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A Documentation

The Fukushima Daiichi Meltdown

Earth Science

Presented by:


Presented to:
(Earth Science Teacher)


SY 2017-2018


Tokyo, 4 March 2016 - The environmental impacts of the Fukushima Daiichi

nuclear disaster will last decades to centuries, warns a new Greenpeace Japan report.
Man-made, long-lived radioactive elements are absorbed into the living tissues of
plants and animals and recycled through food webs, and carried downstream to the
Pacific Ocean by typhoons, snowmelt, and flooding.

On March 11, 2011, the magnitude 9.0 Tokuku earthquake struck off
northeastern coast of Japan. The earthquakes, its aftershocks, and the powerful tsunami
it triggered led to the deaths and injuries of thousands of people. Furthermore, damage
caused by the earthquake and tsunami disabled the power supply and cooling
mechanisms of the Fuhushima Daiichi nuclear reactors. Water decomposition caused
by contact with hot fuel rods created an accumulation of hydrogen gas that exploded
and destroyed three units of the plant. As a result, high volatility fission products
including radioactive iodine, strontium, and cesium, were discharged into the
environment through the air and deposited in the soil and water. This major release of
radioactive elements into the environment has had a lasting impact on the

This virtual special issue focuses on the Fukushima Daiichi disaster that
followed, as it has had very broad consequences for Japanese and international energy
policies, the direct environment, public opinion on nuclear energy, and disaster

The earthquake vibrations caused the automatic shutdown of 11 power plants

around the country, including three reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power
plant. The tsunami that hit the shore about 50 minutes later caused an unprecedented
chain of events at this particular power plant.
The emergency diesel generators that should have taken over became flooded
and stopped cooling, three of the plants reactor cores started melting, and radioactive
material was released by hydrogen-air explosions and by intentional venting in an
attempt to let steam out to release pressure on the reactor vessels. Massive evacuations
up to 30 kilometers from the plant were executed within days, and eventually the
entire Japanese nuclear power enterprise was shut down.

The effects of this dramatic event have been widespread. Not only has the
accident directly affected the lives both of the workers at the power plant and over
150,000 evacuees (with the majority still living in temporary housing); it has also had
a massive impact on the atmospheric and natural environment, the economic and
political situation, and human psychology and health. On a broader scale, the
Fukushima accident has reignited discussions on nuclear energy and policies

Here, we present a selection of important and impactful studies about the

accident and related accidents such as the Chernobyl disaster. By highlighting the
tragic incident from various perspectives, we aim to stimulate discussion and broaden
understanding across a wide range of disciplines spanning physics (radiation),
engineering, environmental science, oncology and genetics, human psychology,
economics, nuclear energy, and policy and regulation.

There is no end in sight for communities in Fukushima - nearly 100,000

people havent returned home and many wont be able to. The Japanese government
should put its citizens first, the majority of who reject the restart of nuclear reactors.
Many are demanding the only safe and clean options that can meet Japans needs -
renewable energy, said Ulrich.

Background Information
The disaster that occurred at Fukushimas power station nuclear plant was
caused by a nuclear meltdown and release of radioactive materials, following the
earthquake and tsunami in Tohoku on 11 March 2011. This was the biggest nuclear
accident since the Chernobyl disaster in 1986. After the Chernobyl incident, many
people were scared of or at least hesitant about continuing to use nuclear power to
transform energy to clean electricity, as it had been seen that it could have
disastrous consequences for the environment and public health. More recently, the
destruction caused to the Japanese natural environment and the Japanese people is a
wound that will not be healed for 20 years or more.

Before the earthquake, the use of nuclear power in Japan was similar in size to
that of the USA and France. Japanese authorities, in order to have the lowest possible
emissions of greenhouse gases associated with electricity production, planned to
increase significantly the use of nuclear materials as energy feedstock, from 30% to
40% by 2017 and to 50% by 2030. After the devastating earthquake on 11 March,
these plans were of course canceled.

The Japanese authorities initially assessed the severity of the accident as level
4, according to the International Nuclear Event Scale (INES), despite the views of
other international agencies that it should be higher. The severity then increased
sequentially, to 5 and finally reaching 7, the maximum value of the scale. The Japanese
government and TEPCOs governing bodies have been criticized by the foreign press
for poor communication with the public and improvised efforts for clarifying the

The Japanese government estimates that the total amount of radiation released
into the atmosphere was about one-tenth of that released during the destruction of
Tsernompil. Significant amounts of radioactive material have also contaminated the
soil and ocean waters. Measurements taken by the Japanese government at a distance
of 30-50 km from the factory showed fairly high levels of radioactive cesium, which
caused concern and led the government to ban the sale of food grown in that area. In
Tokyo, it was temporarily recommended to not drink the tap water and avoid using it
for the preparation of infant food.

Four Sphere of the Planet Earth

The area near the surface of the earth can be divided up into four inter-
connected "geo-spheres:" the lithosphere, hydrosphere, biosphere, and atmosphere.
Scientists can classify life and material on or near the surface of the earth to be in any
of these four spheres.


The lithosphere is the solid, rocky crust covering entire planet. This crust is
inorganic and is composed of minerals. It covers the entire surface of the earth from
the top of Mount Everest to the bottom of the Mariana Trench.

The lithosphere provides the solid surface necessary for terrestrial organisms to
survive. The lithosphere is very important because it is a large reservoir of
resources, which are so useful to man. The majority of the material objects
which man requires are supplied by lithosphere. The lithosphere serves as a
source of minerals. The minerals supply the basic materials required for
making a variety of commodities, which man uses daily.


Hydrosphere occupies 71% of the earths surface. It contains water chiefly in

its liquid form, and also in solid form (i.e. floating ice-bergs), which is a source of
fresh water on earth. Water is chiefly confined in ponds, lakes, rivers, seas and oceans.
All living things need water to survive. It provides water for drinking. Water is
also required for irrigation in rainfall deficit areas. Hydrosphere plays an
important role in maintaining the global water cycle and bringing precipitation
through the process of water cycle. Aquatic bodies play a great role in our
ecosystem by supporting several aquatic floral and faunal lives. It acts as a
global pollution sink, and dissolves several pollutants which are present in the


The biosphere contains all the systems (air, water, heat, land) that support life
on earth.

Man is a biological organism (as are women as well) and as such, needs to eat,
to breathe, and to have a place to live; these things are made possible by the
biosphere. If we compare the Earth to, for example, the Moon, which has no
biosphere, we see that it would be much harder to live there. We would have to
create our own artificial biosphere or habitat, in order to live on the Moon.


The atmosphere that surrounds our planet Earth contains the right proportions
of gases that are absolutely essential for life, one of those gases is oxygen, making up
21 percent of the air we breathe, without it humans and animals die within minutes.

It prevents the Earth from freezing at night by not letting the heat of the sun to
escape. It has various gases which are essential for our survival. It is only
because of atmosphere that life is possible.

The Fukushima nuclear disaster:

The environmental consequences on the four
spheres of the Earth, transport and travel, one year on.

Figure 1.1

70% higher risk of developing thyroid cancer for girls exposed as infants (the
risk has risen from a lifetime risk of 0.75% to 1.25%), a 7% higher risk of
leukaemia in males exposed as infants, a 6% higher risk of breast cancer in
females exposed as infants and a 4% higher risk, overall, of developing solid
cancers for females.
Workers suffered deposition of radioactive material on their face;
Unable to control the spread of radioactive material into the nation's food, and
"Japanese agricultural officials say meat from more than 500 cattle that were
likely to have been contaminated with radioactive caesium has made its way to
supermarkets and restaurants across Japan".
Small amounts of radioactive iodine were found in the breast milk of women.
The risk of developing cancer and other radiation-induced diseases increased
proportionally to the amount of radioactive exposure.

Dispersion of the radioactive elements
Pollution of sea water along the coast
Contaminated groundwater had breached an underground barrier, was rising
toward the surface and exceeded legal limits of radioactive discharge.
Marine and groundwater contamination was caused by backflow and deliberate
discharge of radioactive waste water from the plant. With approximately 15-27
PBq (Petabecquerel) of radioactive marine discharge, the Fukushima nuclear
disaster constitutes the single worst radioactive contamination of the oceans
ever recorded.

Atmospheric emissions of more than 30 radioactive isotopes occurred through
the explosions in reactors 1-3 and the spent fuel pond of reactor 4, smoke from
the ensuing fires, deliberate venting of the reactors to relieve pressure as well
as the evaporation of massive amounts of water used for cooling the reactors

Debris around the plant has been found to be highly radioactive, including a
concrete fragment.

Food Control

Steps were taken to sample foods at 15,599 units from 46 different provinces of
Japan, between 25 June 2012 and 13 July 2012. It was demonstrated that 99% of
these samples had either no detectable or acceptable levels of cesium-134 and cesium-
137. However, in 113 samples the concentrations of these radioactive isotopes
appeared to be above the permitted limits.

Restrictions were placed on the distribution of the following goods:

wild boar and bear meat from Miyagi province

bamboo roots from the provinces of Fukushima and Miyagi
Japanese black bream caught on the coast of the province of Sendai Miyagi
Green-house products from Tochigi province
Off-shore stone flounder from Ibaraki province
Off-shore Bar fin flounders from Fukushima province

The environmental impacts are already becoming apparent, with studies


High radiation concentrations in new leaves, and at least in the case of cedar, in

Apparent increases in growth mutations of fir trees with rising radiation levels;

Heritable mutations in pale blue grass butterfly populations and DNA-damaged

worms in highly contaminated areas, as well as apparent reduced fertility in
barn swallows;

Decreases in the abundance of 57 bird species with higher radiation levels over
a four year study; and

High levels of caesium contamination in commercially important freshwater

fish; and radiological contamination of one of the most important ecosystems
coastal estuaries.


The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear reactor meltdown caused the largest accidental
source of radionuclides in the ocean, and atmospheric and soil contamination
comparable only to the Chernobyl nuclear power plant disaster. Studies on the extent
of this contamination, such as those described above, have been useful for the
establishment and monitoring of regulatory measures, and for guiding of activities to
lessen the impact of the contamination. Furthermore, this event has led to international
collaborations for comprehensive field measurements to better understand the extent
and impact of nuclear contamination, and hopefully better guard against potential
accidents in the future.

Of all the planets the Earth is considered as the luckiest planet in the universe
because it is the only planet where life became possible. Beautiful life developed on
this planet whether that is in the form of humans, animals, plants or marine life. But
the human race lost its humanity and used the Earths resources ruthlessly. The world
marks this day to make the human race to realize the importance of the Mother Earth.
The Earth is the most unique planet because it developed the most intelligent life
called as the human race.

Humankind is rapidly depleting the natural resources on the Earth. It is

acceptable that we need petrol and diesel to run our vehicles and the Earth is not
refusing us. It only wants us to use it judiciously. Similarly the other natural resources
should be used judiciously by the mankind. In the fast changing life we are so busy in
day-to-day life that we dont have time to stand and contemplate about the planet we
live on. The Earth will find some ways to survive with us if we love and respect it, or
without us. So, its ultimately we who stand to lose.

On this particular day, let us pledge to do whatever little we can to do to

protect this beautiful planet. We can avoid using our car on this day and save petrol
and free the atmosphere from some pollution. We can recycle the papers and stop
using plastic bags. We should make collective efforts to reduce Carbon emission in
the atmosphere to protect the mankind. On this day each of us should take initiatives to
plant more and more plants and return the balance to the beautiful planet Earth so that
everybody on this planet can live in peace.