Tag Archives: Japan

What's New?

-Tiana Bouma

The weeks have flown by fast and the news keeps changing every day. After the Super Bowl and its occasionally entertaining halftime show and commercials, it seemed like a good time to break down the news worthy events of the past week. These are topics that caught my eye, were searched a lot on the internet, or talked about with friends.

Obama’s Courts

A second term for President Barack Obama would allow him to expand his replacement of Republican-appointed majorities with Democratic ones in the nation’s appeals courts.  For those who don’t follow judiciary news, these courts are the final stop for almost all federal court rulings that have been challenged. Obama has already managed to alter the balance on power on four of the nation’s 13 circuit courts of appeals. On top of this, the next president, whoever that may be, has a decent shot at transforming the majority of the Supreme Court. Three justices will be turning 80 before the next presidential term ends. It looks like we could see a major shift of power in the United States courts. Is that good or bad?

US Embassy in Syria

The United States has decided to close its embassy in Damacus, Syria and has already removed all remaining diplomats from the contry. Operations have been suspended in Damacus because the violence there has continued to increase. The skeletal staff departed quietly despite some staff members being denied exit visas by Syrian authorities. The latest effort by the United Nations to oust President Assad from power in Syria was proposed by Morocco and backed by the Arab League. Unfortunately, it was vetoed by Russia and China who support Assad and are reluctant to endorse another revolution that could include foreign intervention. I hope that Syria can find a peaceful resolution soon, the United Nations stopped counting the dead late last month, citing that it was hard to keep up with and verify body count. At that time, the death toll was above 5,400 and counting.

Fukushima Zone

The most striking part of Japan’s nuclear exclusion zone (where the nuclear meltdown occurred after the tsunami and earthquake in 2011) is that there is nothing to see. There are no people, no cars, and no signs of life except the occasional wandering livestock. The area that was once home to 80,000 people is now a ghost town frozen in time. Workers of the Fukushima plants are bused in daily and the government has maintained a 12-mile no-go radius around the area for everyone else. Only brief, supervised visits home are allowed for residents who still have homes there. The Japanese government has said it will take at least 30 years to decommission the crippled reactors. In reality, this nuclear wasteland may not be livable for years, but residents are still fighting to save and stay with their contaminated livestock and livelihoods.

Follow Tiana at @TianaBouma

The Disaster in Japan: A brief timeline

– Tiana Bouma

On March 11, 2011 an 8.9 magnitude earthquake struck off the east coast of Honshu, Japan and has turned into the most expensive natural disaster in the world’s history. The earthquake, subsequent tsunami, and following nuclear power plant issues have created over $300 billion dollars in costs and stolen the lives of 27,000 individuals.

One of the largest issues Japan has faced is the prevention of potential nuclear power plant meltdowns. The overload of news reports and information on the disaster made it hard for me to sort through exactly what was happening, when, and where. So I decided to make a timeline so that maybe others who feel the same can have a better idea of the day-by-day events going on in Japan.


March 11 – Four nuclear plants closest to the earthquake were safely shut down.

  • Heightened state of alert declared for Fukushima-Daiichi plant.
  • Tsunami flooding disabled diesel generators intended to provide back-up electricity to plant’s cooling system.
  • Fire at Onagawa plant extinguished.

March 12 – Evacuation of residents living within 20 km of Fukushima Daiichi plant (about 170,000 people) and residents living within 10 km of Fukushima-Daini plant (about 30,000 people).

  • Explosion at Unit 1 reactor of Fukushima-Daiichi primary containment vessel and four workers injured, outer shell of containment was lost.

March 13 – Fukushima-Daini units 1, 2, and 4 retain off-site power and unit 3 is in a safe, cold shutdown.

  • Three workers injured in various ways at Fukushima-Daiichi.
  • One worker is exposed to higher-than-normal radiation levels at Fukushima-Daiichi.

March 14 – Hydrogen explosion at Unit 3 reactor at Fukushima-Daiichi plant.

  • Six people injured and the reactor building exploded but the PCV wasn’t damaged.

March 15 – Fukushima-Daini, Onagawa, and Tokai nuclear power plants are in safe and stable shutdown.

  • Explosion at Unit 2 reactor at Fukushima-Daiichi.
  • Spent fuel storage pond at Unit 4 was on fire and radioactivity was directly released into atmosphere.
  • 6.1 earthquake in Eastern Honshu, Japan.

March 16 – Fire at reactor 4 at Fukushima-Daiichi.

March 17

  • Radiological contamination – Nine TEPCO employees and eight subcontractor employees suffered from deposition of radioactive material to their faces.
  • One worker suffered significant exposure during “vent work” and was transported to an off-site center.
  • Two policemen exposed to radiation were decontaminated and firemen who were exposed are under investigation.
  • At Fukushima-Daiichi unit 4 remains major safety concern.

March 18 – At Fukushima-Daiichi plant, workers opened holes in the roofs of Units 5 & 6 to prevent possible accumulation of hydrogen.

March 19 – Japanese Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare confirmed presence of radioactive iodine contamination in food products in Fukushima Prefecture.

  • Containment vessel pressure indication was restored for Unit 1 at Fukushima-Daiichi.

March 20 – Units 5 & 6 at Fukushima-Daiichi plant are in cold shutdown and stable.

March 22 – High levels of radioactivity in food, notably spinach, in samples taken from 37 places in five cities south of Fukushima site.

  • Distribution of food restricted.
  • TEPCO detected radioactive materials in seawater near southern discharge canal at the Fukushima-Daiichi plant.

March 23 – AC power available to Units 1, 2, and 4, power restored to instruments in all units except 3.

  • Pressure in reactor pressure vessel and drywell if Unit 3 is stable.
  • Radiation dose rate at Daiichi decreased.
  • Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare encouraged Ibaraki and Chiba Prefecture to monitor seafood products.
  • No significant risk to human health was verified.

March 24 – Three workers at the Fukushima-Daiichi plant were exposed to elevated levels of radiation.

  • Two workers hospitalized for treatment of severely contaminated feet had been working for about 3 hours in contact with contaminated water.

March 25 – Unit 1 is reported as stable by Japanese authorities.

  • Work is underway for the recovery of lightning and instrumental systems on the common spent pool.
  • Milk is restricted in Fukushima and Ibaraki Prefectures.
  • Certain vegetables are restricted in four prefectures (Fukushima, Ibaraki, Tochigi, and Gunma).

March 26 – Fresh water has replaced seawater to cool the reactor pressure vessels at Units 1, 2, and 3 at Fukushima plant.

March 27 – Earthquake of 6.5 magnitude of coast of Honshu.

March 28 – Radioactivity in environment, food, and water is a matter of concern and there is a need for further comprehensive monitoring.

March 29 – Accumulated contaminated water found in trenches close to turbine buildings of Units 1-3.

March 31 – Unit 1 condenser is full and pumping water from the turbine-building basement to the condenser has been stopped.

  • The Russian Federation, Ireland, and Switzerland reported detection of very small amounts of radiation in the air, not of any radiological concern.

April 1 – Food restrictions placed.

  • Fukushima: Distribution and consumption of leafy vegetables and unprocessed raw milk.
  • Ibaraki: Distribution of spinach, kakina, parsley, and unprocessed raw milk.
  • Gunma: Distribution of spinach and kakina.
  • Tochigi: Distribution of spinach and kakina.

April 2 – Water in the condenser storage tank of Unit 1 was transferred to surge tank of the suppression pool and water in the trench was transferred to a water tank at central environmental facility main building.

  • There was a crack in sidewall of pit of Unit 2 reactor and water was leaking directly into the sea.

April 3 – A second US Navy barge arrived carrying fresh water to be transferred to a “filtered water tank”.

  • Concrete poured and polymer injected to prevent leak in wall of Unit 2 reactor.
  • Units 1, 2, and 3 switched to external power supply.

April 4 – Leakage in Unit 2 Turbine building has not stopped.

  • Discharged 11,500 tons of low level radioactive water from Fukushima-Daiichi plant into sea.
  • Plan to release 10,000 tons of water from a waste treatment facility and 1,500 tons from drainage pits around reactors 5 & 6 and the operation was planned to last around 5 days.

April 5 – Leak of highly contaminated water from cable storage pit in Unit 2 was stopped due to measures taken by workers.

April 6 – Power is available to instrumentation in Unit 3 and TEPCO authorized to begin injection of nitrogen into PCV of Unit 1 at Fukushima plant.

April 7 – 7.1 magnitude earthquake in Japan, epicenter 20 km away from Onagawa nuclear power plant.

April 8 – Food restrictions in four prefectures (Fukushima, Ibaraki, Tochigi, and Gunma) and in certain locations in Chiba prefecture continue.

April 10 – In units 1, 2, and 3 of Fukushima Daiichi plant 60,000 tons of contaminated water was removed from turbine buildings and trenches.

  • Temporary storage tanks ordered to provide additional capacity for water.

April 11 – 6.6 magnitude earthquake in Japan, epicenter 68 km from Daiichi nuclear power plant.

April 17 & 18 – An unmanned robot was used to conduct inspections of the Reactor Buildings in Units 1, 2 and 3.

April 22 – Area within 20 km of Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant is announced as a no entry zone.

Cat Island Remains Unharmed Despite Disaster in Japan

– Laura Lundberg

Headlines about the disaster in Japan after the earthquake have dominated the news over the past few weeks, and rightfully so. But with all the destruction and sadness that has been portrayed in the media, it’s nice to hear any piece good news from the country. And shockingly, there is some.  What’s this good news? A small island off the coast of Japan just a few miles away from where the tsunami struck remained untouched, as have all its feline citizens.

The tiny island of Tashiro is located off the Japanese coast located near Ishinomaki City in Miyagi Prefecture. The island is lush, full of trees and gorgeous ocean views. However there is something about Tashiro that sets it apart from the other islands along the coast of Japan, and it’s quite unique. Thousands of cats inhabit this island. About 100 human residents currently live on what is known as “Cat Island”, though only one is under the age of 40. The community works together to care for their resident cats by feeding them and giving them plenty of water.

One small ferryboat called ‘The Mermaid’ carries passengers and tourists from Ishinomaki City to “Cat Island” where the tourists can marvel at this feline infested island. The local residents have been using the media coverage of the tsunami in order to generate more awareness of their home, essentially bringing in more tourism revenue. The more media the better, and since most of the current residents are elderly, they fear that once they perish, the island will become deserted, and no one will look after the cats. Therefore they are somewhat recruiting people to move to the island to take over their cat duties.

The cats have also been enshrined on the island. For hundreds of years, villagers on the island have worshiped cats because they believe that bringing in a good amount of fish is the cats omen (Check out this video of the cats being fed by fisherman). They worship these cats through their building structures, many of which are shaped somewhat like cat faces, as well as by carving cat-like figures into rocks that are placed on shrines around the island.

Not surprisingly, dogs have been banned from stepping foot on the island, making this a cat’s paradise. It’s a paradise that the residents of the island hope will survive, so they will continue campaign to get more residents on their island.