- Created: Tuesday, 12 April 2011 09:31
- Written by David Hetfield
On 11 March 2011 a massive 9.0 earthquake off north-eastern Japan and a subsequent tsunami triggered the worst nuclear power disaster since Chernobyl in the Soviet Union in 1986. This could not have come at a worse time for politicians and the nuclear industry who were set to launch a massive nuclear power station building programme.
Three out of six reactors were operating at the Fukushima nuclear plant at the time of the earthquake. These shut down automatically. However, the 10-metre tsunami breached the defensive wall, destroying power lines to the plant and emergency generators, leaving back-up batteries with an eight-hour life to pump cooling water over the nuclear material. When they failed, the fuel heated up, causing a build-up of gas which led to several explosions and fires, destroying the roofs of two buildings and releasing radioactive material into the atmosphere. Partial meltdown of at least two reactor cores is likely.