The final assignment for our online Environmental Chemistry class is to discuss the recent nuclear crisis in Japan. This disaster resulted in many fatalities and many more either homeless or in critical damage (2). The Japanese government raised the rating of the crisis at Fukushima Dai-ichi to a level 7 (1). The scale used, the International Nuclear Events scale (INES) started in 1990 to help educate the public on how important certain events are. The scale’s legend indicates that each level is 10 times more devastating than next lowest level (9). The Fukushima Dai-ichi incident is only the second disaster to be ranked at the highest level (the other being Chernobyl in Ukraine), which means it is a “major accident which releases
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TEPCO was once again struck by natural disaster, and the three reactors that were still operational were greatly affected. The reactors were designed to cool themselves with water-pumping diesel generators, which were flooded as the tsunami hit. The remaining reactors quickly began to overheat (6). Japanese officials have stated that the nuclear power plant wasn’t made to stand up against a tsunami as large as the one that came upon it (8). The Japanese government promptly declared an emergency at the power plant and authorities stated that the cooling system wasn’t working and advised the public to “brace for the worst” (6). Engineers for the power plant tried to relieve some pressure by venting steam, but ended up releasing dangerous radioactive material instead (3).
By Saturday morning, it was reported that the radiation levels in the number 1 reactor at the plant were increasing. A radiation leak was also noticed by TEPCO, endangering thousands of people. Outside the main gate of TEPCO, radiation levels were over eight times greater than normal. It was then reported that another chemical, radioactive cesium, had also escaped from the plant (possibly due to the destruction of the fuel rods). I found that cesium is notable because its chemical makeup lends it to being very pyrophoric (fire bearing) and extremely reactive to water (6). It was then feared that the plant had leaked radioactive iodine,