Did Japan do something to anger the universe? (Don’t answer that, Jerry Falwell.) After a massive offshore quake, a devastating tsunami, and a nuclear crisis, the beleaguered country is now being treated to aftershocks that would make most quakes feel silly. As for the nuclear status … who knows? It probably isn’t good.
Aftershocks ruin everything: One month after the initial quake, a 6.6 magnitude aftershock — way smaller than the original, but bigger than the vast majority of quakes in the world — shut down cooling systems AGAIN at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, where workers are scampering to contain radioactive material and stave off even worse disaster.
Evacuations to expand? Officials haven’t extended the 20-kilometer (12-mile) evacuation zone, though they’ve made very strong suggestions that people stay 30 kilometers (18 miles) away to be on the safe side. But after another interruption in emergency operations (which, we might add, currently consist of pumping radioactive water into the sea, because that is the BEST available option right now), and with high radiation levels being found even outside a 30-km radius, they may have to give in. (Americans, meanwhile, are supposed to stay 50 miles away.)
How boned are we? WHO KNOWS: Compounding Japan’s problems: A lack of solid information on the dangers at Fukushima. The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission says there’s likely been a fuel leak. The Japanese Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency response: “We have no idea what you’re talking about, all the fuel is safely contained.” Yeah, that sounds a little suspicious … but on the other hand the Japanese agency is complaining about foreign media blowing things out of proportion with no evidence, and we have to say, that sounds pretty familiar. Right now it’s hard to settle things fully, because the reactors are so radioactive in places that it’s not safe to go in and get accurate data.
Lack of Data Heightens Japan's Nuclear Crisis, New York Times.