Remembering 3/11 – stats from the event and aftermath

As we approach the 4th anniversary of the Tohoku earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster, here are some facts.

The earthquake struck at 2:46 pm on March 11, 2011. I was at a local supermarket at the time. At first I wondered, “is there a quake?” and then shelves started rocking violently and things started falling and I fled the building. For a long while I had to hold onto a bicycle rack to remain standing. The store didn’t reopen, and I went home to find a mess, but no real damage inside. Then it was weeks of aftershocks, the unfolding nuclear disaster in Fukushima, water shortages, trains stopped, cell phone outages and some worry about radioactive rain drifting in from the north. Of course we in Tokyo were lucky in comparison to those in the tsunami ravaged areas. Interestingly enough, even though I did lose landline and cell phone connectivity, I never lost power or Internet connectivity.

Anyway, some facts:

  • Magnitude of the quake: 9.0
  • Energy released by the quake: 480 megatons (a magnitude 9.0 earthquake releases as much energy as 32,000 magnitude 6.0 earthquakes)
  • Energy released by the quake compared to the nuclear attack on Hiroshima: 600,000,000 times the the energy of the Hiroshima bomb
  • Size of the quake: Largest in Japan’s history and 5th biggest in World history
  • Duration of strong shaking from the quake: up to 5 minutes
  • Number of aftershocks: more than 900 (aftershocks from a 9.0 magnitude quake can last for years)
  • First aftershock: There were 3 aftershocks of magnitude 7.0 or greater within 45 minutes of the quake
  • The quake moved entire main island of Japan (Honshu): 2.4 meters (8 feet) closer to North America
  • The quake shifted the Earth’s axis: 10 cm (4 in) at least
  • The quake made earth days shorter by: 1.8 microseconds
  • Peak tsunami height: 40.5 meters (133 feet) at Miyako — that’s equivalent to a 13 story building.
  • How far the tsunami made it inland: up to 10 km (6 miles) at Sendai
  • Total land area covered by the tsunami: 561 kilometers sq (217 sq miles)
  • Total area of icebergs the tsunami wave broke off of Antarctica: 125 square kilometers
  • Time Sendai residents had before tsunami hit: around 8 minutes
  • Size of tsunami waves that hit the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant: 15 meters (49 feet)
  • Number of full nuclear meltdowns at the Fukushima nuclear power plant: 3
  • Severity of the Fukushima disaster on the International Nuclear Event Scale: 7 (maximum severity)
  • Estimated cost of the disaster: US$300 billion (biggest in World history)
  • Number of buildings destroyed: 45,700
  • Number of automobiles and trucks destroyed: 230,000
  • Number of people killed and missing: 15,828 deaths and 3,760 people missing


Fukushima radioactive contamination sets off alarm

From NHK

The operator of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant says it has detected high levels of radioactive substances in a drainage channel on the plant’s premises on Sunday. The Tokyo Electric Power Company is investigating the cause.

TEPCO says the plant’s alarm system went off around 10 AM. It showed a rise in radioactivity in the channel that leads to a nearby port.

Measurements showed that levels of beta-ray emitting substances, which are not detected under normal circumstances, had risen to up to 7,230 Becquerels per liter.

The figure is 10 times higher than when rain causes the level to rise temporarily.

The utility suspects that contaminated water in the channel may have leaked into the port.

It has suspended all operations to transfer contaminated water and closed a gate of the channel by the port.

The drainage channel used to be connected to a section of coast beyond the port. TEPCO rerouted it after a series of leaks in 2013.

The company says the water level in a tank that contains contaminated water remains unchanged, showing no signs of leakage, and drain valves that keep water from leaking near the tanks remain closed.

The utility is investigating the cause of the rise of radioactivity in the channel.

More Fukushima related news – for California

LOS ANGELES (Jiji Press) — A U.S. institute has said that trace amounts of radioactive cesium-134 emitted from Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant were detected in Pacific waters off the northern California coast.

The radioactive substance was found in water collected at a point about 150 kilometers off Eureka, Calif., in August this year, according to the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.

It is the first time that a radioactive material from the crippled plant has been detected in waters off the United States.


Meanwhile in Fukushima

Tokyo Electric Power Co. will postpone scrapping the crippled No. 1 unit of its Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant as the company has already run into delays, officials said.

TEPCO presented draft revisions to its plan at a meeting with the government on Thursday. The two sides are working to revise the existing reactor dismantling timetable by next spring.

The draft calls for deferring the start of operations to remove spent nuclear fuel stored in a fuel pool in the No. 1 unit until fiscal 2019. It is currently scheduled for fiscal 2017.

It also calls for the removal of melted nuclear fuel to begin in fiscal 2025, against the current target of fiscal 2020.

“We haven’t decided on the new timetable yet,” said an official at the Agency for Natural Resources and Energy. “We are seeking to move forward with the schedule as much as possible.”

But radiation levels remain elevated in the disaster-hit nuclear plant, making it hard to speed up the work.