On March 11th 2011 an earthquake of a magnitude of 9.0 hit the East of Japan. The earthquake did considerable damage but what followed did much more damage. A tsunami inundated about 560 sq km and resulted in a human death toll of over 19,000. Over 1 million building were destroyed or partly collapsed.
Eleven reactors at four different nuclear plants were operating at the time of the quake, all of them shut down when it hit. Subsequent inspection showed no significant damage to any of the reactors from the quake. The reactors were not affected by the quake it self but were vulnerable to the tsunami. There was power from the backup generators that were running the residual heat removal system cooling pumps at eight of the eleven units. The remaining 3 at Fukushima lost power when the site was flooded by the tsunami. The flood disabled 12 of 13 backup generators on site and also the heat exchangers for dumping reactor waste heat and decay heat into the sea. The 3 units were unable to maintain proper cooling methods and water circulation functions. The electrical switchgear was too disabled. Many weeks were spent trying to remove and restore the heat removal from the reactors. Radioactive material was released into the ocean and the air because of deliberate venting to reduce gas pressure, deliberate discharge of coolant water into the sea, and uncontrolled events. The emission into the sea is the most important individual emission of artificial radioactivity into the sea ever observed. Fukushima has some of the strongest currents causing dispersion to the Pacific Ocean.
Many inter-governmental agencies responded to the disaster; International Atomic Energy Agency, World Meteorological Organization, Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty Organization. Most were concerned about the radiation exposure and populations around the world had lost faith in the use of nuclear power. Many countries have opted out of using nuclear power. International experts have said that workforce of thousands will take decades to clean the area.
The precise cost of the abandoned cities, towns, agricultural lands, businesses, homes and property located within 310 sq. miles have not been established. Estimates of the total economic loss range from $250-$500 billion dollars. 159, 128 people had been evacuated from the zones lost their homes and all their positions. Many of the people have not been compensated and some are still paying mortgage on homes that will never again be habitable.
There have not been any reports of people with radiation exposure because it is still early. However, when radioactive chemicals are released they are not only released in the air but in the water systems, and soil which will affect the population for years to come. Those who were closer to the incident are more likely to develop leukemia, thyroid cancer and breast cancer. There are barriers to accessing healthcare because the effects of radiation can take years to develop. It would be most beneficial to screen patients for early detection of cancers because of the exposure. This is an ongoing problem because there are the zones that are still affected by the radiation as stated above, the soil and water systems are contaminated. I could not imagine being a healthcare provider in such a huge disaster. Fukushima started as an earthquake where residents needed help with ruined homes and then for the tsunami to wreck more homes and kill more of the population and lastly constant radiation exposure in some areas. It was like 3 major disasters all within hours. I am unsure if in the future we are more prepared for a nuclear disaster. It has happened before Fukushima and I think unfortunately it is all about trial and error and having the proper policies and procedures in place.
Association, W. N. (2015). Fukushima Accident . Retrieved from World Nuclear Association : http://www.world-nuclear.org/info/safety-and-security/safety-of-plants/fukushima-accident/
Responsibility, P. f. (2015). Costs and Consequences of the Fukushima Disaster . Retrieved from Environmental Health Policy : http://www.psr.org/environment-and-health/environmental-health-policy-institute/responses/costs-and-consequences-of-fukushima.html