The reactors at the Fukushima No 1 nuclear power plant are still causing concern. The good news is that the situation has not worsened precipitously over the past couple of days. The bad news is that while the electricity cables have been laid to the plant, the emergency core cooling systems have not yet been put in operation again. There are fears that even if power is restored to the plant, the cooling systems may not work, after damages they sustained after the quake and the tsunami. Supplementing water to the spent fuel pools and pumping water to the reactors 1, 2 and 3 are still urgent. Huge uncertainty remains: there are few concrete details and information is scarce. No one seems to know what exactly is happening, and what is likely to happen. Things are in a very precarious balance. Perhaps, as with many other things, it’s not as bad as the pessimists think, but not as good as the optimists think. Tense days continue.
Worst natural disaster since the WWII
The number of confirmed deaths stands at 6,911 as of 23:00 local time, 18 March 2011, making it the worst natural disaster in Japan since the Second World War. In addition, there are 10,692 people reported missing. According to a study based on a small number of deaths, it seems that a large proportion of the victims drowned, as the result of being swept away by the tsunami. To put these figures in context, the Hanshin-Awaji (Kobe) earthquake in 1995 killed 6,434 people.
A note on the sources
I have relied on information available at Japanese internet sites, mainly asahi.com and Yomiuri Online, the two largest daily newspapers in the country, and Kahoku Online Network, a regional paper, as well as official sources, such as Japan Meteorological Agency and the National Police Agency.