Fukushima Nuclear Disaster
Margaret McCarthy
4th Period

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The Fukushima nuclear disaster was an energy accident that took place the Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant, that happened on March 11, 2011.  It was an event that was caused by two primary natural disasters.  The first was the Earthquake that hit the area and another horrible event, a Tsunami.  Initially when the earthquake hit, it caused a Tsunami that lead to more damage to the plant. Unfortunately the result of both of those occurrences lead to the release of nuclear radiation.

At the time of the earthquake, some of the nuclear reactors at the plant were in shut down mode due to regular schedule maintenance.  When the earthquake hit, the other reactors that were on and running at the time, went into shut down mode and automatically turned the plant over to other reactors.  Those reactors were basically used as backups and then emergency generators came online.  At this point, the disaster probably would have been contained, but the Tsunami changed the face of the event. The Tsunami hit about 50 minutes after the initial earthquake. Basically, the Tsunami was so high that it reach the height of the plant and quickly flooded the lower part of the building were the generators were stored and essentially cut power to all the pumps.  As workers struggled to supply power to the reactors coolant systems and restore power to their control rooms, a number of hydrogen-air chemical explosions occurred. There are no known no fatalities linked to short term overexposure to the radiation that was a direct result of the power plant explosions, but it was known that 18,500 people died due to the earthquake and tsunami.

 The Fukushima Power Plant disaster is also said to be the largest nuclear disaster since the Chernobyl disaster of 1986. 
By March of 2012, all but two of the reactors had been shut down, just about one year after the disaster . In order for the country to restart the other reactors, the local government was called to make the decision based on the nuclear reaction that impacted Fukushima and its people. Authority to restart the others after scheduled maintenance throughout the year was given to local governments, and almost always, there was always something preventing the restarting.  Additionally, the scare in Fukushima became a worldwide concern and it gave other governments a need for a call to action to dismiss nuclear reactors.

Nuclear's contribution really became a negative idea throughout 2011 and into our future.  Basically, due to shutdown of plants and reactors, the idea of energy being replaced with thermal power stations such as fossil gas and coal power plants became more popular. There are only two Japanese reactors which have so far met the new safety rules and still continue to operate.  Many environmentalist around the world used this event to promote the use of renewable energy.  Later during the year, the Japanese government following the event, passed a bill to help offset the cost of electricity by using renewable energy sources.  Basically, the bill would require companies to support the use of electricity through solar power and wind power.  The government planned to build wind farms and the event made it clear that the disaster was a wakeup call to reduce its need for nuclear power.
Unfortunately, after an election in the government sometime at the beginning of the year, most people would agree to have the reactors restarted as long as the government could guarantee the safety of those facilities.  There were people who opposed the restart and back in June of this year, there were roughly 30,000 people who marched to boycott the restart of the facilities and the activists also got 8 million people to sign a petition against it.
Some medical implications of the disaster are still being realized today.  The most common concern is that more than 33% of the children in Fukushima have abnormal growths with their thyroid glands.  As of this August, the have been more than 40 children newly diagnosed with thyroid cancer and other cancers.  However, whether these cases of cancer are due to exposure to nuclear radiation is unknown at this stage.  There is data that supports an increase in thyroid cancer rates following the Chernobyl accident so one could argue or detect that thyroid cancer could have a direct correlation with exposure to nuclear radiation.

As far as freezing the radioactive material and saving off the top layers being a better method of isolating the radioactive material, that may be a stretch. About one month ago, Japan’s government agreed to build an underground barrier of frozen earth around the Fukushima nuclear plant. The simple theory is that there would virtually be a massive wall of ice around the plant.  Given the fact that it would need a lot of energy to stay frozen, it really doesn't seem like a realistic plan. The plant would have the pipes freeze the ground and the ice would seal off any soil that was contaminated.  Additionally, there were be a massive need for electricity to create and also maintain the process to isolate and shield the radioactive material.
 Today, there are indications being received from the site that still shows that there are hundreds of tons of radioactive water still leaking from the site.

The question of whether Boron would be a better way of isolating radioactive material is not totally determined, but there does seem to be some positives.  It is noted that Boron would help because Boron does not react with water or oxygen.  However, when Boron burns it creates boron trioxide and when Boron burns in air when heated it creates a mixture of Boron trioxide and Boron Nitrate.  Another positive is that Boron is used in the bearing of wind turbines which is a method of energy that has been considered after the Tsunami.

boron element
(Boron Element)

 underground pipes

(proposed display of pipes to be frozen underground)




Products of Uranium Decay: Uranium-238 are as follows:

It is also noted that even if uranium is broken down, it remains radioactive for literally billions of years.  Additionally, over these long periods of time it will continue to produce all of its radioactive decay products.  Which even if it is depleted, uranium will actually becomes more strong. It will be more radioactive as the centuries and millennia go by because these decay products build on top of each other.

There are certain products that uranium will be found in and can expose people to danger or could be life threatening.  But most often than not, it today's day and age, there is not a constant danger. However, people who live near uranium mining areas, or near government weapons facilities or certain industrial facilities may have increased exposure to uranium, especially if their water is from a private well.  From time to time, there have been instances where some house hold products such as dishes, such as older ceramic plates may have uranium in the glaze that is coated on the plate. These type of products generally do not pose serious health risks.
Additionally, Uranium is a natural element that lives in soil, rock and water. It is distributed throughout the environment by wind rain and other natural processes. It can also be removed through streams and lakes . Manufacturing of nuclear fuel, and other human activities also release uranium to the environment.
After the incident of Fukushima, most of northern Japan was marked uninhabitable.   

In May of this year the government relaxed the restrictions. Most of the houses were destroyed in the tsunami, so returning home was not because of radiation but really because there were no homes to return to. Of the total evacuees from around the Fukushima Daiichi plant, some 72,800 lived in the towns and villages of Futaba district.





. N.p.. Web. 30 Oct 2013. <http://www.epa.gov/radiation/understand/chain.html>.
.N.p.. Web. 30 Oct 2013. <http://www.science.gov/topicpages/r/radioactive+decay+methods.html>.
.N.p.. Web. 30 Oct 2013. <http://www.nbcnews.com/science/japan-build-ice-barrier-around-fukushima-nuclear-ruins-8C11067684>.
.N.p.. Web. 30 Oct 2013. <http://finance.yahoo.com/news/japan-gas-coal-power-building-020140366.html>.