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Disaster in Japan

Updated 21 June 2011

First-hand account of Japan’s nuclear crisis: reports from Dr. Katsumi Furitsu.


[IPPNW’s US affiliate, Physicians for Social Responsibility, has prepared the following summary of events at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power plant since March 11, 2011, when an earthquake measuring 8.9 on the Richter scale struck northern Japan and created a tsunami that devastated large areas in northeastern Japan, killing thousands and leaving hundreds of thousands more stranded and without essential services.]

On Friday March 11, the largest earthquake in Japanese history (8.9) hit the eastern coast of Japan, causing the shutdown of reactors at Fukushima nuclear power station. Backup power for the Fukushima Daiichi Unit-1 reactor failed after an hour likely due to flooding from the tsunami.  Since then, the cooling system of another reactor at the Fukushima Daiichi was lost, and problems with cooling have been reported with Fukushima Daini reactors. The lack of backup power puts the cooling system at risk. The cooling system keeps the extremely hot nuclear core from melting down, as well as the spent fuel rods in large pools from overheating and causing a fire.

On March 12, a buildup of hydrogen caused an explosion in the turbine room at the Fukushima Daiichi Unit-1 reactor in Japan.  The Japanese government is reporting that the reactor vessel is intact, but it is not known if the explosion caused any damage to it. Hydrogen is building up in the Fukushima Daiichi Unit-3 reactor, which could result in another explosion.

On March 13, Japanese officials announced that there have been partial meltdowns at two reactors and another three reactors have lost power for cooling.  At least one nuclear worker has died, three others have been seriously exposed, and another 160 contaminated.  The government is evacuating the 200,000 people living within 20 kilometers (12 miles) of the reactors and is also reported to be distributing potassium iodine pills to reduce the risk of thyroid cancer.  In a desperate effort to prevent a nuclear meltdown, the reactor operator is flooding at least two reactors with seawater.

Since 2010, Fukushima Daiichi Unit-3 reactor had been using mixed-oxide fuel (also called plutonium fuel), which is even more dangerous to the public than a severe accident with uranium fuel.  Plutonium fuel contains plutonium and other very toxic actinides that would increase the number of resulting cancers.  Current reports say that this fuel has been exposed to air.

Pressure in at least two of the reactors have reported to be well above normal levels and the reactor operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co., released some of the pressure by venting radioactive vapor from the containment structure.  In addition, the radionuclide cesium has been reportedly found outside the reactor, which indicates that there has been fuel damage.

In the morning on March 14, the reactor containment building at Fukushima Daiichi Unit-3 had an explosion as the result of a build-up of hydrogen.  Initial analysis suggests that the containment remains intact.  Eleven workers were injured in the blast.  There is a potential that the spent fuel pool were damaged in the explosion. The spent fuel pool is located just below the roof of the building (which blew off).  Experts are concerned that the explosion rained debris onto the spent fuel bundles or knocked the bundles together which could have damaged them, and sent the irradiated fuel chunks to the bottom of the pool where they could reach critical mass.

On March 15, a fire started in the spent fuel pool at Fukushima Daiichi Unit-4 and an explosion occurred in Fukushima Daiichi Unit-2. Reports indicate that the fire has been extinguished. Japanese officials have now told people within a 30 kilometers radius not to leave their homes. Radiation levels above 20 times background levels in Tokyo have been reported.

On March 17, helicopters began dumping water on Unit-3 in an effort to cover the spent fuel, which may have been exposed to the air.  These efforts have been stop-and-go, as radiation levels have been very high around this unit, putting workers at risk.  The US embassy in Japan has issued guidelines for personnel to remain at least 80 km away from the reactors.

On March 24, after a week of attempts to return water to the spent fuel ponds and to restore electricity needed to operate reactor cooling systems, two workers at Fukushima were hospitalized after standing in water 10,000 times more radioactive than normal. Operations at the reactor were closed down, and on March 25 the government expressed concern — but did not confirm — that the cause may have been a breach in the reactor containment. Increased radiation levels in tap water and in the food supply around the plant, including spinach and milk, raised questions about public health and safety and the credibility of government standards for “safe” exposures.


Television and Radio Interviews

Fact Sheets, Resources and Expert Analysis

Beyond Nuclear and the Union of Concerned Scientists are providing regular updates on the nuclear crisis in Japan.

World Language Resources

IPPNW-Germany Media Work


  • Press release: “Radioaktive Verstrahlung der Bevölkerung durch Atomkraftwerkunfälle in Japan” [German] [French]


17 Comments leave one →
  1. November 12, 2013 3:51 pm

    FUKUSHIMA –>Please sign and share my petition about the crisis at Fukushima! Help me get it the attention that it deserves! I know this is important to you! Let’s work together! Thanks.

  2. November 30, 2012 10:39 pm

    This was a very bad time for Japan. Worse than the Hiroshima bombing. I saw a PBS show of how many could not go back to their homes because the radiation is too high. So the effects continue to linger.

  3. May 7, 2012 12:25 pm

    I like how when it happened all the Japanese were extremely calm and handled it professionally. If it happened in the United States people would be freaking out and endangering other people’s health with their behavior.

  4. Eva Schlottmann permalink
    March 28, 2011 7:44 pm

    For your information, Dr. Mark Sircus has just published a book called “Nuclear Toxicity…”.
    Also, my translation of the booklet “Homeopathic Remedies for Radioactivity” is available now. Contact me if you are interested.
    Regards, Eva.

  5. March 22, 2011 3:18 pm

    Please add:
    Horrorscenario waits for Japan:

    by Dr. Dörte Siedentopf, IPPNW,


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