History of the Quake, Tsunami and Nuclear Disasters

On March 11, 2011, a 9.03-magnitude earthquake and its ensuing tsunami (with waves
of up to 133 feet or 40.5 meters) devastated Japan and caused seven nuclear meltdowns at three reactors in the northeastern coastal city of Fukushima. The nuclear disaster measured a Level 7 on the International Nuclear Event Scale; only Chernobyl in 1986 measured Level 7 previously. Hundreds of thousands of residents within a 12-miles radius of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant were evacuated and many have not been able to return to their homes. In October 2012, the Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco), the operator the power plant, admitted not preparing adequately for a tsunami of such magnitude. In a report, the company said, “There were concerns that if new countermeasures against severe accidents were installed, concern would spread in host communities that the current plants had safety problems.” Decommissioning the power plant may take more than 30 years.

The quake was the largest ever to hit Japan and the fourth largest since 1900. Over 4 million households were without electricity and 1.5 million without water. By 2012, there were 15,883 confirmed deaths, 2,671 missing, and 6,1245 injured. The economic cost was estimated by the World Bank to be $235 billion.