Thousands of people have been evacuated for health and safety reasons due to an explosion at Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan. The roof and walls of one of the reactors were blown off and there have been fears of a meltdown.
The devastating 8.9-magnitude earthquake that rocked Japan last Friday, March 2011, caused damage to the cooling systems of one of the reactors of the nuclear power station. As a result of the tremor, the nuclear power reactors and power plants shut down automatically cutting off the national electricity grid.
Evacuation measure is still underway for an estimated 170,000 people living within the 20-kilometer radius around the Fukushima’s Plant 1 and within the 10-kilometer radius around Plant 2. The plant has been releasing radioactive air and steam which may affect the safety of the residents. Government authorities distributed iodine to those people who may have been affected by the radiation.
Experts believed that if the nuclear reactor was shut down properly there is less risk of radioactive material in the environment. However, Fukushima Prefecture which is located in Honshu Island has been placed in an “atomic power emergency” situation.
What is a nuclear plant? A nuclear plant produces power from nuclear reactions and this power is converted into heat to produce steam. It is also called atomic power plant. It has nuclear reactors that operate to extract uranium, a radioactive metallic element that is used to produce nuclear fuel. This fuel is transported to the power plants to generate electricity. Nuclear power is a clean source of producing energy however, any nuclear leak or meltdown is a health risk to people.
The exposure to the radiation from the nuclear plant could bring harm to the human body. The chemicals from the radiation kill the healthy cells in the body and can cause bone cancer or damage the immune system. There is also the possibility of birth defects if pregnant women are exposed to the radioactive vapour.
Update on Japan Earthquake:
- Likelihood of 7.0 or above aftershocks in the next 3 days
- Reported deaths – 977; missing – 739; injured – 1683
- Miyagi Prefecture – tsunami death toll to exceed 10,000
- At least 160 people being tested for radiation exposure
- Shifted the Earth by 4 inches on its axis
- Moved the main island of Japan by 8 feet