Radiation Alert, from 70 to 11,900 microsieverts in seconds after explosion of Japanese nuclear reactor
Though three other Japanese nuclear complexes were also damaged, the Dai-ichi complex just off the Pacific coast has everyone’s eyes on it with its four severely affected reactors.
Japanese authorities now list six reactors at Fukushima I and nearby Fukushima II in a state of emergency. Almost a dozen reactors in total were knocked out of service due to the quake and tsunami crippling Japan’s power grid.
Workers at the Nuclear Plant were forced to evacuate due to unsafe radiation levels, no one knew what was really happening to the affected cores but most experts said they should assume they were melting. “Although we cannot directly check it, it’s highly likely happening (fuel rods melting),” Cheif Cabinet Secretary Yuko Edano reported. Over 140,000 people within 30 kilometers of the plant were ordered to seal themselves indoors to avoid exposure (70,000 within a 20 km radius were evacuated) and commercial flights through the area were banned. “Do not go outside. Please stay indoors. Please close windows and make your homes airtight” was the official message to citizens within 30 km. Previously, Saturday’s hydrogen and oxygen blast had destroyed the housing around the plant’s Unit 1 reactor causing mass evacuations of over 185,000 people in the area. (Pumping seawater as a last resort was known to likely cause explosions but was considered the only option to avoid complete Chernobyl scale meltdown.)
A third explosion at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant Unit 3 where two other reactor buildings exploded injuring 11 workers, blasting a 26 foot hole and damaged a vessel below the reactor, hours later a fire ignited at a fourth reactor which was offline along with yet another fire in a pool with used/spent fuel rods in Unit 4’s strage pool while workers were frantically trying to pump seawater to cool the fuel rods in the other three compromised reactors. Helicopters may be needed to get water into the damaged Unit 4 reactor. About 70 overworked plant operators struggled with the emergency while being rotated in and out of the intense radiation to try and minimize exposure.
Experts were afraid and assumed the possibility of a meltdown at reactor Unit 1 and Unit 3 at Fukushima I plant but there was no way of knowing what was going on inside the core containment shell to know for sure due to the damage already caused.
Radiation was spewing from 4 out of 6 of the nuclear power plant’s reactors. The fire in a pool were used nuclear fuel rods were stored was releasing radiactivity directly into the atmosphere. Unit 2 may leak even more dangerous levels of radiation if the storage pond boils away and the fuel rods are exposed. Also, in the so far unaffected Units 5 and 6, temperatures were somewhat elevated. Japan’s government spokesman admitted the radiation did pose risks to public health but that they were diminished farther from the plant. The radiation was 400 times the amount a person might receive in an entire year meaning even brief exposure is extremely dangerous since less than 10 hours exposure would be lethal which for some might be better than prolonged suffering. Radiation levels in Tokyo, 170 miles away government authorities said were 9 times higher than normal but said weather was helping blow potential radiation out into the Pacific Ocean.
The U.S. Navy moved some of its ships farther west from Japan’s shores to stay clear of the radiation plume, one ship had detected radiation levels south of Tokyo. U.S. military helicopters returning to their ships with the 7th Fleet registered some radioactive contamination and 17 personnel on the USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier 160 km offshore who were involved in helicopter relief missions underwent a scrub-down to clean off any radiation, the carrier and 7th Fleet then moved farther away from Japan’s coast due to radiation.
A tide of dead people washed up on Japan’s coast Monday overwhelming crematoriums.
Although officials have only conclusively confirmed around 3,500 deaths, over 10,000 people are believed to have perished due to the earthquake and tsunami and almost half a million people are in temporary shelters. On the coast in Miyagi, an official said 1,000 bodies were found, a news agency reported 2,000 bodies had washed up on two shores in Miyagi. In Myagi, the police chief estimated that likely 10,000 people perished in his province so the total death in Japan must be higher than initially thought.
Millions of Japanese went without food or water and no gas or electricity along the frigid near-freezing northeast coast for five days. Gasoline lines where it could be had were 5 hours long. In Soma, a town in the Fukushima prefecture, sirens wailed forcing soldiers to abandon their search and rescue operations fearing other quakes and tsunamis since the ground has not stopped shaking, there have been a tremendous number of aftershocks some as high as 6.2 on the Richter scale. For some the devastation may be double, decimation by the tsunami and longer nuclear radiation effects due to their proximity to the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant.
Japan’s central bank scrambled to bolster Japan’s economy by following U.S. measures and dumping $184 billion into money markets (15 trillion yen). Damages from the earthquake and tsunami are estimated at 20 to 50 billion dollars if not more considering the nuclear disaster.
Japan’s earthquake which many places had reported as 8.8 or 8.9 magnitude was upgraded to 9.0 magnitude (1.5x stronger than 8.9), first by Japanese experts at Japan’s Meteorological Agency and then by the USGS (US Geological Survey). The earthquake tore 15 miles below the sea floor, making a rift stretching 186 miles long and 93 miles wide. It moved Japan 13 feet closer to the United States, and sank it two feet allowing tsunami waves to advance further inland. The quake also shifted the earth’s axis 6.5 inches making the earth spin a bit faster and shortening the day by 1.6 microseconds. The 2004 Sumatra 9.1 earthquake shortened the day by 6.8 microseconds.
The Japan earthquake is number 4 on list of world’s largest quakes since 1900.