In the midst of the nation-wide recovery after the March 11 earthquake that struck Japan, another earthquake hit late Thursday night. The quake was measured at magnitude 7.1, which puts it far beyond any of the aftershocks since the March 11 quake. Two people were reported dead, with many injured. No serious structural damage has been reported as a result of this new quake, and concerns about the nations nuclear power plants have largely been put to rest by reports that the plants are doing fine, and nothing has been damaged further.
The nuclear power plant hit hardest by the March 11 earthquake, Fukushima Daiichi, is undergoing remediation strategies and is apparently being gradually brought back under control. Nitrogen is being pumped into reactor chamber number one, the reactor that reached a partial meltdown, to try to control the heat and eliminate oxygen from the environment. The combination of hydrogen and oxygen in the high heat of the reactor chamber is a recipe for a massive explosion, and is likely what caused the initial explosion only days after the earthquake.
As a result of the continued radiation exposure in the area around the Fukushima plant, the Japanese government is planning on expanding the exclusion zone around the reactors. Currently, the zone extends 20 kilometers from the plant. The US regulations for nuclear power plants require a 80-kilometer radius around any reactors. This measure would be to keep radiation exposure under the maximum allowable limit for a plant worker for a full year, which is 50 millisieverts.
Fisherman in the northeastern part of Japan are protesting Tokyo Electric Power Co’s decision to dump water with low levels of radioactive material into the ocean, saying that it will further worsen the already bad situation of Japanese fisherman. Of the 10 fishing ports in Fukushima, total losses sustained from the March 11 tsunami have reached a total of nearly $1 billion. Fisherman found fish swimming with high levels of radioactive materials last week, making many doubt the safety of consuming any fish or marine animals from that part of the ocean.
The official death toll has risen to 11,800, as of April 8. As aftershocks and new earthquakes continue to occur, many fear the death toll will continue to rise. Reconstruction efforts continue, and the Japanese people are beginning to resume normal life again.