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Japan marks decade since 2011 quake, tsunami and nuclear disaster
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Japan on Thursday marks 10 years since the worst natural disaster in the country's living memory: a powerful earthquake, deadly tsunami and nuclear meltdown that traumatized a nation.

Around 19,500 people were killed or left missing in the disaster, most of them claimed by the towering waves that swept across swathes of the northeast coast after one of the strongest quakes ever recorded.

The ensuing nuclear meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant blanketed nearby areas with radiation, rendering some towns uninhabitable for years and displacing tens of thousands of residents.

The day will be full of private and public ceremonies, with a minute's silence marked nationwide at 14.46 local time, the precise moment a 9.0-magnitude quake struck on March 11, 2011, triggering the disaster.

On Wednesday and Thursday there were searches in Miyagi and Fukushima regions for those still missing, as loved ones refuse to relinquish hope of finding them even a decade on.

The chances of success may appear slim, but just last week the remains of a woman missing since the tsunami were identified, in what her surviving son described as a chance to process his emotions and move forward.

In Tokyo, a slimmed-down ceremony observing virus rules will be held at the national theater, with speeches delivered by Emperor Naruhito and Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga.

Tokyo and surrounding areas are currently under a virus state of emergency, so the audience invited to the event will be smaller than usual.

The virus will also affect events elsewhere, including an annual prayer gathering held on top of the imposing sea walls in the town of Taro in Iwate.

Participants usually hold hands as they pray for those lost in the tsunami, but this year they will observe social distancing as they remember the dead.

The anniversary is being marked just two weeks before the Olympic torch relay kicks off in Fukushima prefecture, nodding to efforts to cast the event as the 'Reconstruction Games'.

The pandemic has cast a long shadow over the Olympics, forcing their unprecedented year-long postponement, but the government and organizers are hoping the relay will bring the spotlight back to the region.

For many, the anniversary will be a moment for private reflection on a tragedy that continues to reverberate, with tens of thousands of people who evacuated fearing radiation still displaced and around two percent of Fukushima still off-limits.



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The Fukushima disaster in maps and charts:



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On March 11, 2011, at 2:46pm, a magnitude 9.0 earthquake struck off the coast of Japan.

The country is located along the “Ring of Fire” – where about 90 percent of all earthquakes occur – and the massive tremor triggered a series of large tsunami waves that devastated its eastern coast.



[Image: taOOlzQH_o.png]



The 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami natural disaster is one of the deadliest in Japanese history, with an estimated 19,500 people killed or listed as missing.

It is also one of the most destructive, causing the seafloor to move a few metres east and the coastline to submerged by half a metre (1.64 feet).

The ferocious waves flooded an area of about 560 square kilometres (216 square miles), sweeping away coastal cities and towns as well as vast areas of farmland. Up to one million buildings were destroyed, while nearly all the recorded deaths were caused by drowning.

The cost of the disaster to the Japanese economy is estimated at $188bn.



The nuclear disaster


Along the path of the tsunami sat 11 operational reactors at four nuclear power plants, owned by the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) in Fukushima prefecture. They automatically shut down when the earthquake – considered one of the most powerful ever recorded – struck.

About an hour later, huge waves breached the Fukushima Daiichi seawall, flooding the entire facility and disabling the generators that provided back-up power when the grid failed – essential to making sure the reactors did not overheat.



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This led to nuclear fuel being melted and releasing radiation to the open environment and into the sea.

Three units lost proper cooling and water circulation functions. At the time, Fukushima Daiichi units four, five and six were not operational but were still severely affected.

The government declared a nuclear emergency and ordered the evacuation of thousands of residents from nearby towns. Nearly 300,000 people were evacuated from their homes in the area surrounding the plants.

According to the World Nuclear Association, there were 2,313 disaster-related deaths among the evacuees, at least one due to radiation.

Today, there are about 1.25 million tonnes of radioactive seawater stored in 1,000 metal tanks on the grounds of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power station.

Cleaning up the still-radioactive nuclear facility is a challenging process that is expected to take 30 to 40 years. As of May 2020, TEPCO had spent $3.3bn on fuel debris removal at Fukushima.



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Japan’s energy production


Prior to the Fukushima disaster, Japan was one of the world’s largest producers of nuclear energy, with 54 nuclear reactors supplying almost 30 percent of Japan’s electricity.

Currently, Japan has 33 operational reactors, while two are under construction and 27 have been shut down.

Following the disaster, the Japanese government began decommissioning many of the nuclear power plants, reducing its nuclear output. Power production switched to other sources, including coal, natural gas, oil and some renewable sources.

Japan currently produces renewable energy at 7.6 percent of its total energy consumption.

Despite low production of green energy compared with other sources, it has committed as part of the Nationally Determined Contribution to the Paris Agreement, to bring down carbon emissions by 26 percent (or more) by 2030 and increase renewable energy to 22-24 percent of its total energy mix by 2030.



Global nuclear club


Nuclear energy provides 10 percent of the world’s electricity and is steadily increasing. As of 2019, 30 countries generated electricity from 440 nuclear power reactors. A further 55 reactors are currently under construction in 15 countries.



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https://www.ibtimes.com/japan-marks-deca...er-3159806

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/3/10...and-charts
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