to using fresh water as a coolant, rather than sea water.
There had been fears the salt in sea water could further corrode machinery. The fresh water is being pumped in so that contaminated radioactive water can be extracted.
3.The UN's nuclear agency, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), has warned the crisis could go on for months.
However, the government in Tokyo has said that airborne radiation around the plant is decreasing, so there is no need to extend the evacuation zone.
Radioactive material detected in the sea near the plant rose steeply on Thursday, with radioactive iodine levels reaching 4,385 times the limit. One measurement showed groundwater containing radioactive iodine concentrations of 10,000 times the government standard, the nuclear safety agency said.
At Sushizanmai, a sushi bar just outside Tokyo's famed Tsukiji fish market, customers were still eating Japan's famed raw fish delicacies Tuesday night.
But chef Seiichiro Ogawa said the fuss over radiation could hurt business. His restaurant is trying to get more fish from the western part of Japan, which has not been affected by the nuclear crisis.
"Japanese customers are especially sensitive to this kind of thing, so I'm worried they'll stop eating sushi," said Ogawa, who has already seen his business drop 50 percent after foreigners stopped visiting the city after the quake. "We need this nuclear problem to be resolved."
Japan's nuclear safety agency said the latest tests showed radiation nearly doubled last week, to 23 times above legal limits, in the sea off Minamisoma city near the plant.
To find what makes a level 7 (the highest level of severity) major accident explained, click on the link below.
The governor of the Bank of Japan has said the economy will expand between July and September this year as the country rebuilds itself following the earthquake and tsunami.
"Most private economists believe that Japan's GDP growth rate will turn positive again in the third quarter of 2011 onwards," Masaaki Shirakawa said.
He also said Japan would not have trouble financing the reconstruction.
The economy is expected to contract between April and June.
The IMF said it expected Japan's economy to grow by 1.4% this year, compared with a previous forecast of 1.6%.
However, it raised its forecast for Japan's growth next year to 2.1%, saying it was confident Japan would recover from the disaster.
According to the finance ministry exports declined 2.2% from a year earlier, the first drop in 16 months.
Shipments of cars tumbled 28% as the sector continued to be hit by shortfall of parts and slowdown in production.
The earthquake and tsunami has damaged factories and disrupted the supply chain.
Shipments of semiconductor products and electronics also fell by 6.9%.
For Japan's two major export destinations, shipments to the US declined 3.4% from the previous year, while shipments to China rose an annual 3.8%.
Analysts say the disruption in the supply chain is making it difficult for Japanese manufacturers to get back on track.
"It is very frustrating for automakers and other manufacturers," said Hiroshi Watanbe of Daiwa Institute of Research.
"Despite steady demand abroad, they simply could not make their products due to a supply crunch following the disasters," he added."There has also been damage to infrastructure, like ports and airports," said Yoshiki Shinke of Daiichi Life Research Institute.
"There hasn't been much progress in restoring factory output, so exports will fall in April," he added.
While the Japanese economy struggles to deal with the effects of the earthquake and tsunami, analysts warn that the situation could get worse in the coming months.
They say the current numbers are not a true indicator of the full impact of the devastation on the country's exports, as many manufacturers would have used up existing inventories.
"At least for March, some manufacturers were able to keep limited output by relying on stock. But by now, stock will be gone, forcing companies to completely shut down production," said Hajime Inoue of Japan Research Institute.
Mr Inoue warned that the fall in exports could widen to as much as 20-30% in the coming months.
One of the biggest issues crippling Japan's component makers is the shortage of power. The situation is likely to become more complicated as the demand for electricity reaches its peak in the coming summer months.
Analysts say that is going to affect shipments from the country.
"Due to power supply constraints expected in the summer, a full pick up in exports is unlikely until at least the end of this year," said Yuichi Kodama from Meiji Yasuda Life Insurance.
Toyota Motor Co may slip to No. 3 in the automaker production rankings behind General Motors and Volkswagen due to Japan's earthquake and nuclear crisis, which slashed local output by almost two-thirds in March alone. A shortage of parts in the wake of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami has savaged Japan's auto sector supply chain, while damage to a major nuclear plant has disrupted power supplies. Investors expecting overseas rivals to benefit from a prolonged slump in Japanese output pushed up shares in South Korea's Hyundai Motors and associate Kia Motors to record highs on Monday.
The new aerodynamic green, pink and silver train, named “Hayabusa” in Japanese, is one of the fastest in the nation. It travels at 180 miles per hour.
The Sendai-Fukushima section of the line runs through the region most severely affected by the earthquake.
The (Hayabusa) service began just one week before the earthquake and having it back in operation is seen as one of the milestones of recovery for northern Japan.
Although some of the trains ran yesterday, a power outage caused by a loose cable forced the trains to stop for several hours in the afternoon.
Service up to Aomori is expected to resume on the 29th:
Another stretch of the line between Ichinoseki and Shin-Aomori stations has also been repaired, leaving only the section between Sendai and Ichinoseki to be completed before the entire length of the Tohoku Shinkansen Line, from Tokyo to Shin-Aomori, is reopened. The stretch between Sendai and Ichinoseki is scheduled to reopen on April 29.
Also from April 29, the cutting-edge E5-type train “Hayabusa” will run round trips between Shin-Aomori and Tokyo, and Sendai and Tokyo, both once per day, as a symbol of Tohoku’s recovery. Five thousand yen out of the price of tickets for the train’s luxury “Gran Class” seats will be donated to disaster victims. Reserved seat tickets will go on sale from April 26 at 11:00 a.m.
The risk of an earthquake causing critical damage to a nuclear power plant has been the subject of lawsuits filed by residents in various parts of Japan over the years, but to date none of these legal actions has led to the actual suspension of a plant.
In a 1992 ruling, the Supreme Court presented a framework on how courts may approach cases involving nuclear plants, noting the reasonableness of following expert opinion.
"Should there be a serious error in judgment made by experts on whom the state depended, then the issuing by the state of a permit for construction (of a nuclear plant) shall be deemed illegal," the court ruled.
In 2006, the Kanazawa District Court made a rare decisionto call for the shutdown of the No. 2 reactor at Hokuriku Electric Power Co.'s Shika nuclear power plant in Ishikawa Prefecture. "There is a concrete risk of residents being exposed to radiation in an earthquake that is beyond the assumed level," the court of first instance said.
In an appellate ruling, however, those risks were dismissed and the decision reversed. Last year, the Supreme Court nixed an appeal against this decision...to date none of these legal actions has led to the actual suspension of a plant. Since the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant crisis triggered on March 11, criticism is being directed at judges because of their tendency to side with the state and power companies.
Angry farmers brought two cows to Tokyo where they shouted and punched the air Tuesday in a protest to demand compensation for products contaminated by radiation spewing from Japan's crippled nuclear plant.
The 200 farmers, mostly from northeastern Japan, wore green bandanas, held aloft cabbages they said they couldn't sell and carried signs saying "Stop nuclear energy" outside the headquarters of Tokyo Electric Power Co., the operator of the plant damaged in the March 11 tsunami.
"My patience has run out. The nuclear crisis is totally destroying our farming business," said 72-year-old Katsuo Okazaki, who grows peaches and apples. Authorities have banned the sale of raw milk from some towns near the plant, as well as spinach, cabbage, broccoli and several other leafy vegetables from throughout Fukushima prefecture, though most restrictions in nearby prefectures have been lifted.
But even once restrictions are removed and produce is deemed safe, farmers throughout the northeast fear consumers will shun their products.
Farmers among the evacuees also are concerned about the estimated 3,000 cows, 130,000 pigs and 680,000 chickens they had to leave behind to fend for themselves. Some have died already, and many are weak and dying.
"I'm here in protest, and to get an apology," said Masaki Yoshizawa, who had 300 head of high-grade "wagyu" cattle on a ranch about 9 miles (14 kilometers) from the plant.
Meanwhile, Fukushima authorities sent six veterinarians Tuesday into the evacuation zone to survey livestock there.
With no time for burials, veterinarians will spray lime over any dead animals to prevent them from spreading disease, agricultural officials said. Dying or weakened animals will be euthanized only after getting the owners' permission, but that could prove difficult, because they are scattered in evacuation centers.
Marking the 25th anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear accident, hundreds of protesters with candles burning in white paper cups filled the plaza outside TEPCO headquarters Tuesday evening, chanting, "nuclear power is not necessary. Let's stop nuclear power."
A group of 87 Japanese anti-nuclear groups also issued a joint statement criticizing TEPCO's failure to prepare adequately for a large tsunami as "immoral and criminal."
Warnings about "the danger of a huge earthquake and tsunami ... were not taken seriously," said the statement released by the Citizens' Nuclear Information Center.
Japanese retail sales fell in March at the fastest annual pace since 1998 and could remain weak for some time as last month's earthquake, radiation leaks from a damaged nuclear reactor and fears of electricity shortages weigh on consumer sentiment. The data, the first measure of consumption since the natural disaster on March 11, highlights the need for the government to quickly resolve the nuclear crisis, ensure power supply and help manufacturers restore damaged supply chains so they can produce more goods. The government will submit to parliament this week its first spending package worth almost $50 billion to rebuild the battered northeast coast after the earthquake, but it will need to spend a lot more in order for the economy to recover.
Standard and Poor's on Wednesday threatened to cut Japan's sovereign rating, warning that the huge cost from last month's devastating earthquake will hurt the country's already weak public finances without tax hikes. The rating agency said costs related to the March 11 earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear power plant disaster will increase Japan's fiscal deficit above prior estimates by a cumulative 3.7 percent of GDP through 2013. "We revised the outlook on the long-term rating on Japan to negative to reflect the potential for a downgrade if fiscal deterioration materially exceeds these estimates in the absence of greater fiscal consolidation," S&P said in a statement.
Just six months after Haneda airport in Tokyo resumed full-fledged international operations, overseas travel to and from Japan plunged after the March 11 earthquake. The number of people going on overseas trips via Haneda probably has sunk 20 to 30 percent compared with the prequake level although accurate data are still not available, says the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism. After its new international terminal opened Oct. 21, Haneda became popular among travelers due to its proximity to central Tokyo. But demand for lucrative business-class services has sharply contracted as a result of the magnitude 9.0 temblor and the ongoing crisis at a nuclear power plant in Fukushima Prefecture, an airport official said.
Delta Air Lines suspended its flights linking Haneda with Los Angeles and Detroit in late March. So did American Airlines, halting its service between Haneda and New York on April 8. British Airways decided not to operate flights between Haneda and London from April 3 through May 30. Among Asian air carriers, Singapore Airlines has cut its two daily round-trip flights to one between Haneda and the Southeast Asian city-state.
The March 11 tsunami rendered around 90 percent of the 29,000 fishing boats in the three most severely hit prefectures unusable, according to provisional tallies by the three prefectures. Reviving the fishing industries in Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures is indispensable to rebuilding local economies, so the prefectural governments and local fishing cooperatives are mulling a range of steps, including allowing fishermen to operate boats or breed fish and other marine products collectively, according to officials of the local governments and co-ops.
With production halted and supply chains broken, sales last month were 51% lower than a year earlier, said the Japan Automobile Dealers Association.
It said sales would continue to be subdued in the months ahead because of a continuing shortage of parts.
April's decline followed a 37% fall in vehicle sales in March. The 51% fall from a year earlier was the biggest decline since records began in 1968.
The all-time record fall was 45%, which was recorded in May 1974 during the global oil price crisis.
It is early morning and the children of Ishinomaki are on their way to school. The roads are lined with piles of wreckage. The entire area was left covered by a thick layer of mud, and the children wear face masks to protect themselves from the smell and dust.
Nothing will be again how it was in Ishinomaki for a very long time, but at least the children are seeing their friends again now, and getting back to lessons.
Across the northeast of Japan, 7,735 school buildings were damaged or destroyed, and students have to crowd in to those that remain.
Mr Kiumi says they are looking out for children whose behaviour has changed since the disaster, trying to identify those who need more help to cope with the trauma the entire school has been through. But most of all, they see their role as providing stability and a return to the old routine. Teams of psychologists have been sent to the region, including by the charity Medicins sans Frontieres, to provide professional help and counselling..."Many people have fear, especially as aftershocks are still persisting here," says Dr Akiko Kono. "For example, some children always wear their clothes, or even helmets, at night time because they fear they may have to evacuate immediately after an aftershock." ...Admitting to suffering from any problems with mental health is difficult in Japan, where the people are reserved and take pride in their self-reliance.
"Of course, usually Japanese people don't want to show negative feelings," says Dr Kono. "They want to keep negative feelings inside. But inside they are suffering a lot."
When the earthquake hit at 1426, it was towards the end of the school day and the children were still in the building preparing to go home.
The teachers shepherded them first into the gym, the strongest part of the building. Then, when the tsunami warnings sounded, they led everyone up on to the roof. The two who died were picked up by their parents right after the earthquake and were out on the streets when the waves swept in...Some children have not left the school since the disaster - instead, their families have moved in.
The March 11 earthquake that hit eastern Japan was so powerful it pulled the entire country out and down into the sea. The mostly devastated coastal communities now face regular flooding, because of their lower elevation and damage to sea walls from the massive tsunamis triggered by the quake...In port cities such as Onagawa and Kesennuma, the tide flows in and out among crumpled homes and warehouses along now uninhabited streets...A cluster of neighborhoods in Ishinomaki city is rare in that it escaped tsunami damage through fortuitous geography. So, many residents still live in their homes, and they now face a daily trial: The area floods at high tide, and the normally sleepy streets turn frantic as residents rush home before the water rises too high..."I just try to get all my shopping and chores done by 3 p.m.," says Takuya Kondo, 32, who lives with his family in his childhood home.
Most houses sit above the water's reach, but travel by car becomes impossible and the sewage system swamps, rendering toilets unusable.
Scientists say the new conditions are permanent.
Japan's northern half sits on the North American tectonic plate. The Pacific plate, which is mostly undersea, normally slides under this plate, slowly nudging the country west. But in the earthquake, the fault line between the two plates ruptured, and the North American plate slid up and out along the Pacific plate.
The rising edge of plate caused the sea floor off Japan's eastern coast to bulge up — one measuring station run by Tohoku University reported an underwater rise of 16 feet (5 meters) — creating the tsunami that devastated the coast. The portion of the plate under Japan was pulled lower as it slid toward the ocean, which caused a corresponding plunge in elevation under the country.
Some areas in Ishinomaki moved southeast 17 feet (5.3 meters) and sank 4 feet (1.2 meters) lower.
"We thought this slippage would happen gradually, bit by bit. We didn't expect it to happen all at once," says Testuro Imakiire, a researcher at Japan's Geospatial Information Authority, the government body in charge of mapping and surveys. Imakiire says the quake was powerful enough to move the entire country...Japan's heavy summer rains begin in about a month, and the higher tides in autumn will rise even more.
Referring to a prediction by the Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry, Prime Minister Kan said there is an 87 percent chance of a magnitude 8.0 quake hitting the Tokai region within the next 30 years.
Tokai is a coastal subregion in Chubu that is roughly described as including Shizuoka, Aichi, Gifu and Mie prefectures. Chubu Electric Power Co. on Monday decided to shut down the Hamaoka nuclear power station in Shizuoka Prefecture in response to an urgent request from Prime Minister Naoto Kan...The utility, which serves the central Chubu region around Nagoya, will suspend Hamaoka's No. 4 and No. 5 reactors and delay the restart of No. 3. Its other two reactors are offline and due to be decommisioned.
Mizuno said the suspension is likely to last until it can finish building new sea walls to protect the quake-prone facility against the same kind of monster tsunami that crippled the Fukushima No. 1 power plant in Fukushima Prefecture. Government sources said the project is likely to take about two years. According to Mizuno, trade and industry minister Banri Kaieda is convinced Chubu Electric can restart the plant once the sea walls are in place.
The Hamaoka plant, a coastal facility in the city of Omaezaki, provides about 11.7 percent of Chubu Electric's output. Its service area includes the head offices of major manufacturers such as Toyota Motor Corp. and Suzuki Motor Corp.
Two months after the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, the task of clearing up the wreckage has barely begun. Towns along the coast have been left clogged with vast amounts of debris and local authorities are struggling to find places to put it.
Hideyuki Katsumata's company runs the Ishinomaki town's dustbin carts, doing the weekly collections of rubbish. All but three of his 40 lorries were destroyed by the tsunami and they have now been put to work on the clear-up operation. There is, he believes, the equivalent of an entire century's worth of household waste.
A dump has been set up outside Ishinomaki, in a valley in the mountains, overlooking the sea. The debris is slowly being transferred there from the piles in town, and trucks arrive every few minutes. Bulldozers are being used to compact it as much as possible, but it will not last long.
"We thought that was enough for one year," he says. "But we started a month and a half ago and now it is full."
Mr Katsumata says they need help.
"It must be a national effort. They've sent the army and heavy machinery, but we need to recycle and get rid of this stuff now and the government has not come up with a detailed plan yet.
"We just don't know what to do, where do we go from here?" he said.
Japan's 11 March mega-quake shifted the ocean floor sideways by more than 20m (65ft), according one instrument placed on the seabed off the nation's coast...The figure was recorded by the Japan Coast Guard which maintains underwater geodetic equipment along the fault responsible for the giant tremor. "The scale is almost double that estimated only from the terrestrial data," the coast guard's Dr Mariko Sato told BBC News. The instruments were set up 10 years ago, but their precise positions were assessed only last September. A cruise to conduct the post-quake reassessment occurred at the end of March, beginning of April.
The network reveals horizontal movement of 5m to 24m in an east-southeast direction, and a vertical displacement range of minus 0.8m (subsidence) to 3m (uplift). A station known as MYGI, which was closest to the quake's epicentre, recorded the 24m figure...The distance the opposing slabs of rock at the site of the rupture slipped past each other under the seabed would have been even greater - perhaps 50-60m by some estimates.
"Our results show how important offshore data are to know where and to what extent the rupture occurred on the plate boundary."
Dr Sato's research is reported in one of three online submissions to the journal Science this week.
The trio of papers shed further light on the causes and complexity of the devastating event. But they also illustrate the gaps in scientists' knowledge.
"We simply have to do a better job," said Professor Mark Simons, from the California Institute of Technology, whose team has pulled together a vast range of data to try to reconstruct what happened inside the Earth on that day.
The 11 March event occurred close to the Japan Trench, the tectonic plate boundary where the dense rock of the Pacific Ocean floor is being pulled down (subducted) underneath Japan as it moves westwards towards Eurasia.
The Coast Guard put their positional equipment in five locations on the seabed The quake occurred well out to sea - some 130km from the city of Sendai in the Miyagi Prefecture; but at a relatively shallow depth under the seabed - just 32km.
By Jonathan Amos
Science correspondent, BBC News
Full article with a diagram
A regional tsunami warning was made at 2:55 pm local time, nine minutes after the March 11 quake struck.
Tsunami warning failures
Damaging S-waves travel at about 2½ miles (4 km) per second. It took just seconds for a seismometer located on land, closest to the epicenter, to detect (at 2:46:45) enough signals to determine an alert was necessary.
The alert was automatically issued at 2:46:48 via locations such as factories, schools, TV networks, radio stations and mobile phones. Cell phones buzzed seconds later thanks to a technology called the Area Mail Disaster Information Service. Buildings were rattled in 2:47:17 (32 seconds after the mobiles issued the warning). The S-waves would have reached Tokyo, 230 miles (370 km) to the south, in about 90 seconds.For many they can mean the difference between life and death.
Warning System for major Disasters and adverse conditions with Japanese Meteorological Agency issued earthquake warning. Mobile phones get the message and people hide under their desks to protect themselves against falling objects, under doors and next to columns inside buildings, then at the first quiet time flee the buildings for open ground. Mobile warning really helps.
At Fukushima Daiichi, officials have declared a nuclear emergency situation, and at the nearby Fukushima Daini nuclear power plant, officials have declared a heightened alert condition.
In the immediate aftermath of the calamity, at least 1.5 million households were reported to have lost access to water supplies.
Tens of thousands of troops backed by ships and helicopters have been deployed on rescue and relief missions. More than 215,000 people are said to be living in 1,350 temporary shelters in five prefectures.
The erthquake triggers safety system at Fukushima nuclear power station and all reactors automatically stop producing power.
Once a reactor is turned off, radioactivity and heat generation in the rods die away quickly; down to 7% of the original power within a second of switch-off, 5% within a minute, 0.5% within a day. Transferred to the cooling pond, allowing technicians to do routine maintenance on the reactor, the rods are supposed to sit quietly until the time comes for their re-insertion or their journey towards disposal. The tops of the rods are supposed to be about 5m (16ft) below the water surface.
The water keeps them cool, blocks radiation and the situation is basically stabilised
Emergency electricity generators are swithched on to provide supply of electricity for the pumps ensuring the much needed water circulation in the reactors that cools the rods.
On 12 March at 01:17 JST (16:17 GMT), the Japan Atomic Energy Agency announced that it was rating the Fukushima accident at 4 (accident with local consequences) on the 0–7 International Nuclear Event Scale (INES), below the Level 5 Three Mile Island accident in seriousness.
Evacuations around both affected nuclear plants have begun. In the 20-kilometre radius around Fukushima Daiichi an estimated 170 000 people have been evacuated. In the 10-kilometre radius around Fukushima Daini an estimated 30 000 people have been evacuated. Full evacuation measures have not been completed.
On 12 March, the Japanese Prime Minister ordered the evacuation of residents living within 10 kilometres of the Fukushima Daini nuclear power plant and within 20 kilometres of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.
On 12 March, 252 dams were inspected and it was discovered that six embankment dams had shallow cracks on their crests. The reservoir at one concrete gravity dam suffered a small non-serious slope failure. All damaged dams are functioning with no problems. Four dams within the quake area were unreachable. When the roads clear, experts will be dispatched to conduct further investigations.
The government sought to play down fears of a meltdown at the Fukushima 1 plant.
But officials later announced the cooling system of a second reactor at the plant had failed.
The news sparked fears of a the risk of a further explosion or leak of radioactive material.
But officials later announced the cooling system of a second reactor at the plant had failed.
The news sparked fears of a the risk of a further explosion or leak of radioactive material.
A huge rescue and relief operation is under way in the region after the earthquake and subsequent tsunami, which are thought to have killed more than 1,000 people.
Tokyo Electric Power said four of its workers had been injured in Saturday's blast at Fukushima, 250km (155 miles) north of Tokyo, but that their injuries were not life-threatening.
An evacuation zone around the damaged nuclear plant has been extended to 20km (12.4 miles) from 10km, and a state of emergency declared.
An estimated 200,000 people have been evacuated from the area, the International Atomic Energy Agency says.
Japanese authorities have informed the IAEA's Incident and Emergency Centre (IEC) that, starting at 12 March 9:00 am local Japan time, they have started the preparation for the venting of the containment of the Unit 1 reactor at the Fukushima Daiichi plant through a controlled release of vapour. The operation is intended to lower pressure inside the reactor containment.
Evacuation of residents living within ten kilometres of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant is reported to be under way. An area with a radius of three kilometres around the plant had already been evacuated.
The evacuation of residents living within three kilometres of the Fukushima Daini nuclear power plant is also under way.
Japan's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) has reported that about 185 000 residents had been evacuated from the towns listed below as of 13 March 2011, 17:00 (JST).
Early estimates placed insured losses from the earthquake alone at US$14.5 to $34.6 billion.
Molly Hennessy-Fiske (2011-03-13). "Japan earthquake: Insurance cost for quake alone pegged at $35 billion, AIR says". Los Angeles Times. http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fgw-japan-quake-insurance-20110314,0,866931.story. Retrieved 2011-03-13.
(1)Japanese authorities say the reactor 2 containment vessel has remained intact after the blast, as it did at reactor no. 1, which suffered a similar explosion on Saturday. Radiation levels in the area are reported to remain low.
(2)The Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco) is continuing attempts to cool down two reactors at the Fukushima-Daiichi plant 240 kilometres north-east of Tokyo. Seawater mixed with boric acid has been introduced to reactors Nos. 1 and 3 in an attempt to cool the reactors' cores and kill the nuclear fission reaction more quickly.
(3)The site causing greatest concern is reactor No. 3 at Fukushima-Daiichi, whose plutonium-uranium fuel mix poses a greater radiological risk than that of reactor no. 1. Chief cabinet secretary Yukio Edano said at 8 pm local time on Sunday that water levels within the pressure vessel could no longer be confirmed to be increasing and that there was a "high possibility" that a valve used to vent steam was malfunctioning. Earlier in the day, Tepco had warned that an explosion like that at reactor No. 1 was possible.
Based on information provided by Japanese authorities, the IAEA can confirm the following information about the status of Units 1, 2 and 3 at Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.
Unit 1 is being powered by mobile power generators on site, and work continues to restore power to the plant. There is currently no power via off-site power supply or backup diesel generators being provided to the plant. Seawater and boron are being injected into the reactor vessel to cool the reactor. Due to the explosion on 12 March, the outer shell of the containment building has been lost.
Unit 2 is being powered by mobile power generators on site, and work continues to restore power to the plant. There is currently neither off-site power supply nor backup diesel generators providing power to the plant. The reactor core is being cooled through reactor core isolation cooling, a procedure used to remove heat from the core. The current reactor water level is lower than normal but remains steady. The outer shell of the containment building is intact at Unit 2.
Unit 3 does not have off-site power supply nor backup diesel generators providing power to the plant. As the high pressure injection system and other attempts to cool the reactor core have failed, injection of water and boron into the reactor vessel has commenced. Water levels inside the reactor vessel increased steadily for a certain amount of time but readings indicating the water level inside the pressure vessel are no longer showing an increase. The reason behind this is unknown at this point in time. To relieve pressure, venting of the containment started on 13 March at 9:20 am local Japan time. Planning is underway to reduce the concentration of hydrogen inside the containment building. The containment building is intact at Unit 3.
The IAEA is seeking information about the status of spent fuel at the Daiichi plant.
Japanese authorities have reported to the IAEA that Fukushima Daiichi Unit 2 has experienced decreasing coolant levels in the reactor core. Officials have begun to inject sea water into the reactor to maintain cooling of the reactor core.
Sea water injections into Units 1 and 3 were interrupted yesterday due to a low level in a sea water supply reservoir, but sea water injections have now been restored at both Units
Japan has distributed 230 000 units of stable iodine to evacuation centres from the area around Fukushima Daiichi and Fukushima Daini nuclear power plants, according to officials. The iodine has not yet been administered to residents; the distribution is a precautionary measure in the event that this is determined to be necessary.
The ingestion of stable iodine can help to prevent the accumulation of radioactive iodine in the thyroid.
On 14 March, Kyodo News Agency reported that some 2,000 bodies were found on two shores in Miyagi Prefecture
On 15 March, at 11:51 JST Japan suspended operations at the stricken Fukushima I nuclear plant after a surge in radiation made it too dangerous for workers to remain at the facility. However, workers returned about an hour later after radiation levels decreased. As of 16 March 2011 (2011 -03-16)[update], five plant workers have died and 22 others have been injured. Two others are reported missing. The government raised the national safety standard governing radiation exposure from 100 to 250 mSv per year, so plant workers could continue their work. (Nuclear Crisis: Rising Radiation Levels Halt Work at Fukushima Plant". ABC News. 2011-03-16. http://abcnews.go.com/International/japan-nuclear-crisis-rising-radiation-levels-halt-fukushima/story?id=13146516.)
The television appearance by the emperor emphasised the severity of the crisis gripping Japan in the wake of the devastating quake and tsunami that hit on Friday, killing thousands and crippling a nuclear power plant.
Akihito said he was "deeply concerned" about the "unpredictable" situation at the stricken Fukushima No.1 nuclear power plant, which has been hit by a series of explosions after the quake knocked out reactor cooling systems.
Governors of Japan's prefectures unhappy with faults in rescue operations, lead by Fukushima governor Sato.
Engineers at Japan's stricken Fukushima nuclear power plant have managed to lay a cable to reactor 2, the UN's nuclear watchdog reports.
Restoring power should enable engineers to restart the pumps which send coolant over the reactor.
The Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco), which runs the plant, has been attempting to connect it to the main grid via a 1-km (0.6-mile) electricity cable.
Once power is restored, engineers should be able to re-activate the pumps which send coolant through the reactors and the pools where spent fuel rods are stored.
On 18 March, Yukiya Amano—the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency—described the crisis as "extremely serious."
On 18 March, Japan's nuclear safety agency raised the severity level to 5.
By 21 March 2011, this number fell to 1.04 million
The Japanese National Police Agency has officially confirmed 11,828 deaths 2,876 injured, and 15,540 people missing across eighteen prefectures, as well as over 125,000 buildings damaged or destroyed. The earthquake and tsunami caused extensive and severe structural damage in Japan, including heavy damage to roads and railways as well as fires in many areas, and a dam collapse. Around 4.4 million households in northeastern Japan were left without electricity and 1.5 million without water. Many electrical generators were taken down, and at least three nuclear reactors suffered explosions due to hydrogen gas that had built up within their outer containment buildings after cooling system failureDamage Situation and Police Countermeasures associated with 2011 Tohoku district – off the Pacific Ocean Earthquake". Japanese National Police Agency. 23 March 2011, 09:00 JST.
Japanese funerals are normally elaborate Buddhist ceremonies, and 99.9% of bodies are cremated; burials are often banned by law. The thousands of bodies, however, exceed the capacity of available crematoriums and morgues, many of them damaged, and there are shortages of both kerosene—each cremation requires 50 liters—and dry ice for preservation. The single crematorium in Higashimatsushima, for example, can only handle four bodies a day, although hundreds have been found there and hundreds of people are still missing. Governments and the military have thus been forced to bury many bodies in hastily dug mass graves with rudimentary or no rites, although relatives of the deceased have been promised that cremation will occur later
(Nishikawa, Yoko (2011-03-23). "Quake-ravaged Japan digs mass graves". Reuters. http://af.reuters.com/article/worldNews/idAFTRE72M1JF20110323?sp=true. Retrieved March 27, 2011.)
In response, the much-criticised operator of the plant, Tepco, has said it will review all data on radiation leaked from the plant, citing errors in a computer program. Workers are continuing to try to stabilise four reactors by using water to cool fuel rods. They also face the problem of how to deal with highly radioactive run-off water that has accumulated in a tunnel.
Tepco is also under fire after it emerged there was a shortage of radiation monitors for workers.
Many of the monitors were destroyed in the tsunami, so Tepco had assigned one per group of workers rather than per individual, Japan's nuclear safety agency said."The agency warned Tepco yesterday (Thursday) to do the utmost to manage workers' exposure levels," said spokesman Hidehiko Nishiyama.
A Japanese law laying out measures to be taken by the government in case of a nuclear energy disaster dictates that when a nuclear accident happens, an atomic power disaster response headquarters headed by the prime minister is to be established.
This ad hoc headquarters is expected to take charge of setting out the government's response and facilitating necessary inter-agency co-ordination within the government.
As the head of the disaster response headquarters, the prime minister has the authority to direct relevant government agencies as well as private companies that are involved in responding to the disaster.
He has two entities from which to draw expert opinions to assist him in decision-making: the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (Nisa, an agency within the Ministry of Economy, Industry and Trade (Meti)) and the Nuclear Safety Commission, an advisory panel made up of non-government experts.
So, legally speaking, the prime minister of Japan is in charge.
The idea of separating Nisa from Meti and making it an independent agency has already been floated as one of the lessons learned from the situation. This is because the Kan government feels that Meti has been in too cosy a relationship with Tepco - to the extent that it has not exercised proper supervisory authority over the power giant and its response to the plant situation.
Certainly, Tepco deserves the criticism that it has been receiving. For one thing, Tepco does not have a good record of managing nuclear accidents. Its responses to previous incidents have been severely criticised as "tardy" and "not forthcoming with timely information". In 2002 it was also revealed that Tepco had been forging safety inspection records of some of its nuclear power plants. This time, Tepco has been severely criticised as it may have underestimated the gravity of the situation in the first several days. In addition, it has been castigated by the government for not only not being forthcoming with critical radiation information, but also providing incorrect radiation readings from the plant.
As a power company with a monopoly in providing electricity to Tokyo and eight prefectures in eastern Japan, no one can deny that Tepco has been plagued with a "We are too big to fail" mentality, making it less proactive about emergency planning.
The decades-long tradition of close co-operation between big businesses and the government agencies that have regulatory and supervisory authority over them has certainly contributed to lapses in oversight.
It also, in part, has made the government dependent on these businesses for technical expertise.
How about the Prime Minister?
That said, Mr Kan's performance in responding to the accident at the plant is also illustrative of the fundamental problem in the governance style of his Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ).
Even before this crisis hit, the DPJ's insistence on "leadership by politicians" - compared to the consensus, bottom-up style adopted by the LDP - had created problems.
The DPJ's deep mistrust in the bureaucracy has driven them to go outside existing government frameworks to look for solutions rather than attempting to effectively utilise the bureaucracy.
By alienating the bureaucracy in the decision-making process, the relationship between DPJ political leaders and the bureaucrats has been greatly soured. Its approach also prevented the DPJ from learning how to maximise bureaucrats' policy and technical expertise.
This is critically disadvantageous, as the prime minister's chosen advisers - despite being experts in their field - will not have the same level of on-the-ground information.
Without better utilising the expertise that already exists in the bureaucracy, we will continue to see Mr Kan and his government fall behind the curve in its response.
The Japanese government has officially named the disaster resulting from the earthquake and tsunami the "Great Eastern Japan Earthquake" on 1/04/2011
A three-day air and sea operation started- a massive search to find the remains of those missing since the devastating tsunami hit. It will focus on shores that were largely submerged or remain under water, as well as the mouths of major rivers.More than 100 Japanese and US military planes and 65 ships, employing some 24,000 military personnel, are scouring the country's north-eastern coast to locate any remaining bodies.
More than 11,500 people are confirmed dead but nearly 16,500 remain unaccounted for.
Many coastal areas remain inaccessible to rescuers trying enter by road or foot, blocked by the mangled remains of houses, ships, cars and trains.
Because of radiation concerns, the search does not include the 20km (12-mile) evacuation zone around the Fukushima Daiichi plant, where there are believed to be 1,000 bodies.
The evacuation of residents near Japan's quake-hit Fukushima nuclear plant will be long-term as declared today by Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano . The announcement by the government came as high levels of radiation were detected for the first time in groundwater near one of the facility's six reactors.
In a televised address, Prime Minister Naoto Kan said he was "prepared for a long-term battle" at the plant - one he said that would be won.
"At the current stage, we cannot say that the plant has been sufficiently stabilised. But we are preparing for all kinds of situations and I am convinced that the plant can be stabilised.
"We cannot say at this stage say by when this will happen, but we are trying our best," he said.
The authorities are resisting calls from the UN's atomic agency to expand the exclusion zone around the plant, after it found safe radiation limits had been exceeded at the village of Iitate, 40km away.
11 500 tons of radioactive water is to be released in the ocean. It is accumulated in the nuclear plant's pool after being used for cooling the reactors. Only after this will it be possible to fill in the crack in the earth through which radioactive water was leaking freely in the ocean.
Image of crack-A worker wearing a protective suit points at a cracked concrete pit near its No. 2 reactor of the Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO)'s Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in Fukushima prefecture, April 2, 2011:
In an effort to make room in a storage facility for that water, the plant has been pumping 3 million gallons of less-contaminated water into the sea. That measure angered local fishermen and a national association of fisheries groups, which handed a letter of protest to TEPCO's chairman on Wednesday. "We have repeatedly asked the government and TEPCO to stop further radiation leaks into the ocean. But the government and TEPCO ignored us and dumped radioactive water into the sea, which is utterly outrageous," said the letter from Japan's largest fishermen's labor group. "What they have done is unforgivable. It could really destroy our business."
Trade and Industry Minster Banri Kaieda apologized for the measure and said he wanted to avoid such releases in the future. The government was forced to set limits for the first time on the amount of radiation permitted in fish. While photos of water pouring from the pit over the weekend intensified fears of ocean contamination, authorities had insisted the radioactive water would dissipate and posed no immediate threat to sea creatures or people who might eat them. Most experts agreed.
Still, Japanese officials adopted the new standards as a precaution. And the mere suggestion that seafood from the country that gave the world sushi could be at any risk stirred worries throughout the fishing industry.
"Even if the government says the fish is safe, people won't want to buy seafood from Fukushima," said Ichiro Yamagata, a fisherman who fled his home in the shadow of the power plant and now lives in an evacuation center near Tokyo. "We probably can't fish there for several years."
Fukushima is not a major fishing region, and no fishing is allowed in the immediate vicinity of the plant. But experts estimate the coastal areas hit by the massive wave last month account for about a fifth of Japan's annual catch.
( http://www.preceden.com/timelines/12614-japan-s-2011-major-disasters-and-rescue-operations--part-2--day-by-day--/layers/27032/events/92824/edit?zoom=d )
Tokyo Electric Power Co. , starting from 05/04/2010, starts injecting nitrogen gas into the reactors. Nitrogen can prevent highly combustible hydrogen from exploding — as it did three times at the compound in the early days of the crisis.
There is no immediate possibility of an explosion, but the "nitrogen injection is being considered as a cautionary measure," said spokesman Hidehiko Nishiyama of Japan's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency.
TEPCO said the process could begin as early as Wednesday evening in Unit 1 — where pressure and temperatures are the highest — according to spokesman Junichi Matsumoto. The same measures will eventually be taken at the other two troubled reactors.
Workers at Japan's tsunami-damaged nuclear power plant on Wednesday finally halted a leak that was sending a tide of radioactive water into the Pacific and exacerbating concerns over the safety of seafood.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano. "We are checking whether the leak has completely stopped, or whether there may be other leaks."
Workers had used concrete, a polymer, sawdust and shredded newspaper in several days of failed efforts to seal the crack. On Wednesday morning, an injection of 400 gallons (1,500 liters) of "water glass," or sodium silicate, and another agent appeared to be successful, TEPCO spokesman Naoki Tsunoda said.
The response to the suffering of those affected by 11 March from companies and individuals has been quick and generous. JapanConsuming compiled a list of retailers and brands in the consumer sector who have made donations or organised other responses to help out. Here is the link but please note the list is not comprehensive and the entries for each company may have changed since being compiled.
The response to the suffering of those affected by 11 March from companies and individuals has been quick and generous. JapanConsuming compiled a list of retailers and brands in the consumer sector who have made donations or organised other responses to help out. Here is the link but please note the list is not comprehensive and the entries for each company may have changed since being compiled.
The response to the suffering of those affected by 11 March from companies and individuals has been quick and generous. JapanConsuming compiled a list of retailers and brands in the consumer sector who have made donations or organised other responses to help out. Here is the link but please note the list is not comprehensive and the entries for each company may have changed since being compiled.
Japanese authorities have raised the severity rating of their nuclear crisis to the highest level, seven.
The decision reflects the total release of radiation at the damaged Fukushima Daiichi power plant, which is ongoing, rather than a sudden deterioration.
That would classify the crisis at level seven on the International Nuclear and Radiological Event Scale (Ines).
The level seven signifies a "major accident" with "wider consequences" than the previous level, officials say.
Level seven previously only applied to the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, where 10 times as much radiation was emitted.
"We have upgraded the severity level to seven as the impact of radiation leaks has been widespread from the air, vegetables, tap water and the ocean," said Minoru Oogoda of Japan's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (Nisa), the government's nuclear watchdog.
Reporting the commission's decision, the IAEA said previous level five ratings had been provided separately for accidents at Reactors 1, 2 and 3 but had now been combined as a single event. Another affected unit, Reactor 4, has retained its level three rating, it said.
One official from Tepco said that radiation leaks had not stopped completely and could eventually exceed those at Chernobyl, Reuters news agency reported.
However, a nuclear safety agency spokesman told reporters the leaks were still small compared to those at the plant in Ukraine, then part of the Soviet Union.
"In terms of volume of radioactive materials released, our estimate shows it is about 10% of what was released by Chernobyl," he said.
The decision to raise the threat level was made after radiation of a total up to 630,000 terabequerels had been estimated at the stricken plant.
It was not clear when that level had been reached. The level has subsequently dropped to less than one terabequerel an hour, reports said.
In comparison the Japanese government said the release from Chernobyl was 5.2 million terabecquerels.
These measurements do not necessarily have any bearing on the likely medical impact on humans, which is measured in sieverts.
How does Fukushima differ from Chernobyl?-source is Japan's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency
Fukushima and Chernobil compared
Japanese authorities have informed the IAEA's Incident and Emergency Centre (IEC) that venting of the containment of reactor Unit 3 of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant started at 9:20 am local Japan time of 13 March through a controlled release of vapour. The operation is intended to lower pressure inside the reactor containment.
Subsequently, following the failure of the high pressure injection system and other attempts of cooling the plant, injection of water first and sea water afterwards started. The authorities have informed the IAEA that accumulation of hydrogen is possible.
TEPCO engineers say they have moved a step closer to emptying highly radioactive water from one of the six crippled reactors. That would allow them to start repairing the cooling system crucial to regaining control of the reactors.
Japanese experts have suggested blood transfusions for workers dealing with the ailing Fukushima Nuclear Facility in case they are accidently exposed to high and health-damaging doses of radiation during the clean-up operation. The group of experts who represent the Toranomon Hospital, the Cancer Institute and the Japanese Foundation for Cancer Research, have published a report in a medical journal suggesting will receive treatment by undergoing stem cell transplantation using their own cells.
The Japanese call for collection of the peripheral blood stem cells of the workers is to prepare them for future transplants, should the need arise.
The technique can more rapidly restore normal haemopoietic functionality in the body, the safety of the collection method is proven, and the cells are easy to freeze and store.
The authors say that 107 transplant teams are standing by in Japan to collect and store haemopoietic stem cells from the workers who are striving to restrain the radiation.
More than 50 hospitals in Europe have also agreed to help the workers if required.
But the Nuclear Safety Commission of Japan is resisting the plan, due to the physical and psychological burden for nuclear workers, and there being no consensus among international authoritative bodies, and no sufficient agreement among the Japanese public.
"Medics concerned about the plant's workers": http://uk.news.yahoo.com/4/20110415/twl-fukushima-workers-may-need-blood-tra-41f21e0.html
1.Japan's government had ordered Tepco to come up with a timetable to end the crisis, now rated on a par with the world's worst nuclear accident, the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.
In return, the operator of Japan's crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, Tokyo Electric Power Co (Tepco) has said it expects to bring the crisis under control by the end of the year. Steps intended are:
-to reduce radiation leaks in three months
-to cool the reactors within nine months and bring the reactors to 'cold shutdown'.
-after cold shutdown Tepco would focus on encasing the reactor buildings, cleaning up contaminated soil and removing nuclear fuel
-Tsunehisa Katsumata, the chairman of Tepco, Asia's largest utility, told a news conference in Tokyo on Sunday, said the plan would allow the tens of thousands of families evacuated from the area around the facility to return home as soon as possible
However, at the same time it was reported that radiation levels in the sea near reactor 2 rose to 6,500 times the legal limit on Friday, up from 1,100 times a day earlier, Tepco has said, raising fears of fresh radiation leaks.
But the BBC's Roland Buerk in Tokyo says it is still not certain that the nine-month deadline can be achieved. He says the immediate priority for Tepco is to stop radioactive water leaking into the Pacific Ocean.
The utility said it was sending remote-controlled robots into one of the reactors on Sunday to gauge radiation and temperature levels.
UK defence contractor QinetiQ said it had provided the machines, which are controlled using a standard games console.
The robots can carry out tasks such as rubble clearance, demolition and radiation testing.
2.Our correspondent says Japan's recovery bill has been estimated at $300bn (£184bn) - already the most expensive disaster in history.
But the government said last week that figure might be an underestimate.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano informs:
1.Both residents and authorities are considering how to best weather a protracted evacuation"We are considering setting up 'caution areas' as an option for effectively limiting entry" to the zone
2.Prime Minister Naoto Kan will meet with local officials and evacuees to discuss the proposed measure during a visit to the affected region on 21st April 2011. This includes a visit to a nuclear crisis management centre.
3."Aside from the question of whether the accident could have been predicted, there was not sufficient preparation based on an anticipation, and there is no mistake about that," he said. "We urge all nuclear operators to immediately take any possible precaution based on the lesson from the Fukushima nuclear accident, and not wait until details of the accident are examined," says Chief Cabinet Secretary Edano
What TEPCO does:
1.Removal of the first 10,000 metric tons (2.6 million gallons) of 25,000 metric tons (about 6.6 million gallons) of contaminated water that has collected just in the basement of the turbine building at Unit 2 of the plant began Tuesday and is expected to take at least 20 days, nuclear safety officials say. Fully ridding the plant of 70,000 tons (about 18.5 million gallons) of contaminated water in its turbine buildings and nearby trenches could take months.
2.In the meantime, TEPCO is continuing to spray water into the reactors and their spent fuel storage pools to help prevent them from overheating and releasing still more radiation.
3.TEPCO plans to use technology developed by French nuclear engineering giant Areva to reduce radioactivity and remove salt from the contaminated water inside the plant so that it can be reused to cool the reactors, said Hidehiko Nishiyama of Japan's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency.
4.TEPCO said Wednesday it has begun distributing applications for compensation to residents forced to evacuate from their homes around the plant. The company is offering about $12,000 per household as interim compensation.
People elsewhere in the disaster zone who lost homes and suffered from other damage say help has been slow to materialize.
TOKYO – Authorities may for the first time ban access to the evacuation zone around Japan's crippled nuclear plant, citing concerns Wednesday over radiation risks for residents who may be returning to check on their homes.
About 70,000-80,000 people were living in the 10 towns and villages within 12 miles (20 kilometers) of the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant, which has been leaking radiation after a March 11 earthquake and tsunami wrecked its power and cooling systems.
Virtually all left after being advised to do so, but some occasionally have returned, defying warnings from police who have set up roadblocks on only a few major roads in the area.
"We are considering setting up 'caution areas' as an option for effectively limiting entry" to the zone, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said.
Prime Minister Naoto Kan will meet with local officials and evacuees to discuss the proposed measure during a visit to the affected region Thursday, Edano said.
Now that the situation at the plant appears to have stabilized somewhat, both residents and authorities are considering how to best weather a protracted evacuation. Residents have been demanding they be allowed to check their homes and collect belongings, while government officials are worried about radiation exposure.
Only a few warning signs, mainly about road conditions, have been erected in the area so far. Currently, there is no penalty for entering the area and police just not down the license plate numbers of those coming in. Officials say if there were a major accident, tracking down those inside would be nearly impossible.
"There are also issues surrounding non-residents who are entering the area. There are people who may steal things," said Noriyuki Shikata, one of Edano's deputies.
Shikata did not provide details of how the government might restrict entry to the area or when the restrictions would be put in place.
"There is a realization of a need to have a stronger enforcement of the area," said Shikata. "Both the issue of ... strong enforcement of the area and a realization of temporarily going back home is something we have to closely coordinate with local municipalities."
On Thursday Prime Minister Naoto Kan visited evacuees in Fukushima prefecture. As he left, he was reportedly heckled by some.
"Are you leaving already?" one man reportedly asked, with another evacuee calling on Mr Kan to "exercise much more leadership".
Mr Kan apologised, adding: "The government as a whole is doing our best to implement the timetable without delay, or speed it up."
Japan has made it illegal to enter a 20km (12-mile) evacuation zone around the stricken Fukushima nuclear reactor...It is not clear how many people are still living in the evacuation zone, but reports said police had counted at least 60 families.
"Today... we have decided to designate the area an emergency area based on disaster law."
He said brief visits would be arranged, with one member of each family allowed back into each house for a two-hour period to pick up belongings, which would then be screened for contamination.
Those who entered illegally could face fines of up to JPY100,000 ($1,200, £730) or possible detention of up to 30 days, said chief government spokesman Yukio Edano.
Japan bans entry
The Japanese government has announced a 4 trillion yen ($48.9bn; £29.6bn) emergency budget for disaster relief, after March's earthquake and tsunami.
The budget still needs approval from parliament later this month, and could be implemented in May.
Authorities say no new bonds were issued to fund the spending, to prevent adding to Japan's huge public debt.
The government estimates it will cost as much as 25tn yen to rebuild the country.
The emergency budget is aimed at disaster relief, including providing temporary housing, restoration of infrastructure and disaster-related loans.
Prime Minister Naoto Kan has said this could be the first of several extra budgets needed to fund reconstruction.
The budget will be financed by taking 2.5tn yen from pension funds, as well as money set aside to increase payments to families with children. Money from emergency reserves is also being used. But the government has promised that it will not sell more bonds, or borrow more money from the markets, to fund this spending. Japan already has a debt burden double the size of the economy. However, some analysts warn that the government will have to increase debt issuances in the future to finance reconstruction.
The BBC's Roland Buerk in Tokyo said that although future emergency budgets were likely to require more borrowing, this one would be paid for by spending cuts. "Plans to increase allowances for families with children are being scrapped and highway tolls will be increased," he said. "Much of the money will come from dipping into pension reserves, [which is] controversial in a country with a rapidly ageing population. "Tax rises are also being discussed." He added that the budget was likely to get through parliament, despite concerns about some of the measures, as the opposition does not want to be seen as preventing money from getting to those who need it.
Nearly 25,000 Self-Defense Forces members backed by boats, helicopters and airplanes began a massive search Monday for bodies of the nearly 12,000 people missing and presumed killed in last month's catastrophic earthquake and tsunami.
The operation is the third intensive military search for bodies since the March 11 disaster. With waters receding, officials hope the team, which also includes police, coast guard and U.S. troops, will make significant progress during the two-day operation.
"It's been more than a month since the massive earthquake and tsunami, but we still have lots of people still missing," Defense Ministry spokesman Norikazu Muratani said. "We want to recover them and return them to their families."
A total of 24,800 soldiers - backed by 90 helicopters and planes - were sent to comb through the rubble for buried remains, while 50 boats and 100 divers scoured the waters up to 20 km off the coast to find those swept out to sea.
Two undersea robots provided by the nonprofit International Rescue Systems Institute conducted five-day searches in off the coasts of three tsunami-hit towns last week.
The robots found cars, homes and other wreckage, but no bodies, said Mika Murata, an official with the institute.
The mayor of Minamisoma, Fukushima Prefecture, expressed his desire Monday to create an international forum in the city for firms and people from all over the world to contribute their expertise on how to tackle nuclear crises as well as alternative energy development.
"I want my city to become the (global) center of industries that will transcend nuclear power generation," said Mayor Katsunobu Sakurai.
Sakurai came to prominence after posting a direct appeal for aid on the YouTube video-sharing website, in which he described the plight of residents of the city hit by the March 11 quake, tsunami and subsequent nuclear plant crisis. The video was widely viewed around the world and Sakurai was listed by Time magazine as one of its 100 most influential people of the year.
Noting the difficulty of reconstructing the city, where many local companies are thinking about moving out, Sakurai said, "We are in need of a new mindset that is totally different from the one that merely envisions creating a new city on higher ground."
The coastal city is also dealing with radiation leaks as its southern part falls within a 20-km radius of the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant, an area designated as a no-entry zone by the government last week.
While expressing his hope to attract corporations, capital and expertise necessary to clean up areas contaminated with radiation and to develop alternative sources of energy, Sakurai said the country needs to abandon its old mindset, in which the public has been either pronuclear or antinuclear.
The mayor said Japan cannot accomplish all those tasks on its own, calling on "brave people of the world" to contribute their wisdom.
"From now on, I'd like to put forward ideas instead of just sending out an SOS," said Sakurai.
A senior nuclear adviser to Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan submitted his resignation on Friday, saying the government had ignored his advice and failed to follow the law.
Toshiso Kosako, a Tokyo University professor who was named last month as an advisor to Kan, said the government had only taken ad hoc measures to contain the crisis at the crippled Fukushima nuclear power plant.
In a tearful press conference, he said the government and its commissions had taken "flexible approaches" to existing laws and regulations, and ignored his advice after he was named an advisor on March 16.
"I cannot help but to think (the prime minister's office and other agencies) are only taking stopgap measures... and delaying the end" of the nuclear crisis, he told reporters.
Tokyo officials had drafted measures to deal with the accident that were not in strict accordance with the law, and the decision-making process had been unclear, he said.
"There is no point for me to be here," as the Kan administration had failed to listen to him, said Kosako, an expert on radiation safety.
It was not clear whether the government would accept the resignation, but his letter and comments served as a fresh blow to the embattled Kan, who has been badly criticised for his handling of the nuclear crisis.
The first extra budget for fiscal 2011, which is aimed at rebuilding areas devastated by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, cleared the Lower House on Saturday, paving the way for its enactment this week. The 4.02 trillion yen first supplementary budget is expected to be enacted Monday with the backing of both the ruling coalition and opposition parties, as a House of Representatives preliminary session endorsed it following its passage in the chamber's Budget Committee on Saturday morning.
Concerns over consumption of milk and meat contaminated with radioactivity have prompted the farm ministry to plan a zone where cattle and dairy cows will be prohibited from grazing and feeding on the grass, sources said. Radioactive materials at levels far higher than safety standards for grazing have been detected in checks of grass in some parts of Fukushima and Chiba prefectures.
On Monday, the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism announced that it should be able to secure land lots to build around 52,000 temporary housing units for those who lost their homes in the most heavily hit prefectures of Miyagi, Iwate and Fukushima.
This is still short of the need. The government still has to find lots for around 20,000 more units.
Local government officials, who are tasked with the job of finding those lots and building homes, say the central government’s announced figures do not take into account the wishes of disaster victims who do not want to leave the towns and villages they have lived for a long time.
Securing enough land for temporary housing for victims of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami has emerged as a challenge for government officials as they work out reconstruction plans for northeastern Japan. At the central government, officials have also started considering borrowing privately owned land as they believe all available public land has been exhausted. Temporary housing units are in high demand by evacuees. On April 26, a draw was held in Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture, to select tenants for 137 temporary housing units. Against this quota, around 6,700 households have submitted applications.
Land minister Akihiro Ohata ordered ministry officials to speed up the construction process in a meeting earlier this month. ‘‘We have told (the Diet) that 30,000 units will be completed for delivery by the end of May,’’ he said. ‘‘We will be in a difficult position if they cannot be completed.’’
A key government panel on reconstruction of the disaster-hit Japan’s northeastern region visited Miyagi Prefecture, one of the severely damaged areas by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, on Wednesday for talks with the local leaders, including Gov Yoshihiro Murai.
It was the second tour by the Reconstruction Design Council, headed by Makoto Iokibe, president of the National Defense Academy of Japan, to the devastated region, after it visited nuclear crisis-hit Fukushima Prefecture Monday.
The panel members are scheduled to visit Iwate Prefecture, north of Miyagi, on Saturday so they can draft their first set of proposals for the reconstruction by the end of June by hearing what the localities need, as requested by Prime Minister Naoto Kan.
Workers at Japan's Fukushima nuclear plant have entered one of its reactor buildings for the first time since it was hit by a powerful earthquake on 11 March, officials say.
They have installed a ventilation system in the No 1 reactor to filter out radioactive material from the air.
The quake disabled reactor cooling systems, causing fuel rods to overheat.
Radiation levels inside reactor buildings must be lowered before new cooling systems can be installed.
The Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco) said a total of 12 engineers worked inside the reactor building in small teams in shifts of 10 minutes for about an hour.
The ventilator system and filters are reported to be running.
Tepco said it would then take about three days to vent the contaminated air, filter it, and return purified air to the building - allowing workers to remain inside the reactor for longer periods.
The company faces similar problems at three other reactors at the six-reactor plant. Tepco is also dealing with highly radioactive waste-water leaking from the No 2 reactor which it is moving to secure storage on site.
Tepco has said it expects to bring the crisis under control and achieve a cold shutdown of the plant by the end of the year, but some doubt whether this target can be achieved.
Last week, the government announced a plan to create a body to help Tepco compensate the victims of the nuclear accident.
So the future of Tepco remains unclear, but some options seem more likely than others.
Option 1: Bankruptcy
Tepco provides power to 44.5 million people in an area that accounts for about a third of Japan's gross domestic product (GDP).
A formal bankruptcy would put all that at risk, as Tepco would struggle to procure fuels and services that allow it to supply power to the region.
Option 2: Nationalisation
Not ruled out
According to the framework, the new body could inject funds through acquiring preferred shares. Given the scale of capital likely to be needed, this could mean the company would effectively be nationalised.
The government is already closely monitoring management and could have more direct say once national funds are injected.In the long term we could potentially see the toxic assets that are Fukushima and its associated liabilities simply picked up by the government.
Option 3: Zombie company
Between decommissioning costs and compensation related to the disaster, Tepco will likely face trillions of yen in fresh liabilities. The new body will probably have the ability to support not just compensation liabilities but Tepco's other ongoing cash needs.
While this would allow the company to stay afloat, the prospect of profits could be years away as the company struggles to pay the body back out of its future profits.
Option 4: Fight back
One little-discussed option is for the company its shareholders and or bondholders to fight back.
The Nuclear Act technically absolves a nuclear operator for liabilities arising from an extraordinarily large natural disaster.
Earlier in Asia, Japan's Nikkei 225 index rose 1 percent to close at 9,662.08, on indications that factory production is recovering following the slump in the wake of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.
Bank of America Merrill Lynch said a survey of fund managers for May showed investors growing more confident in Japan's ability to rebound from the disasters. In April's survey, respondents were divided evenly between those expecting the country's economy to weaken in the next year and those expecting it to strengthen. This month, a net 59 percent expected it to strengthen.
Sensational new evidence-how the tsunami hits the reactors of Fukushima nuclear plant
Prime Minister Naoto Kan conceded that the government failed to see flaws in TEPCO's earlier assumptions and has called for a regulatory overhaul.
"What I told the public was fundamentally wrong," Kan told a parliament session Friday. "We failed to respond to TEPCO's mistaken assumptions. I am deeply sorry," he said.
TEPCO said it had revised earlier information only after it could send workers close enough to the reactors to read gauges but critics argue that independent experts reached similar conclusions much earlier.
"The way TEPCO releases information utterly lacks any sense of crisis," the Nikkei business daily said in a recent front-page analysis.
"They do not mention bad news until it is confirmed. Such an attitude has led to mistrust," the Nikkei said.
The biggest utility in Asia, TEPCO is a regional monopoly supplying power to Tokyo and its surrounding Kanto region in central Japan.
With a track record of safety cover-ups, TEPCO has been criticised for inadequately preparing for disaster, helped by soft regulation by a government organisation also tasked with promoting nuclear power.
The liberal Asahi Shimbun said in an editorial that TEPCO and official regulators avoided direct reference to the term "meltdown" to "lead the public into underestimating what was really happening."
Public anger and confusion have intensified.
A team of specialists from the UN atomic watchdog arrived in Japan on Monday to join other international experts investigating Japan's nuclear crisis. A six-strong delegation from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) flew to Tokyo's Narita airport from Vienna in preparation for a fact-finding mission from May 24 to June 2. In all, a 20-member mission will compile a report on the emergency to be presented to IAEA member states next month at a ministerial-level conference in Vienna. (Reuters)
UN atomic watchdog experts arrive in Japan
Tanks for storing radioactive water were on their way Saturday. The new tanks will provide secure place to store the contaminated water being used to cool the reactors. Tokyo Electric Power Co., the utility that operates the plant, has said radioactive water could start overflowing from temporary storage areas on June 20, or possibly sooner if there is heavy rainfall. Two of the 370 tanks were due to arrive Saturday from a manufacturer in nearby Tochigi prefecture (state), TEPCO said. Two hundred of them can store 100 tons, and 170 can store 120 tons. The tanks will continue arriving through August, and will store a total of 40,000 tons of radioactive water. The tanks will continue arriving through August, and will store a total of 40,000 tons of radioactive water.
Trade Minister Banri Kaieda said Japan's 54 reactors would undergo "stress tests" to determine how well they can withstand major disasters.
Only 19 reactors are still operating, causing a drawn-out energy crisis.
Obama orders review of all US nuclear power stations.
Ugo Chaves orders freeze of Venezuela's nuclear plants programme
Germany has temporarily shut down seven of its nuclear reactors while it reconsiders its nuclear strategy.
Chancellor Angela Merkel said that all reactors operational before 1980 would be taken offline, and safety checks carried out on the remaining plants.
All safety questions would be answered by 15 June, she said.
Last year, Germany decided to extend the life of its 17 nuclear power plants by 12 years, but that decision was suspended for three months on Monday.
China freezes new power plant construction.
Austria wants review of all nuclear power plants in Europe
Iran's president said that Iran's nuclear power plants are safer than Japan's. "The technology used in the Fukushima plant is 50 years old, while Iran's technology is brand new", declared he at a press conference in Tehran. "As far as I am aware, the reason for the incident was not the earthquake but the tsunami. We do not have tsunami in the Persian gulf, so there is nothing to worry about." (http://news.ibox.bg/news/id_1488739247)
Fears of radiation contamination of the ocean prompted India to announce Tuesday that it was halting food imports from Japan. Few countries have gone so far, but India's three-month ban reflected the unease created by the nuclear crisis among consumers. Neighboring countries, like Russia and South Korea, have also complained about the dump of radioactive contaminated water into the ocean..
The U.N. nuclear watchdog said the Fukushima accident in Japan did not signal the end of atomic power, but vowed to conduct an extensive evaluation of safety measures.
“That’s what we want to do quickly at the IAEA,” Yukiya Amano, general director of the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency, said in an interview with Le Figaro newspaper.
“It is … absolutely necessary to proceed with an analysis and a detailed evaluation of security measures and existing security norms.”
Studies of the effects on health have been “numerous but uncoordinated and not comprehensive,” the International Agency for Research on Cancer said in a statement in Lyon, France, calling for a long-term international research plan.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, speaking at the site of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in Ukraine, called on Tuesday for new world rules to be drawn up on safety at nuclear plants.
Medvedev, standing alongside Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich at a ceremony marking the 25th anniversary of the world’s worst nuclear accident, said the disaster had taught states that they must tell the whole truth to their people...“The duty of a state is to tell the truth to its people. It must be acknowledged that the (Soviet) state did not always behave correctly,” Medvedev said.
Medvedev, echoing words by U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, said events in Japan and Chernobyl made it vital to draw up new standards for the peaceful use of nuclear energy.
“Today, I sent proposals to (world) leaders … aimed at guaranteeing the necessary development of nuclear energy in the world while at the same time preventing catastrophic global consequences,” he said.
By 9:30 UTC on 11 March, Google Person Finder, which was previously used in the Haitian, Chilean, and Christchurch, New Zealand earthquakes, was collecting information about survivors and their locations. ( Shinde, Jayesh (2011-03-11). "Google Person Finder for Japan Earthquake/Tsunami launched". PC World. http://www.pcworld.in/news/google-person-finder-japan-earthquaketsunami-launched-46662011. Retrieved 2011-03-11).
The Next of Kin Registry (NOKR) is assisting the Japanese government in locating next of kin for those missing or deceased.
International disaster relief teams are being sent to Japan, with the United Nations helping to co-ordinate the operation. President Barack Obama has pledged US assistance. One US aircraft carrier that was already in Japan will help with rescue and relief efforts, and a second is on its way.
After the IAEA offered its "Good Offices" to Japan - i.e. making available the Agency's direct support and coordination of international assistance - the Japanese government yesterday asked the IAEA to provide expert missions to the country. Discussions have begun to prepare the details of those missions.
At a briefing for representatives of IAEA Member States held yesterday in Vienna, IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano outlined some of the areas in which IAEA support could be provided to Japan.
"The IAEA can offer support in technical areas such as radiation surveys and environmental sampling, medical support, the recovery of missing or misplaced radioactive sources or advice on emergency response," he said.
In addition, the IAEA is coordinating assistance from Member States through the Response and Assistance Network (RANET). The network consists of nations that can offer specialized assistance after a radiation incident or emergency. Coordination by the IAEA takes place within the framework of the Convention on Assistance in the Case of a Nuclear Accident or Radiological Emergency.
"French nuclear agency rates Japan incident 5 or 6". Reuters. 2011-03-14. http://uk.reuters.com/article/2011/03/14/us-japan-quake-nuclear-france-idUKTRE72D6PR20110314.
A US Navy relief group moved from the immediate area after its helicopters detected low-level radiation while returning to their aircraft carrier from a search and rescue mission, 160 km (99 mi) offshore. The flight absorbed the equivalent amount of earthbound background radiation for a month in the span of about an hour.
(This story was written by U.S. 7th Fleet Public Affiars. "Seventh Fleet Repositions Ships after Contamination Detected". Navy.mil. http://www.navy.mil/search/display.asp?story_id=59065. Retrieved 2011-03-15)
South Korea to send boric acid to help cooling the reactors
"Without exaggeration, it will lead to a quantum leap in the way that we calculate and we estimate how fast the tsunami propagates on land," says Dr Costas Synolakis from the University of Southern California and the Hellenic Centre for Marine Research in Greece.
"The first thing that civil defence around the world wants to know is how many people are at risk along coast lines. They never paid attention to industrial facilities. I think this event is going to change all that."
Dr Synolakis believes lessons learned from Japan will undoubtedly lead to safer, more flood resilient buildings - particularly power plants.
Dr Synolakis told BBC World Service's Science in Action programme that the footage emerging from Japan would help address this lack of knowledge.
"We really did not understand as well how the tsunami floods and inundates inland," he said. "It really depends on what kind of structures you have, whether it's farm land, whether it's an airport, whether it's roads.
"All of this is going to be incredibly useful data to develop even better models to forecast inundation. It'll be wonderful if we were able to do that five, 10, 15 minutes before it actually happens."
On 21 March, the World Bank estimated damage between US$122 billion and $235 billion. Japan's government said the cost of the earthquake and tsunami that devastated the northeast could reach $309 billion, making it the world's most expensive natural disaster on record.
(1)Japan disaster likely to be world's costliest – Yahoo! News". News.yahoo.com. 2011-03-13. http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110323/ap_on_bi_ge/as_japan_earthquake_economy. Retrieved 2011-03-26.
(2)Zhang, Bo. "Top 5 Most Expensive Natural Disasters in History". AccuWeather.com. News & Video. http://www.accuweather.com/blogs/news/story/47459/top-5-most-expensive-natural-d.asp. Retrieved 29 March 2011
Mr Gates' TerraPower and Toshiba are investigating technology for mini-reactors, which are more cost-efficient than conventional units.
The hope is that the new reactors might be suitable for use in cities or emerging-market countries. Mr Gates is the principal owner of TerraPower, which investigates ways to improve emission-free energy supplies using small nuclear reactors. Japan's Nikkei newspaper, which first reported the talks, said that Mr Gates could put tens of millions of dollars of his own money into a joint venture with Toshiba.
Mini-reactors could last up to 100 years without refuelling, unlike today's units which need replenishing every few years. TerraPower is looking into so-called travelling-wave reactors (TWRs), which use depleted uranium as fuel and can last far longer.
"There would be demand for this type of reactor in newly developing countries," said Deutsche Securities analyst Takeo Miyamoto.
Keisuke Ohmori, a Toshiba spokesman, said: "Toshiba has entered into preliminary talks with TerraPower. We are looking into the possibility of working together."
He said that Mr Gates had visited a Toshiba laboratory for nuclear power research near Tokyo last year to discuss the project.
The Japaneses health ministry has lifted a ban on holders of foreign medical licences from practising in Japan, allowing a team of 53 medical aid workers from Israel, including 14 doctors and seven nurses, to work.
Some 20,000 US troops are bolstering Japan's Self-Defence Forces, delivering aid to some of the worst-hit areas in what is said to be the biggest bilateral humanitarian mission the US has conducted in Japan.
The US recommend 80 km evacuation zone around Fukishima plant, while Japan maintains a 20 km evacuation zone and 20-to-30 km voluntary evacuation zone.
Unidentified number of US airplanes, ships and military personnel is involved in the 3-day air and sea search rescue operation together with the Japanese military contingent.
EU is to provide 15 million euros help directly to the victims in Japan. A staff of 15 is already in Japan. Since 26 Mar 2011 the EU has shipped 5 airplanes of goods and materials needed. The help will be delivered to 30,000 Japanese residents who are in need of food, clothing, blankets and mattresses. "We will support a brave friend in need," said the UN Commissioner for humanitarian aid and crisis reaction. (http://news.ibox.bg/news/id_389039745)
America has won Japanese admiration for sending scores of US ships and aircraft as well as 20,000 troops to help the relief effort.
Commitments and doubts
Operation Tomodachi, or Friend, was the biggest humanitarian mission the US has conducted in Japan.
Before the quake, the two nations' ties had been strained by a dispute over US military bases on the southern Japanese island of Okinawa.
A senior official at the U.N. nuclear agency suggested the worst of the radiation leaks may be over in the worst nuclear power accident since the 1986 catastrophe in Chernobyl.
The total amount of radiation released is expected to be only a "small increase from what it is today" if "things go as foreseen," said Dennis Flory, a deputy director general at the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna.
IAEA experts are discussing ways to help Japan meet targets laid out in a blueprint for ending the crisis that TEPCO released over the weekend. Its plans call for achieving a cold shutdown of the plant within nine months. But government officials acknowledge that setbacks could slow the timeline.
Speaking in Tokyo ahead of a meeting with Mr Kan, Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard promised a secure and reliable supply of liquefied natural gas (LNG) to Japan to help it meet shortages caused by the damaged plant.
"Japan will rebuild and Australia will help as a friend," she said. "We have great admiration for Japan's people and great confidence in Japan's future."
A number of Chinese journalists saw their long-held negative views about Japan and its people change completely after traveling to northeastern Japan to cover the aftermath of the March 11 quake-tsunami disaster, according to their reports to a recent symposium with university students in Beijing.
Impressed by the orderly and patient behavior of disaster victims and the relatively high transparency of information released, they said they developed a feeling of respect toward the Japanese.
‘‘The ability of the government to handle relief operations was not as high as that of the Chinese government,’’ said Zhang Hongwei, 44, a reporter from the Chinese Business View newspaper based in Shaanxi Province.
Other than that, however, the journalists only cited favorable aspects about Japan.
Chen Jie, 38, a cameraman from Beijing News, was one of them. While admitting that he had felt resentment and mistrust toward the Japanese for a long time, he said, ‘‘The prejudice that I felt gradually disappeared while I was there, trying to cover the disaster damage.’‘
Chen and Zhang were among more than 150 Chinese journalists sent to cover the Japanese disaster. The unusually large number appears to have been partly because it was a natural disaster, not a political matter.
On prompting by Britain, leaders of the 27-nation bloc called in March for the speedy launch of negotiations for a free trade deal to assist disaster-struck Japan -- but on the proviso that Tokyo lift trade restrictions.
Trade ties between the two have consistently shown a strong surplus in favour of Japan -- the EU currently being Japan's third largest trade partner while Japan is Europe's fifth largest.
Japan has been eager to launch free trade negotiations with the European Union as it believes the elimination of EU tariffs on cars and electrical appliances would benefit Japanese companies.
But the EU is looking to Japan to scrap non-tariff barriers, including on food, while offering better general access to European firms.
During a brief stop in Brussels this month by Foreign Minister Takeaki Matsumoto, his spokesman said Tokyo hoped for a quick trade agreement to ease recovery from the quake and tsunami.
Officials from both sides are currently working at defining a "scoping exercise" -- a to-do list scheduling the obstacles to overcome before the launch of free trade negotiations. That is expected to be agreed at the summit.
Japan ready for talks on EU free trade deal
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao on Sunday said Beijing would ease some bans imposed on Japanese food imports over a nuclear crisis as leaders of Japan, China and South Korea held a trilateral summit. For Japan the three-way meeting was an opportunity to address the concerns of its neighbours over its handling of world's worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl 25 years ago, triggered by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. Tokyo's neighbours have been concerned by the leak of radiation from the crippled Fukushima Daiichi plant and its impact on food safety across the region. For Japan, the summit was an opportunity to secure the easing of import restrictions.
Beijing, Seoul offer support to Japan at summit
A team of international nuclear safety experts today completed a preliminary assessment of the safety issues linked with TEPCO's Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station accident following the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami. The team - created by an agreement of the IAEA and the Government of Japan - sought to identify lessons learned from the accident that can help improve nuclear safety around the world...To conduct its work, the team held extensive discussions with officials from the full range of Japanese nuclear-related agencies and visited three nuclear sites, including the nuclear power plant at TEPCO's Fukushima Daiichi. These visits gave the team a first-hand appreciation of the scale of devastation wreaked by the earthquake and tsunami on 11 March and of the extraordinary efforts Japanese workers have been applying ever since to stabilize the situation.
"Our entire team was humbled by the enormous damage inflicted by the tsunami on Japan. We are also profoundly impressed by the dedication of Japanese workers working to resolve this unprecedented nuclear accident," said team leader Mike Weightman, the United Kingdom's Chief Inspector of Nuclear Installations. The team was comprised of international experts with experience across a range of nuclear specialties. They came from 12 countries: Argentina, China, France, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Russia, South Korea, Spain, Turkey, United Kingdom and the United States.
The final report will be delivered to the Ministerial Conference on Nuclear Safety at IAEA headquarters in Vienna from 20 to 24 June.
The expert team made several preliminary findings and lessons learned, including:
•Japan's response to the nuclear accident has been exemplary, particularly illustrated by the dedicated, determined and expert staff working under exceptional circumstances;
•Japan's long-term response, including the evacuation of the area around stricken reactors, has been impressive and well organized. A suitable and timely follow-up programme on public and worker exposures and health monitoring would be beneficial;
•The tsunami hazard for several sites was underestimated. Nuclear plant designers and operators should appropriately evaluate and protect against the risks of all natural hazards, and should periodically update those assessments and assessment methodologies;
•Nuclear regulatory systems should address extreme events adequately, including their periodic review, and should ensure that regulatory independence and clarity of roles are preserved; and
•The Japanese accident demonstrates the value of hardened on-site Emergency Response Centres with adequate provisions for handling all necessary emergency roles, including communications.
At least 40 percent of Japan’s 22,000-mile coastline is lined with concrete seawalls, breakwaters or other structures meant to protect the country against high waves, typhoons or even tsunamis...Along with developing quake-resistant buildings, the coastal infrastructure represents postwar Japan’s major initiative against earthquakes and tsunamis. But while experts have praised Japan’s rigorous building codes and quake-resistant buildings for limiting the number of casualties from Friday’s earthquake, the devastation in coastal areas and a final death toll predicted to exceed 10,000 could push Japan to redesign its seawalls — or reconsider its heavy reliance on them altogether.
Peter Yanev, one of the world’s best-known consultants on designing nuclear plants to withstand earthquakes, said the seawalls at the Japanese plants probably could not handle tsunami waves of the height that struck them. And the diesel generators were situated in a low spot on the assumption that the walls were high enough to protect against any likely tsunami. That turned out to be a fatal miscalculation. The tsunami walls either should have been built higher, or the generators should have been placed on higher ground to withstand potential flooding, he said. Increasing the height of tsunami walls, he said, is the obvious answer in the immediate term.
“The cost is peanuts compared to what is happening,” Mr. Yanev said.
Some critics have long argued that the construction of seawalls was a mistaken, hubristic effort to control nature as well as the kind of wasteful public works project that successive Japanese governments used to reward politically connected companies in flush times and to try to kick-start a stagnant economy. Supporters, though, have said the seawalls increased the odds of survival in a quake-prone country, where a mountainous interior has historically pushed people to live along its coastline.reports from affected areas indicate that waves simply washed over seawalls, some of which collapsed. Even in the two cities with seawalls built specifically to withstand tsunamis, Ofunato and Kamaishi, the tsunami crashed over before moving a few miles inland, carrying houses and cars with it.
In Kamaishi, 14-foot waves surmounted the seawall — the world’s largest, erected a few years ago in the city’s harbor at a depth of 209 feet, a length of 1.2 miles and a cost of $1.5 billion — and eventually submerged the city center.
“This is going to force us to rethink our strategy,” said Yoshiaki Kawata, a specialist on disaster management at Kansai University in Osaka and the director of a disaster prevention center in Kobe. “This kind of hardware just isn’t effective.”
Gerald Galloway, a research professor of engineering at the University of Maryland, said one problem with physical defenses protecting vulnerable areas was that they could create a sense of complacency. “There are challenges in telling people they are safe” when the risks remain, he said.
Whatever humans build, nature has a way of overcoming it.
If private companies spearheaded the development of quake-resistant buildings, the seawalls are the products of the same Japanese governments that built networks of unnecessary roads and bridges throughout the country, especially in the 1980s and 1990s.
The construction of seawalls continued in the last decade, and at least two massive antitsunami seawalls are under construction. One in Kuji, a city in Iwate Prefecture that was damaged in Friday’s tsunami, was scheduled to be completed soon.
Massive antitsunami seawalls tend to be located in harbors and number around a dozen nationwide, Mr. Kawata said. But smaller seawalls, often reaching as high as 40 feet, and other structures extend along more than 40 percent of the nation’s coastline, according to figures from the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism.
The seawalls are typically built along the shoreline of inhabited areas. They tend to restrict access to the shore and block the view of the sea from inland, often casting shadows on houses built along the shore. Environmentalists and tourism officials have described them as eyesores; fishermen have also been among their fiercest critics, complaining that they need to see the sea from their homes.
Critics have said that the seawalls reduce coastal residents’ understanding of the sea and their ability to determine when to flee by looking for clues in changing wave patterns.
In the risk and disaster business, local fireman Katsuo was only “half reassured” by the wall that had been constructed between his village and the sea. Sure, the town of Taro, in the prefecture of Iwate, had been cited back in the 1960s as an example to follow throughout Japan for the system it had built to resist tsunamis. And after the catastrophe of 2004, the authorities of the Indonesian island of Sumatra had come to visit this double system of ramparts, the second of which rises 11 meters in height.
Sheltered behind this immense mass of concrete that cuts off the superb view across the bay, the 8,000 inhabitants of Taro lived in what resembled an ancient fortified village. Most thought that they were protected from the waves that, at regular intervals, had destroyed their village in the past. The worst of these catastrophes swept away all its houses, on 3 March 1933. Ever since, the residents had held an evacuation drill once a year. Katsuo participated, he explained, with “a bit of apprehension.”
When, a week after this year’s training, the huge earthquake hit the region, the fireman said that he knew immediately that nothing could withstand the tsunami that followed. He was in Miyako, several kilometers from Taro. He returned to the village expecting the worst – and he was right. Nothing was left but a horrifying mass of debris, like elsewhere along the coast...The wave appeared to be more than five meters higher than the taller of the two walls. It literally fell on the village
In Taro, the higher wall could do nothing against the most violent of tsunamis. All along this mountainous coast, the multitude of defensive structures built over the years proved in the end to be as ineffective as France’s pre-World War II Maginot line was in stopping the Germans. It was as if the wave had simply disregarded it. In Kamaishi, the longest protective wall ever built in Japan failed to save the city center. In Miyako, as the ocean passed, it ironically hung the nets of fishermen on the torn-down railings of the protective wall.
All over, this destruction has vigorously revived opposition to this “wall policy,” which has already been implemented along 40% of the Japanese coastline. This opposition affirms that these precautions have above all made the concrete sellers richer, while it would have been better to dedicate the money to improving early-warning systems. And, above all, these systems had created a dangerous false sense of security among the population.
The biggest sin of pride, however, was committed far from the coast of Sanriku, where the culture of tsunamis so prevails. Along the coastline of Fukushima, those in charge of the damaged nuclear stations felt so protected by their walls that they hadn’t taken care to better protect the back-up cooling systems. “You can never count on anything except concrete,” sighed Katsuo the fireman, whose house is intact. As a risk professional, he built his house high up in Taro, sheltered from tsunamis, even the unimaginably biggest one of all.
Makoto Hikida, who survived the 1995 Kobe earthquake, told the BBC News website: "We have great faith in the JMA, they do a good job in saving people's lives, if some of these countries like Sri Lanka had a system like ours perhaps we could have saved lots of lives."
Japan's system is being upgraded constantly. In 1999, a new tsunami-forecasting model was introduced. But the system comes with a price-tag - around US$20m a year. ..it is not just an early-warning system that saves lives.
Shizuoka prefecture, on Japan's tsunami-prone east coast, has 258 tsunami and quake-resistant shelters along its shoreline. Other coastal towns have built floodgates to prevent water from tsunamis heading inland through rivers and wreaking more havoc.
According to government estimates, if the worst-case scenario of three simultaneous strong quakes across Japan was to occur, up to 12,700 people could be killed in the resulting tsunami. ..With some underwater quakes in Japan occurring just a few kilometres offshore, it could take only five minutes for tsunamis to hit land. That would make even Japan's cutting-edge system effectively useless, without further advances.
Gregory Clark, author of "The Japanese Tribe" (1978) fires heavy shots in search of what went wrong at the time of 11 Mar 2011 Japan disasters:
The Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant disaster is being used to convince the world that nuclear energy generation is inherently dangerous. But the two other nuclear plants facing the Japan quake area — Fukushima No. 2 and Onagawa — came though fairly unscathed even though the force of the quake well exceeded the level they had been built to withstand. The disaster at Fukushima No. 1 was due almost entirely to an act of unbelievable stupidity — placing a nuclear plant with its emergency power and pumping equipment on a coastline protected by a mere 5.7-meter sea wall in an area with a far-from-distant history of double-digit-size tsunamis.
Admittedly the plant had been designed mainly by the U.S. General Electric Co., which, one assumes, would not have been quite as tsunami-conscious as its Japanese partners. But why did the Japanese side say or do nothing either then or later — despite frequent warnings of tsunami vulnerability, one reportedly only three years before the fatal accident?
What few seemed to realize was the damage that could result from two serious cultural flaws. Tokyo Electric Power Co. (the firm holding the monopoly for electricity production and supply in the Kanto and neighboring areas) was, like quite a few other firms and industry groups in Japan, proud to think of itself and its industry as a mura (village) — self-contained, self-sufficient and able to fight off any intrusion by outsiders. The result was the dangerous complacency that I saw so alarmingly in my several years on several nuclear industry committees, and that Prime Minister Naoto Kan correctly described as the "myth of nuclear safety."
The other cultural flaw is Japan's ingrained aversion to contingency planning — thinking about the worst that can happen and planning to avoid it.
Writing in Japan's leading economic newspaper, Nihon Keizai, senior staff writer Yasuhiko Ota quotes a top METI official as saying: "It is regarded as immoral for a company responsible for the safety of a facility to assume that the worst could happen. People tend to criticize such companies by questioning why they would contemplate such possibilities."
Admittedly, the nuclear power industry has also had to contend with an environment lobby determined to keep the coastline free of concrete barriers.
The Hamaoka nuclear plant in Shizuoka has had to be closed down mainly because it too lacks adequate tsunami barriers along its attractive beach front.
The anti-public works lobby add to the drumbeat with the slogan "welfare before concrete." (What are they saying now when they discover that the lack of concrete to protect Japan's fishing ports has done very severe damage to the welfare of the many good people in some of those ports?) In the case of Fukushima, they did not need much more concrete anyway. All the Tepco people had to do was move emergency equipment to higher land away from the ocean front. The refusal to do this, or even think about it, verges on the criminal. When the crisis hit, those well-paid, elite-educated Tepco semi-bureaucrats (the company was notorious for its close links to the government) could do little more than make constant ritual bows of apology; they left everything to their dedicated subordinates to handle.
The government has now appointed a committee headed by a Japanese history professor to advise on cleanup and plans for the future.
Today, the government, big business and the history professor fret over the official debt problem as an obstacle to funding disaster recovery efforts. Here, too, Japanese "village" thinking seems quite unable to cope with the fiscal tsunami about to arrive. All they can propose is raising taxes — thus further cutting spending and slowing the economy — and slashing tax revenues, which will, as in the Koizumi years, add to the very debt that is supposed to be cut.
Meanwhile, the conservative, stuck-in-the-mud planners refuse even to consider the simple solution to the official debt problem recommended by some competent outsiders, monetization, by which either the Bank of Japan buys noninterest-bearing government bonds or Tokyo issues its own currency, as Japan did so brilliantly in the past when it pulled itself out of the 1930s' Great Depression well ahead of others.
most foreign experts would agree that mild inflation and some currency depreciation are just what Japan needs to get out of its chronic economic woes.
What has gone wrong?
At the time, Japan seemed to have the people and energy to do that. Postwar reconstruction efforts made them think more about the national rather than the group mura interest. Today, as they put it in Japanese, shoeki (ministry interest) has become more important than the kokueki (national interest). Attitudes have become more tribal, and not just in nuclear energy.