Tag Archives: japan earthquake

Scientists report from Fukushima exclusion zone, analyze tsunami

You probably remember the massive 9.1 earthquake that struck Japan last year and the subsequent problems that followed – most notably the huge tsunamis that struck the Fukushima nuclear plant, bringing it close to a meltdown. Now, according to the first scientific assessment made on the spot, the tsunami was indeed as formidable as the first estimates claim.

Big tsunamis, big data set

They conducted surveys along 2,000 kilometres of coast, thus creating the biggest tsunami data set the world has ever seen so far, but until now, no verified data was obtained from the impact perimeter: the 20-kilometre-radius restricted zone around the crippled plant, where scientific work had been forbidden.

However, a team of seven set out on a laudable two day mission to determine the height and inland penetration of the tsunami that struck the coast of Japan about an hour after the massive temblor struck. The team also included two local guides and two local authorities, and was led by Shinji Sato, a civil engineer at the University of Tokyo. By analyzing the ‘tsunami marks’, like the water damage, the debris, and trees, they confirmed that the waves were at least 14-15 meters high, just as big as the first estimates claimed, and the biggest height they estimated was 21 meters. Still, the team was not allowed to get closer than 2 km to the nuclear plant.

Clues, schools and cows

Finding relevant clues about tsunamis after almost a year was definitely a challenge, and the team stumbled upon some really interesting things there. For example, some buildings seemed to have not taken any damage whatsoever; aside for a dent in its chimney, the gymnasium of Ukedo Elementary School in Namie, located less than 5 km away from the plant, looked intact. The banners inside were untouched, and a small Japanese flag was intact. At a restaurant from town, researchers found a pristine newspaper dated 11 March 2011 – the date of the earthquake. But without a doubt the biggest surprise was when they met a herd of cows; the animals somehow survived the tsunami and adapted to the newly created environment, leading quite the life now.

“I often scratched my head at the juxtaposition of utter devastation and relative intactness,” says Yeh.

Scientists will now analyze the data to refine computer simulations and better understand how the sea contour influenced the tsunami; many believe the tsunamis which struck the Fukishima power plant were actually a combination of two different waves, one coming from the North and one coming from the South. It is very important to gather valuable information from this tragedy, in order to understand how we can protect ourselves from other such disasters.

“Nobody else has obtained this kind of information,” says Philip Liu, a tsunami researcher at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, who was not involved in the survey. “It’s valuable evidence of how the tsunami has behaved.”

Via Nature. Photo via National Geographic.

Today, more than 100 years ago: the great earthquake of San Francisco

San Francisco today

The great San Francisco earthquake took place on April 18, 1906, rupturing along the San Andreas fault for a total of 477 kilometers. The earthquake was so strong that it can be felt from Los Angeles to Nevada and Oregon, even though it had an esimated magnitude of 7.9, which makes it 10 times less powerful than the recent earthquake that took place in Japan.

San Francisco after the earthquake


It struck at local time 5:12 a.m when the San Andreas fault gave away, and since there wasn’t any accurate way of determining an earthquake magnitude back then, the estimated magnitude is somewhere between 7.8 to 8.3, with the most accepted value being that which I told you above.

The effects were devastating. The ground kept shaking for more than a minute, and the town of Santa Rosa, 50 miles north from San Francisco was leveled to the ground. San Francisco, the most popular and important city in California, but it couldn’t escape it. Stanford University collapsed. Out of 400.000 people, 300.000 were left homeless. Even without the fires that followed the damage would have been enormous; but the fires did follow. The conflagration lasted more than four days, with firemen from all the west coast desperately fighting to contain it, and when the fire finally stopped, the city was in ruins. The heart of the West Coast lay in rubble.

The good thing about it (if you can say that) is that it raised an enormous amount of awareness on the issue of seismic hazards, and constructors started to take into consideration more and more seismic studies and risks, as well as other subsequent worse case scenarios; and San Francisco lived, and was rebuilt fast. As a matter of fact, it was built too fast… which brings us to today’s problems. The faults around California are way overdue for another major earthquake, and looking at the recent events in Japan, one can only wonder just how prepared the US is to manage such a tragic, but likely event.

The Metsamor nuclear power plant at the base of Armenia's towering symbol, Mount Ararat.

Armenia’s Metsamor nuclear power station – most dangerous in the world?

The Metsamor nuclear power plant at the base of Armenia's towering symbol, Mount Ararat.

The Metsamor nuclear power plant at the base of Armenia's towering symbol, Mount Ararat.

In light of recent catastrophic events that plagued Japan, and the consequent nuclear crisis recently raised to level 7 on par with Chernobyl, the talk of the day in every scientific and political circle seems to be that of nuclear safety. Armenia’s 31-year old only nuclear power plant located in Metsamor is one of the few remnants of the old soviet nuclear reactors built without primary containment structures. Only a few of these first generation water-moderated reactors are still in use today, being past or near their original retirement ages, but what sets the Metsamor facility apart from all the others is the fact that it’s located in a potentially hazardous seismic zone.

Seven years ago, the European Union called the facility “a danger to the entire region,” but Armenia later turned down the EU’s offer of a 200 million euro ($289 million) loan to finance Metsamor’s shutdown. The same thing was underlined by the United States government as well, which has called the plant “aging and dangerous,” and urged construction of a new one.

How could the Armenian government afford to close the power plant, though, considering that 40% of the countries energy output comes from Metsamor? For the more than 3 million Armenians the Metsamor power plant is more than a simple industrial electricity facility, it’s a symbol – the symbol of light.

“People compare the potential risk with the potential shortage of electricity that might arise if the plant were closed,” says Ara Tadevosyan, director of Mediamax, a major Armenian news agency. “Having had this negative experience, people prefer to live with it, and believe that it will not be damaged in an earthquake.”

Seven years ago, the European Union’s envoy was quoted as calling the facility “a danger to the entire region,” but Armenia later turned down the EU’s offer of a 200 million euro ($289 million) loan to finance Metsamor’s shutdown. The United States government, which has called the plant “aging and dangerous,” underwrote a study that urged construction of a new one.

Metsamor is located right in the middle of one of the world’s most active and strong seismic zones that stretches in a broad swath from Turkey to the Arabian Sea near India. On December 10, 1988, a 6.8-magnitude earthquake struck, killing 25,000 people and leaving 500,000 homeless. Luckily, some 60 miles (100 kilometers) from the epicenter, Metsamor, then with two operating reactors, survived the temblor without damage, according to Armenian officials and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The Soviet government soon shut the nuclear plant down after the earthquake afraid of a calamity, especially since back then the Chernobyl incident was still very terrifyingly fresh in everybody’s minds.

In 1995 the government of then-independent Armenia decided to restart the younger of the two reactors, finally ending a period of hard seven years in which most of the population was blacked out.

When the unit restarted, “It became a source of energy and a source of hope for Armenia,” explained Tadevosyan. “It was a symbol that dark times are over: ‘We have electricity.’ And it is still seen as such today.”

The Metsamor reactor is much safer than the original unit that went into service at the site on January 10, 1980 however as close to 1,400 safety improvements have been made. Those included “seismic-resistant” storage batteries, reinforcement of the reactor building, electrical cabinets and cooling towers.

While global authorities believe the Metsamor reactor is still unsafe and should be shut down, the Armenian government and other independent entities think otherwise.

“Metsamor is no less safe than any other reactor in operation throughout the world,” said Nuclear engineering expert Robert Kalantari, whose Framingham, Massachusetts, firm, Engineering Planning and Management, consults for U.S. and Canadian regulatory authorities,. “Armenia as an independent country cannot survive without [Metsamor], which is a functioning, safe, and reliable source of energy for the country.”

Story via National Geographic.

Monitoring radioactivity levels near the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. Photograph: Christian Slund/Reuters

Japan raises nuclear crisis level to that of Chernobyl

Japan’s nuclear crisis level has been regulated from level 5 to 7  by the International Atomic Energy Agency, at the top of the nuclear hazard scale and right on par with the 1986 Chernobyl incident, according to the level of radiation released in the accident. The new ranking signifies a “major accident” with “wider consequences” than the previous level, according to the Vienna-based IAEA.

“We have upgraded the severity level to 7 as the impact of radiation leaks has been widespread from the air, vegetables, tap water and the ocean,” said Minoru Oogoda of Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency.

The decision was made after assessments of data on leaks of radioactive iodine-131 and cesium-137 showed critical levels of radiation.

“We have refrained from making announcements until we have reliable data,” NISA spokesman Hidehiko Nishiyama said.

“The announcement is being made now because it became possible to look at and check the accumulated data assessed in two different ways,” he said, referring to measurements from NISA and the Nuclear Security Council.

As opposed to the Chernobyl crisis, however, the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant hasn’t experienced any reactor core explosions, despite hydrogen explosions occurred during the first waves of tsunami which hit Japan after the deadly 9.0 earthquake. Actually, the amount of radiation leaking from the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant is around only 10 percent of the Chernobyl accident.

The magnitude-9.0 earthquake that caused the tsunami immediately stopped Fukushima’s three reactors, but overheated cores and a lack of cooling functions led to further damage. Engineers have been able to drop water into the damaged reactors to cool them down, but leaks have resulted in the pooling of tons of contaminated, radioactive water that has prevented workers from conducting further repairs – and if it wasn’t enough, aftershocks on Monday briefly cut power to backup pumps, halting the injection of cooling water for about 50 minutes before power was restored.

It could take weeks or months to stabilize the reactors. And containing and cleaning up the radioactive material could take at least 10 years, at a cost of more than $10 billion.

Mexico hit by 6.5 earthquake

Mexico was hit on Thursday by a big 6.5 earthquake, but recent reports state only minor damage, although people have been sent terrified in the streets. The 6.5 earthquake struck southern and central areas of the country.

Unlike the major 9.0 earthquake from Japan and the more recent one, this temblor took place at a big depth, below the crust; this means there isn’t much of a tsunami risk, due to reduced influence of the surface waves.

Governor Javier Duarte de Ochoa indicated there were no reports of damage in oil-producing Veracruz. “Veracruz is completely quiet without problems,” he told state television. “It was felt all over the state, but nothing major happened. It was only a scare.”

The magnitude of the Mexico earthquake is being revaluated by researchers from all around the world, and there is a good chance it will be estimated at 6.7, but that doesn’t change the facts much; buildings moves, people were scared, but aside from that, not so much happened. Marcelo Ebrard Casaubon, Mexico City’s chief of government, reported on Twitter that a survey of the city concluded no damage was caused by the quake.

Japan giving up nuclear plants would cause significant carbon emission raise

As Japan struggles to control the situation at the Fukushima power plant, an even more complicated question arises; where will Japan get its energy ? If they completely give up on nuclear power, which is not the most inspired of ideas if you ask me, they will face some very limited options.

As it turns out, replacing nuclear power with coal and LNG would add somewhere between 25 and 37 percent of the country’s current carbon emissions. According to the Breakthrough Institute, renewables can’t do all the work either:

With an assumed capacity factor for the country of 15 percent, this would require an installed solar capacity of 432 GW, more than four times the country’s planned goal of 53GW of solar PV capacity by 2030. Installation of this solar PV capacity would cost an estimated $2.16 trillion dollars, and cover roughly 2.7 million acres, equivalent to 110 percent of Japan’s land area.

Wind wouldn’t cut it either:

The installation of this 324 GW of wind turbines would cost around $798 billion, and would require 81,1141 acres. Again, this number represents the area taken out of production on a wind farm, but the wind farm itself would need to be as large as 2.8 billion acres, representing a full 111% of Japan’s land total area.

So without any other serious viable options, Japan can only significantly raise their carbon emissions and take a step backwards in energy evolution, or continue using nuclear power, and take a risk, but a really small one, and keep going at full gear. Considering the fact that this kind of catastrophic event takes place every thousand years or so, that’s a no brainer if you ask me.

Leaks send radioactivity into the ocean at the Fukushima power plant

The situation at the Fukushima power plant, albeit not being as catastrophic as it was broadcasted on main news channels, is far from being calm. The workers in the Japan nuclear plant are now trying to limit the environmental contamination, and this time, they are facing a break that allowed contaminated water to reach the ocean.

TEPCO, which runs the reactors, announced just a few hours ago that the leak has been stopped, and fortunately, we are talking about short-lived isotope of iodine that will decay and become harmless in a matter of months. The ability of the Pacific to dilute the contaminated water will also help this problem; there were worries that a serious contamination would cover a massive area, but it is now believe that we are talking about acceptable levels.

As a matter of fact, this has encouraged workers to think about dumping water with low level contamination directly into the ocean, for the sole purpose of diluting the radioactivity levels quickly.

There are still some questions regarding the state of the reactors themselves, and there is still uncertainty floating around the whole thing, because of the lack of information; however, a manager at the utility has been quoted as saying, “I don’t know if we can ever enter the No. 3 reactor building again”. Restoring and reusing the nuclear power plant was never on the table, but how we can handle large scale dangers such as this one, is still an ongoing debate – and the answers given by the Japanese are not bad at all.

Picture source

Half of Americans see natural disaster as sign of end times

According to more than half of all Americans, God is in complete control of everything that happens on our planet. Slightly fewer people, 44 percent, believe natural disasters, such as the earthquake and tsunamis in Japan are caused by an omnipotent power; but hey, it gets a little better – only 29 percent of Americans believe that God punishes a whole nation for the sins of a few individuals.

America never ceases to amaze me when it comes to things like this. Instead of wanting a rational but less desirable answer, people tend to go to the easier ‘God’s will’ approach.

“There’s just something about the randomness of the universe that is too unsettling,” says Scott Schieman, a sociologist at the University of Toronto. “We like explanations for why things happen … many times people weave in these divine narratives.”

The poll surveyed 1,008 adults in the continental United States a few days after the tragic events in Japan, and weighed results by age, sex, geographic region, education and race to reflect more accurately the beliefs of the American people. Another interesting result they got was that evangelical Christians are more likely to see disasters as a sign from God than other religious faiths.

All in all, this is pretty disturbing if you ask me. If half of the population in the most developed country in the world believes that natural disasters are some form of divine wrath, then either I’m missing something, or something is very wrong with the world we live in.

Japan engineers concede they might have to bury nuclear plant

As the nuclear situation at the Fukushima power plant continues to deteriorate, engineers start to ponder drastic options more and more seriously; it seems that the method which seems to have te best chances to work is the same one that was user in Chernobyl in 1986.

It is the first time operation leaders are admitting that burying the 40 year old complex is a serious option, as pumping water and droping it from helicopters seems to not work so well. However, even in this situation they still have to find a way to cool them down, which is more than complicated at the moment.

“It is not impossible to encase the reactors in concrete. But our priority right now is to try and cool them down first,” an official from the plant operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co, told a news

As Japan entered the second week after the 9.0 earthquake that generated tsunamis of over 10 meters, it’s worst crisis since WWII is far from being over. Already, 6.500 have officially been declared dead, with another 10.000 reported missing, and hopes are dropping with each passing day. Almost 400.000 people are homeless and battling near freezing temperatures, and the government also didn’t respond at its maximum capacity.

“An unprecedented huge earthquake and huge tsunami hit Japan. As a result, things that had not been anticipated in terms of the general disaster response took place,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano told a news conference.

Japan also raised the nuclear crisis rating from 4 to 5 out of a maximum of 7, but most experts claim the situation is even more dangerous.

Shorties: what happens during a nuclear meltdown

The media has significantly distorted (or even misinformed) the image of the nuclear situation in Japan at the Fukushima powerplant. The situation is dire, the dangers are real, and major, but a comparison to Chernobyl is far fetched to say the least. Here is a good explanation and a video of what’s going on during a meltdown, as well as adiitional information and a video regarding the whole situation in Japan.


Japan drops water on nuclear plant, situation is still very hot

The situation on the Fukushima nuclear plant is far from calming down, even after the government authorized water being dropped from helicopters, an option which was described as unnacceptable. It is even more unclear what the effect of that water will be, as helicopters threw it without hovering, presumably because of the radiation.

Also, this is a good example of why this method is rarely used: it doesn’t seem to work. The 60 tonnes of seawater seem to have pretty much missed their target, if not entirely, than a quite significant quantity; however, without hard evidence from the ground, video footage is the only way to figure this out, so my guess or yours is just as good as anybody’s on this matter.

The water wasn’t in fact meant to cool the reactors, as reported from many sources, but rather to cool the cooling pools. Without sufficient water, there is a growing chance of releasing radiation into the atmosphere, and the presence of radiation makes it even more hard to contain, because workers cannot be nearby.

“If this is damaged – and we suspect it must be – you’ve got radionuclides being produced and going upwards because of the fire,” said Andrew Sherry, director of the Dalton Nuclear Institute at the University of Manchester. “[Without water] the immediate outlook is that the fire and the generation of hydrogen will continue, so we’ve got quite an unstable situation.”

Japan’s emperor expresses fear over nuclear situation

The situation in Japan is far from calming down; the 9.0 earthquake and the tsunamis it triggered unleashed a chain of events which keep pointing towards a future that can only be dire. In his first official statement since the event, emperor Akihito says events at Fukushima are unpredictable, and he stated that he is “deeply concerned” about the nuclear situation.

In a rare public address, he urges his people to work together to overcome the worst crisis since WWII, saying that the events at the Fukushima power plant were “unpredictable”.

“I am deeply hurt by the grievous situation in the affected areas,” Akihito said in his first public appearance since Japan’s north-east coast was devastated by a powerful earthquake and tsunami in which more than 10,000 people may have died. “I hope from the bottom of my heart that the people will, hand in hand, treat each other with compassion and overcome these difficult times.”

As a symbolic figure, Akihito must stay away from political issues, but his appearance may go some way to lift the people’s spirits and give them the extra boost needed to secure the concerns. Akihito is regarded as a very intelligent and thoughtful man, and his opinions are respected and cherished by the Japanese, even 65 years after his father, Hirohito, was forced to renounce his divine status following Japan’s defeat in WWII.

“I am deeply concerned about the nuclear situation because it is unpredictable,” he said in remarks broadcast on television. “With the help of those involved I hope things will not get worse.”

An earthquake wake up call… to the US

You don’t get any country better prepared for an earthquake than Japan. They know they are at risk, they are prudent, they have the money, the technology, and the work force; and yet, when hit by an earthquake of this magnitude, no matter how well prepared you are, you are in for some massive trouble.

It’s a well known fact that the San Andreas fault is way overdue for a major earthquake – an earthquake which will cause unthinkable damage, even though the state of California prides itself to be the leading edge in seismic technology. Very modern buildings have a fair chance of still standing, but everything other than that will become a carpet of rubble; after that, hot winds will undoubtably fan the fires that earthquakes always cause, pipelines will burst, and everything will be unstoppable.

San Francisco after the 1906 earthquake

California should learn from the Japan experience that no amount of preparation can make you ready for something like this, when a major earthquake is coming.

“Everybody is playing a gamble that something like this won’t happen,” said Dana Buntrock, associate professor of architecture, at the University of California, Berkeley.

The thing is, the 1906 earthquake in San Francisco left the city devastated; everybody wanted to rebuild as fast as possible, and so, numerous buildings were made without adequate reinforcing steel, while homes and apartment complexes are extremely vulnerable themselves.

“The question is not if but when Southern California will be hit by a major earthquake — one so damaging that it will permanently change lives and livelihoods in the region,” according to a 2008 study by the United States Geological Survey study.

A study concluded that a 7.8 earthquake will probably cause 2.000 deaths and $200 billion damage, but these kind of studies are always optimistic. A 7.8 earthquake would be about 30 times smaller than the seismic event that struck Japan, but it is unlikely to be over 8, due to the tectonic of the region – but then again, so was the Japanese temblor. The thing is, there is a 99 percent chance of a 6.7 magnitude quake within three decades, and 46 percent chance of a 7.5 or greater temblor – talk about good odds. The odds for a 8 to 9 earthquake in the next 30 years were only at 10 percent.

California and Japan tend to look at each other when it comes to building earthquake-resistant buildings, but Japan has a different strategy, of tearing down older buildings and building newer ones instead, which makes them better prepared for this kind of event. But California isn’t the only area which the US has to worry when it comes to earthquakes. Frank Vernon, a geophysics professor and seismology specialist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego, speaks about these dangers:

“The most important lesson in the U.S. and North America is the reminder that we have a similar subduction zone called Cascadia up on the coast of British Columbia, Washington, Oregon and very northern California which could do the same thing,” he said. “Some day we will be having this same type of earthquake near our shores,” he said.

Picture sources: 1 2 3

Disturbing time-lapse animation shows Japan earthquakes

The 9.0 (it seems this is the actual magnitude) earthquake that hit Japan on the 11th of March created an absolutely incredible number of aftershocks, some of which were pretty intense on their own. However, a few days before it, as stress built up the subduction area between the Pacific and North American plates, one could easily see some foreshocks too.

The 7.2 temblor, which was one of these foreshocks, struck Japan on March 9, and it was pretty strong on its own; however, since the big earthquake started, aftershocks continue to rattle Japan, and for the past days, pretty much every significant earthquake in the world took place in that area.

Just a few hours after it, there were 19 reported aftershocks, and the estimated number now is over 100. This was the 4th biggest earthquake ever to be recorded, and despite the fact that aftershocks seem to decrease in intensity, there is no indication of them stopping any time soon. Before this, since 1973, there were only 9 earthquakes bigger than 7.0 recorded in Japan – now that number has increased greatly.

Quake moved Japan by at least 8 feet

The devastating seismic event that struck Japan is affecting the entire world, and even the entire planet. While smoke continues to rise from the catastrophic temblor, Japan seems to have moved 8 feet inland, or even more, according to the USGS.

“That’s a reasonable number,” USGS seismologist Paul Earle told AFP. “Eight feet, that’s certainly going to be in the ballpark.”

Friday’s terrible 8.9 tsunami unleashed a series of terrifying tsunamis that engulfed towns and cities on Japan’s coast, and caused the death of over ten thousand people.

The quake is the tectonic shift resulted from “thrust faulting”, along the boundary of the Pacific and North American plates. The Pacific plate “pushes” under the North American one at a rate of about 3.3 inches (83 millimeters) per year, but a major seismic event, such as this one, can give a significant push, with devastating consequences.

“With an earthquake this large, you can get these huge ground shifts,” Earle said. “On the actual fault you can get 20 meters (65 feet) of relative movement, on the two sides of the fault.”

This earthquake in Japan was just slightly less powerful than the one that killed 250.000 people in Sumatra, but almost 100 times more powerful than the one in Haiti.

“A magnitude 7.0 is much smaller than the earthquake that just happened in Japan,” he said. “We’ve had aftershocks (in Japan) larger than the Haiti earthquake.”

Magnitude of Japan earthquake takes scientists by surprise

It’s no mystery for anybody that the earthquake in Japan is one of the largest ever to be recorded in history, and it’s no mystery for anybody that Japan is an area with numerous seismic events, but the magnitude of this one exceeded greatly all expectations, even the most pessimistic one.

The 8.9 magnitude (or 9.0 according to other measurements) earthquake that struck the northeastern coast of Japan “is going to be among the top 10 earthquakes recorded since we have had seismographs,” said seismologist Susan Hough of the U.S. Geological Survey in Pasadena. “It’s bigger than any known historic earthquake in Japan, and bigger than expectations for that area.”

That particular portion of the Ring of Fire, as it is called, was expected to create a 8, maybe 8.5 magnitude temblor, but something as big as 8.9 is quite surprising; this may not seem like a big difference, but the Richter scale is a logarithmic one, so a 9 earthquake is 10 times more powerful than a 8 earthquake.

The thing is, temblors this big in the crust take place when a long, relatively straight fault line ruptures; a classical example for this would be Peru or Chile, but not Japan, because that tectonic plate boundary is not straight at all, but very irregular. According to USGS, an earthquake this big would require a huge rupture, of more than 300 miles. To top things off, this type of earthquake was perfect for tsunami generation, because it was very big, and at a very shallow depth.

Brilliant picture shows tsunamis estimated heights

This picture, created by a computer model at NOAA displays the expected heights of the tsunamis created by the 8.9 earthquake in Japan (which may be “upgraded” to 9.0 – calculating magnitudes is a pretty delicate issue).

Of course the largest wave heights are expected near the epicenter, off the coast of Sendai, Honshu, Japan. Generally speaking, the heights will decline with distance, but the near-shore heights will also decrease; for example coastal Hawaii will not expect heights of that encountered in coastal Japan.

The earthquake is one of the most powerful ever to be recorded, and it took most geophysicists and geologists by surprise, as almost nobody was expecting an event of this magnitude. Tsunamis caused even more damage, and things can get significantly worse for Japan (and not only) if the meltdown of several affected nuclear plants isn’t prevented. It seems however that the Japanese are handling the situation very well, and everybody is doing everything they can to limit the damage, and most of all, casualties.