Chronology of a catastrophe.
The earth quake with an intensity of 8.9 that struck Japan on March 11, 2011 and its many aftershocks caused the emergency shut down of 11 nuclear reactors located between 50 and 350 km north of Tokyo. In the absence of electric current and break downs of emergency generators (some of which ran out of fuel), loss of control of those reactors has resulted in overheating of the reactor cores. Despite desperate attempts of engineers who tried to lower the pressure by opening valves, or by flooding the buildings with seawater, the disaster could not avoided. Information circulated has been extremely confusing. The network, http://www.sortirdunucleaire.org/ reminds us that TEPCO and EDF locally, have been condemned 27 times by Japanese courts for the dissemination of false information on previous accidents.
* 10:47 p.m. (French time), the alert level is reached for reactor No.1 Fukushima-Daiichi (there are six in total, 3 were not running at the time of the earthquake). The 439 MWe reactor, first started up in 1970, had levels of radioactivity a thousand times above normal levels around the central core.
* 7:36, the enclosure of reactor No 1 building explodes. Japanese television crews film live: we see huge flames escape from the building and a giant cloud of dust rises to several hundred metres. The authorities have already evacuated the population who were within a 10km radius, it’s now extended to 20 km (50 000 people). They ask the people living within a 50 km radius to remain in their homes. The wind blows from the southeast sending the radioactive cloud up to Alaska and Canada. It is worth noting that Japanese nuclear reactors are more resistant to earth quakes than French ones with 5 enclosures instead of 3. The officially version is that it is a bubble of hydrogen that blows up the buildings. The nuclear core of the reactor begins meltdown in open air (caesium is detected in the cloud). Boron enriched sea water is injected in order to try to drown the core. The radioactivity on the site is then measured at 10,000 times normal. The use of sea water causes corrosion that definitively condemns the reactor.
* 13.30, the alert is given on the Fukushima-Daini site (4 reactors), 12 km to the south and an evacuation of the population begins with a radius of 20 km (50 000+ people). At the same time, in France, the Authority of Nuclear Security (ASN) promises transparency.
* 16h, beginning of the distribution of iodine tablets in a 50 km radius around the two nuclear sites. Iodine protects from thyroid cancer, but not other cancers: Caesium and strontium attack the bone marrow, plutonium lungs, and carbon goes everywhere. The accident was first estimated at level 4 (for comparison: Three Mile Island download was classed at level 5, and level 7 at Chernobyl, the highest level). It rises to level 6 on March 14.
* 16h10: the German government invites its nationals or residents from the north and Tokyo to move to the south of the country.
* 21:50 IAEA The International Atomic Energy Agency announces that 140 000 people in total have already been evacuated.
* 0h, the Japanese government announce that of the eleven reactors shut down as an emergency only one followed the correct procedure. It announces also that power cuts (3 hours per day at least until April, except in central Tokyo) will be carried out throughout the country. An appeal is made, asking Russia to provide more gas.
* 7:47, TEPCO announces that radioactivity in the city of Miyagi, 80 km from the site of Fukushima-Daiichi, is 400 times the normal level normal.
* 9 am, The French Embassy in Tokyo encourages French residents (around 9000) to leave the capital to go further south.
* 10 am, Greenpeace questions the use of sea water, a ‘catastrophic solution’ because the salt will not only corrode metals, but also block conduction pipes.
* 15h, A state of emergency is declared at the Onagawa power station, farther north, following an increase of radioactivity 700 times normal, possibly the radioactive cloud from No.1 Fukushima-Daiichi.
* 15h50, six Japanese journalists manage to reach a community 2km from Fukushima-Daiichi. They stop when their radiation counters go off the scale at 1000 mSv / hour (this means that in an hour they would receive 1000 times the annual limit authorized to the public). They denounce the fact that they saw no signs on the road, and no police roadblocks to prevent them from passing.
* 18h, demonstration of 3 to 500 people in Paris, Place du Trocadero with a call from Reseau sortir du nucleaire and the presence of Dominique Voynet, Eva Joly, Jean-Luc Mélenchon.
* 20h on JT France 2, Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet, Minister of Ecology denounces the opportunism of the anti-nuclear groups and praises a return from Japan of experience that will improve security of nuclear power plants in France. Henri Guaino, special adviser to President Nicolas Sarkozy declares "the nuclear accident in Japan could encourage French industry where security is a hallmark." Jean-Francois Cope: "In no way should these accidents call into question the strategic choices of countries in terms of energy.” Eric Besson: "This accident has nothing to do with Chernobyl."
* 21h, the Japanese nuclear security authority announces that six reactors at least are in difficulty. Reactors 1, 2 and 3 at Fukushima Daiichi, and reactors 1, 2 and 3 Fukushima Daini (12 km from the first site). Here the valves were opened to avoid the explosion of the buildings, releasing another radioactive clouds.
* 21h, Nicolas Hulot and Daniel Cohn-Bendit demand a referendum on the issue of nuclear power.
* 23:30, Explosion of the reactor No.3 Fukushima Daiichi (760 MW). This has been running since September 22, 2010, with mixed uranium-plutonium fuel (MOX) supplied by Areva, which is much more toxic than the first reactor. 7 people working on the central door are declared missing. The cooling system is destroyed. At least 90 people involved in the area are irradiated.
* 4 h, To the north of Tokyo, radioactivity level climbs: the cloud from Fukushima 1 returns from offshore following a change of wind direction. It also appears that the cloud that comes from Fukushima 3, more radioactive than the other, is larger.
* 5 am, the U.S. government announces that off japan, its aircraft carrier Ronald Reagan placed as a backup to refuel helicopters, crossed a radioactive cloud and that its crew received a dose equivalent to the maximum allowed in a month.
* 14h, the Japanese government announced that 180,000 people are around the nuclear sites and at least 187 people have been contaminated.
* 16h, Reactor No2 at Fukushima now seems to be in peril. The operator announces its intention to release gas in order to prevent a more serious explosion.
* 18h, Angela Merkel announces a three month suspension of permits that would otherwise authorise german reactors to be used beyond their original retirement date. In effect, two power stations will be shut down. Spontaneous demonstrations occur in 450 cities uniting more than 100 000 people.
* 20h, associations that have participated in the Grenelle de l'Environnement see Nicolas Sarkozy during a prearranged meeting. They demand an open debate on the nuclear issue and of energy in general (petrol, shale gas, renewables, the energy economy). In response, Sarkozy replies "There is no way we will give up nuclear.” And with pride, this time in front of the UMP parliamentarians, Sarkozy states: "If we have lost markets and bids then it’s because we are the most expensive. And if we are the most expensive , it’s because we are the most secure”. And for the biggest lie, he says: "The EPR… I know this building site well, I have been there several times. I'm sorry to say this, but it has a double hull! The principle of the double hull, is that if a Boeing 747 crashes into the reactor, it is not affected." Recall that the network, Sortir du Nucleaire was persued in the courts for having released in 2003 a ‘confidential’ defence document which states exactly the opposite.
* 20h, the Swiss government announces the suspension of new nuclear projects amd a study on the five remaining reactors in operation. The Indian government announces a general inspection of its facilities (20 small reactors with 4780 MW in total)
* 20h, most large French companies, with Areva at the head evacuate their employees to South korea, Hong Kong and France. Air France announces that its flights are saturated.
* 21:45, The atomic fusion of the reactors 1 and 3 Fukushima-Daiichi is made official. As these reactors are in open air, this means that the cloud is becoming increasingly radioactive.
* 0:03, Explosion of reactor No2 at Fukushima-Daiichi. The staff have in part been evacuated. According to TEPCO, there are 50 people on the Fukushima Daiichi site, 800 left their posts. It's total chaos, nothing is under control. The US army is called in as a reinforcement. The radioactivity at the power station is 10 000 times above authorised levels.
* 0:30: the wind changes and the radioactive cloud heads for Tokyo. The government makes an appeal: women and children are encouraged to go to the south of the island, or to go abroad.
* 1:30: Journalists are not permitted to go within 30 km of the plant. 200 000 people between 20 and 30 km from the site are in the process of being evacuated. Overflights are prohibited within a radius of 30 km.
* 2h: new explosion on the number 2 reactor with a brutal increase in radioactivity. The radioactivity at the plant is now 70 000 times that of the authorized limit. An exposure of 12 hours at this level is considered fatal. The core of reactor number 2 is most probably in open air.
* 7am: the website of Spiegel in Germany publishes the first map of the dispersion of the radioactive cloud and interviews German specialists: they believe that it was not an explosion of hydrogen, but in effect a nuclear explosion, and this for the three reactors.
* 8:50, le monde announces that the inhabitants of the west coast of the United States are scrambling for iodine tablets.
* 9:44, while reactors 4 and 6 at Fukushima-Daiichi are not running, nuclear waste from number 4 which had been stocked in a pool near reactor No.3 are now in free air, the water having evaporated. Kyodo news agency announces that the waste is in flames. This nuclear waste is very radioactive. Reactors 5 and 6 show an abnormal heat.
* 10.15 The level of radioactivity measured in the county of Chiba, located just east of Tokyo, is more than ten times normal, reports Kyodo News. In Kanagawa, 10 times more than normal. In Ibaragi, 100 times normal. Rain begins to fall, precipitating the radioactive particles to the ground.
* 10:25, Two cracks eight meters wide appeared in the exterior of the core of reactor number 4 at Fukushima-Daiichi, a reactor which was not running, but subjected to extreme heat.
* 10:49, according to AFP, Dominique de Villepin questioned the government accusing it of being in denial.
* 12, The German Government decide to temporarily shut down seven reactors built before 1980 (there remain 10 in activity).
* 12, "We are heading towards a nuclear disaster” declares Nathalie Kosciusko-Morizet, to the press.
* 13h, Silent vigils are held in over thirty cities in France (200 persons in Marseille, Lyon, Bordeaux, Mulhouse, 100 in Paris, Grenoble)
* 17h, Shares in Areva lose 18% in the stock market in two days -it is Areva who supplied the MOX for reactor No.3 Fukushima-Daiichi. Shares in TEPCO lose 42%.
* 17:15, Radio-France orders its seven journalists who live in Japan to leave the country. France-Television does the same at 22.30. RTL, Europe 1, announce the withdrawal of their teams from Osaka. While France 24 orders its reporters to try to go further north!
* 22:45, Beginnings of fire on the roof of reactor number 4 of Fukushima Daiichi. Technicians collect data from a shelter located outside the reactor whilst remaining on site for a couple of minutes only.
* 0:20, the fire on reactor number 4 appears to be out.
* 2 h, there is a wind shift for Tokyo. The radioactivity is all the same still 300 times higher than normal. In the stations, trains leave heading south.
* 3.30 With a lowering of radioactivity at a local level, 700 people are mobilized to take it in turns in groups of 70 to inject water onto reactors 1 and 3. These "liquidators" are thus medically condemned.
* 4:56, new earth tremor reading 6 with an epicentre southwest of Tokyo.
* 7:45 am, China blocks the words “leak” and "nuclear” on it’s internet network.
* 8:45, TEPCO announces that the temperature of nuclear waste in the storage pools of reactors 5 and 6 is increasing.
* 9:45, The Emergency Management Department in Fukushima announces that in drinking water to the city of Fukushima (about 60 km from the site), the measurement for Iodine is 177 Becquerel / kg and that of caesium is 58 becquerel / kg.
* 12h, Declaration from Nicolas Sarkozy: "France has opted for nuclear energy, which constitutes an essential element of its independence in energy and its fight against greenhouse gas emissions. " Cockle doodle do! Sortir du Nucleaire’s immediate reaction: "For President Sarkozy the nuclear industry is more privileged than the health of the French. Reaction from Jean-Luc Mélenchon: "Our country is run by an ostrich."
* 13:15, TEPCO make the announcement that workers take turns in relay to go into the interior of the reactors, and that they stay there for less than a minute.
In summary, three partial core meltdowns, two fires of combustible material and five hydrogen explosions have occurred in the power station at Fukushima-Daiichi, since the earth quake and tsunami of 11 March 2011, with the release of colossal amounts of radioactivity into the atmosphere. The agglomeration of Tokyo with its 35 million people is now contaminated with an exposure level of 300 times normal. The population has begun to flee south.
Recall that it took 20 days to bury Chernobyl with sand, which required the sacrifice of 600,000 people. 25 years later, according to a recent American study, the death toll is now at one million. The population of Kiev and the area surrounding Chernobyl was only 2 million, that of Gomel to the north was one and a half million. In Japan today the number of people exposed is therefore ten times that of Chernobyl.
"Unless drastic measures are taken to reduce the vulnerability of power stations to earthquakes, Japan could experience a real nuclear catastrophe in the near future. "
This warning was taken from an article in the International Herald Tribune / Asahi Shimbun dated 11 August 2007. Its author is the seismologist Katsuhiko Ishibashi, a professor at the university of Kobe. Katsuhiko Ishibashi was on the committee of experts whose job it was to establish earth quake resistance norms for nuclear power stations in Japan. He had resigned to protest the position taken by the committee. He felt that the recommendations fixed by that committee were far too lax.