On March 11, 2011, a magnitude 9.0 earthquake struck the Island of Honshu, Japan with its epicenter in the Sendai province.  This earthquake triggered a 12 meter high tsunami event along the eastern coast of Honshu.  The combined force of these two catastrophic events and further exacerbated by a continuous cycle of daily noticeable earthquakes that have measured between 4.5 and 7.1 in intensity as defined by the Richter scale has caused significant damage throughout the nation.   The degree of damage suffered by the cities, villages and industrial facilities of Japan is significant and Japan’s economy was severely affected.  In the days following the event Japan suffered significant damage, disruptions, costs and risks.  


The Bank of Japan had to inject nearly $300 billion during the first few days following the catastrophe to support business and the economy, whole communities and their supporting facilities such as the Sendai, Japan airport were virtually destroyed, casualties in terms of confirmed loss of life has totaled 10,000 mark as of Friday, April 9th and was still climbing two weeks after the magnitude-9 quake struck off the northeastern coast and unleashed a cascade of disasters.


As of today, hundreds of thousands of survivors are still camped out in temporary shelters. Some 660,000 households do not have water, more than 209,000 do not have electricity. Damage could rise as high as $310 billion, the government said, making it the most costly natural disaster on record.


The total death toll from the disaster could rise much higher as Japan’s National Police Agency said more than 17,400 people are still missing. Those tallies may overlap, but police from one of the hardest-hit prefectures, Miyagi, estimate that the deaths will top 15,000 in that region alone.


In addition to the direct human and economic costs from the event and resulting disruptions, Japan faces significant threats to the integrity of institutions due to the significant damage sustained by both its nuclear power plant complexes, oil refineries, petrochemical facilities and industrial chemical factories.  It appears to be a certainty that the failure of several nuclear reactors at the Fukushima Nuclear Power facility will occur and very soon, and that there could be a substantial release of radioactive material including very dangerous and deadly isotopes of Plutonium, Cesium, Iodine and Strontium.  Given the proximity of Fukushima to Japan’s major cities, particularly Tokyo (population approximately 13.7 million in the city, 35 million in the metropolitan area) (located 140 miles (220 kilometers) northeast of Tokyo) approximately 80% of the population of Japan (total population is approximately 135 million) will likely suffer some level of injury, both temporary and permanent, and death either immediately or far sooner than the victims’ expected lifetimes.


Japan’s strong and well-developed institutions play an essential role in the country’s internal success.  These institutions have formed the backbone of Japan’s efforts to assert itself as a constructive, respected but peaceful leader in the international arena.  During normal times the cooperative spirit between the government and business has supported the strong growth and leading position that Japan has historically earned.   However, the recent catastrophe and collateral damage has exposed Japan’s and its major institutions to a high degree of impairment and this has increased the level of risk in the global community.  If Japan’s institutions were to fail because they were not properly supported by a resilient infrastructure then both Japan’s ability to service its internal needs, and more seriously deliver on its obligations to the world community, then there would be significant consequences that would encompass world economic disruptions, business failures in the short run and other costly gaps in terms of world political leadership, systems, social processes, etc. which are valuable although not necessarily in discreetly quantifiable way. 


Given the extremely fragile state of its nuclear facilities, particularly Fukushima, Japan is highly likely to sustain long term impairment of approximately 70% to 80% of its land, air and water supply.  This could force up to 70% of Japan’s industrial capacity to be shut down.  Pollution from the release of radioactive particulate matter, particularly Plutonium isotopes and radioactive Cesium and Strontium will render the environment of Japan as hostile and uninhabitable for up to thousands of years. 


The importance of Japan’s institutions, the risk to its population and the short time frame remaining before the likely catastrophic event at Fukushima and possibly other nuclear facilities throughout Japan, make the need for Japan to act quickly to develop and implement strategies that will preserve as much of what makes up Japan as possible.  A way to do this is to employ the concept of Resilience, which large management consulting firms such as McKinsey, Booz Allen & Hamilton and Accenture are well known as influential leaders in its application.  Through Resilience, Japan will be able to ensure the continuity of its institutions and the protection of its population and its way of life despite the likely impairment and even rendering as hostile to all forms of life on Honshu, as well as the connected, contiguous and neighboring Islands that define the geography of the Japanese homeland.

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  • I would like to compliment everyone who is following and participating in this important discussion regarding the situation in Japan.  You are all very thoughtful, helpful and knowledgeable.  Your perspectives, particularly those of you who live and study in Asia, are extremely valuable and highly appreciated.  Please continue to help me monitor and evaluate this situation.
  • That's a nice comparison table. Thanks for the link. Warren Nagler.

    Although there wasn't much info, that I didn't had read before, they had grabbed some (likely confirmed and reliable) info there.. So I guess I really got more informed.

  • Hardi please read this article from BBC that compares Fukushima vs. Chernobyl.  You need to be properly informed.
  • I don't know enough facts about Fukushima accidents. But I think it can't be compared to Chernobyl, or anything. None of Fukushima reactors have exploded yet. And since the construction of reactor is different, than what was used in Chernobyl. There's less chance it to happen.

    In Chernobyl, as what I've read. About a half of the nuclear fuel was vapored into air in explosion and then shattered into wide area... It is said that there was 400 times more radioactive materials plowed out from reactor, than what was in Hiroshima nuclear bomb explosion...

    Well I'm not nuclear physic. But I believe, that also the nuclear plant explosion in Chernobyl and Atomic bomb explosion in Hiroshima are way to different to compare. But these are just some numbers to make some picture, that I've read and remembered. People like me, who are not nuclear physics and too unfamiliar about subject. Want to have, some scale, or something to compare it. To get a clearer vision of it. But there actually haven't been many of such accidents.. fortunately.

    Obviously the first thing to compare would be most read and heard about, Chernobyl and Hiroshima.. Even though I know it's not nearly exact. It makes somewhat feel better, if I can compare it with something... It's bad to be uninformed.


    Don't know how much effect the Fukushima accident have to Japanese local environment. It depends of what kind of radioactive materials have leaked and how much. I'm sure it won't reach too much to elsewhere, to neighbor countries. But I'm certain, it still have a huge effect worldwide.. For nuclear energetic to be exact, and thus also to politic of many countries. I'm certain, that if this accident had happened a bit earlier, or better lets say, if our parliament elections here in Estonia, were on latter date. The result of elections, could have been different.... :P Currently we got a government, who is interested to build a nuclear plant to gain more Independence from our neighbor country's electric and decrease CO2 emision...


    Even I thought that - "oh whatever, they say that the up to date nuclear plants are safe... and I have actually other, more important things to worry" But now I'm certainly against of it, even if it's marked as safe. Because there's still some non-reversible "if's".

  • This is also from Nature, the most prestigious scientific journal in the world [Nature 471, 555-556 (2011)], saying the nuclear fallout is much less in Fukushima than Chernobyl. Data and comments are from IAEA and other scientific institutions.

    Of course the potential radioactivity of Fukushima is far higher than that of Chernobyl, because there are six reactors out there. To the worse, some fuels contain plutonium. But none of them has exploded. The explosions that have been broadcast appear to be from hydrogen gas built up in the compartments. I will give in only when you show me evidence that any of the reactors has actually exploded.

    Anyway, I strongly agree that Japan should go for clean energy. Geology of this country is least suitable for the nuclear plant. I think, people of Japan have finally realized it after paying a huge price.

  • First of all, the force of nuclear power and the attendant radiation is and will be much higher than the atom bombs dropped on Japan and Chernobyl which was just a single reactor.  You are not privy to the information that I am, and mine comes from official and scientific sources.  You are just quoting blogs and websites that are inaccurate.


    GE should have stepped in and helped Japan in 2006, since they made so much money off of these expensive systems and charged for tremendous cost overruns.  Japan should have rolled over to the cajoling of the US to adopt nuclear power as a center piece for clean, efficient and safe energy.  Having been subjected to the results of a nuclear bomb should have galvanized Japanese institutions to oppose the adoption of a nuclear power reliant energy strategy.  However GE's marketing, business development and governmental affairs machines were probably most likely to blame for enabling this massive cram down of nuclear power on Japan.  I will be that there were lots of justifications and rationalizations made for why this was such a great idea and without risk for Japan.  Japan at that time was still weak, recovering from WWII on the US government's terms and dependent on the US to buy its products.  

  • Regarding the difference between Fukushima and Chernobyl, you can read discussions at (How Fukushima is and isn't like Chernobyl). I cannot say Fukushima is more serious than Hiroshima and Nagasaki, where hundreds of thousands of people were killed instantaneously and others suffered from leukemia and other complications. No one has died from radiation in Fukushima (so far).


    As you say, it was a huge mistake that the design of Fukushima’s nuclear plants was directly adapted from the one made by GE, in which a large scale earthquake or tsunami was not taken into consideration. But, I must say that the biggest mistake was made by the Japanese government. In 2006, they have already realized the vulnerability of the plants to a large tsunami and promised that they would improve the facility, but they didn’t.  This is a manmade disaster.

  • Yes, the spirit and discipline of Japan is the reason why Japan has been so successful.  However, the specter of nuclear tragedy is all too real and imminent.  This will not be easy to overcome.  This scale of this event will dwarf Hiroshima, Nagasaki and Chernobyl.  We are talking about 3 reactors and maybe more here.  


    This is not Japan's fault.  The US sold Japan on these reactors and a total of 54 throughout the country beginning in the 1950's.  General Electric designed and built them with some local assistance from Hitachi.

  • The Japanese government pushed up the disaster level at Fukushima from 5 to 7, but the released radiation is still one tenth of that in Chernobyl. In terms of nuclear pollution, practically damaged area is just a small portion of entire Japan. Speaking of the impact on Japan's economy, it is huge because of the complex, interconnected structure of industries. For example, destruction of a couple of parts companies in the affected area has completely stopped the production line of Toyota, Honda, and Nissan.


    I believe the Japanese are as resilient as they were when the country arose from the ruins after the World War II. When the atomic bombs were dropped in Hiroshima and Nagasaki (the latter was a plutonium bomb) in 1945, people thought they would never be able to live there for 100 years. But the fact is that the cities were rebuild quickly and > one million vital people are living there now. Today (April 13), the first airplane landed on the Sendai Airport, which had been devastated by the tsunami but reopened thanks to the efforts by US Marines and Japanese Defense Forces. I'm optimistic about Japan's reconstruction.2381420146?profile=originalThank you for the interesting article.


  • Unfortunately, this is all too true and real. I don't expect you or anyone else to be able to absorb the magnitude of what is about to happen. Check with nuclear physics organizations and professors in your country who have international connections. They will confirm much of this.

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