Japan marked on Monday the second anniversary of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami that devastated the country’s northeastern region, left more than 18,000 people dead or missing, and caused the world’s worst nuclear crisis since the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, amid slow progress on reconstruction work.
Memorial services will be held in the three northeastern prefectures hit hardest by the tsunami as well as in Tokyo and elsewhere, with a moment of silence planned across the country at 2:46 p.m., the time the magnitude 9.0 quake occurred exactly two years ago.
Along the Pacific coast, some bereaved family members offered a prayer early Monday morning to mourn for their loved ones.
Senior Vice Environment Minister Shinji Inoue visited Fukushima on Wednesday and apologized to local residents, following disclosures of sloppy decontamination work.
Inoue said the government will clamp down on contractors cleaning up radioactive material around the ruined Fukushima nuclear plant.
The Environment Ministry hired the nation’s leading contractors to cleanse towns and villages near the tsunami-hit Fukushima Daiichi power plant, starting with four relatively uncontaminated areas.
But the Asahi Shimbun reported last week that dirty soil, leaves and water have been dumped directly into rivers. The paper cited workers as saying they were told to sweep only around radiation monitoring sites.
Japan’s Fukushima nuclear crisis was a preventable disaster resulting from “collusion” among the government, regulators and the plant operator, an expert panel said on Thursday, wrapping up an inquiry into the worst nuclear accident in 25 years.
Damage from the huge March 11, 2011, earthquake, and not just the ensuing tsunami, could not be ruled out as a cause of the accident, the panel added, a finding with serious potential implications as Japan seeks to bring idled reactors on line.
The panel criticized the response of Fukushima Daiichi plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co, regulators and then Prime Minister Naoto Kan, who quit last year after criticism of his handling of a natural disaster that became a man-made crisis.
They scoop up soil from their gardens and dump it in holes dug out in parks and nearby forests, scrub their roofs with soap and refuse to let their children play outside.
Fukushima residents are scrambling to cope with contamination on their own in the absence of a long-term plan from the government.
"Everything and everyone here is paralyzed and we feel left on our own, unsure whether its actually safe for us to stay in the city," said Akiko Itoh, 42, with her four-year old son in her lap.
Even though this city of 300,000 lies outside of the 30-km 20 mile evacuation zone around the crippled Fukushima Daiichi plant, a recent survey showed radiation levels in several spots exceed 13 millisieverts per year, more than six times natural levels.
Japan has decided to raise its assessment of the accident at the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant from 5 to the worst rating of 7 on an international scale, putting the disaster on par with the 1986 Chernobyl meltdown, the Japanese nuclear regulatory agency said on Tuesday.Multimedia GraphicJapanese Officials Expand Evacuation Zone GraphicAssessing the Radiation Danger, Near and Far Interactive FeatureJapan Earthquake and Tsunami MultimediaRelatedPhysicist Reviews Nuclear Meltdowns April 12, 2011City, Destroyed and Yet Hopeful, Begins to Move On April 11, 2011New Doubts About Turning Plutonium Into a Fuel April 11, 2011Enlarge This ImageKoichi Nakamura/Yomiuri Shimbun, via Associated PressOfficials, monks, military officers and other emergency workers observed a moment of silence on Monday in Natori, Japan.Readers CommentsShare your thoughts.Post a Comment »Read All Comments 12 »According to the International Nuclear Event Scale, a level 7 nuclear accident involves “widespread health and environmental effects” and the “external release of a significant fraction of the reactor core inventory.”Japan’s previous assessment of the accident puts it at level 5 on the scale, the same level as the Three Mile Island accident in the United States in 1979. The level 7 assessment has been applied only to the disaster at Chernobyl in the former Soviet Union.The scale, which was developed by the International Atomic Energy Agency and countries that use nuclear energy, requires that the nuclear agency of the country where the accident occurs calculate a rating based on complicated criteria.