Scenes from the disaster — Fukushima

Five years since the meltdown at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi nuclear power plant, progress has been made to rebuild much of the prefecture. Yet within evacuation zones designated by the Japanese government, scars are still obvious. Many evacuees who fled are unwilling to return. Thousands still live in temporary housing outside these zones.

Photographs by Ko Sasaki and Tomohiro Ohsumi…

A house stands in an area damaged by the 2011 earthquake and tsunami

A fishing boat swept inland by the tsunami is still left in Namie.

Click through to see more photos. The fifth anniversary of the Fukushima disaster.

First nuclear reactor restarted – in Sendai – since Fukushima meltdown


Beginning of the end

A Japanese utility company said Tuesday it restarted a nuclear reactor, the first to do so since the Fukushima Daiichi meltdown in 2011.

“We hereby announce that as of today, Sendai Nuclear Power Unit No.1 has extracted control rods from the reactor and started up at 10:30 a.m.,” Kyushu Electric Power Co. said…”We see this startup as one of the important steps on restart process of the nuclear reactor.”

Japan has been working to reshape its energy sector since the 2011 meltdown of the Fukushima Daicchi nuclear reactor by focusing on energy efficiency, conservation and an increased use of cleaner-burning natural gas to help keep emissions in check…

Japan decommissioned 50 reactors after the 2011 meltdown, forcing it to re-examine its energy mix. Prior to the Fukushima disaster, nuclear had provided about 30 percent of Japan’s electricity, with renewable energy accounting for less than 3 percent, excluding hydropower. The country relied heavily in imports of liquefied natural gas in the wake of the disaster.

Kyushu in its statement said it would “never” allow a repeat of the 2011 disaster.

“We will continue to make sincerely an all-out effort to deal with the Nuclear Regulation Authority’s inspections, and carry out carefully remaining process, putting utmost priority to safety, with a sense of alertness more than ever,” it said.

A magnitude-9 earthquake and resulting tsunami 2011 led to a meltdown at the Fukushima facility, the worst nuclear catastrophe since Chernobyl disaster in Ukraine in 1986.

Not much of an article – deliberately. I’ll offer more in-depth discussion as the process of restart proceeds.

Japan hasn’t much of a choice at present. They have this capacity in place. The nation has been making do – which means spending a lot more to provide electricity than anyone has been accustomed to. The citizens of Japan are – unfortunately – used to going along with whatever decisions their politicians make. So, they’ve been absorbing the price hikes flowing from a kludged-together system of electricity production since the disaster.

Though a lifetime advocate for nuclear-generated power, I’ve had to change that position in the last year or two. China’s subsidized development of solar-generated electricity, wind-generated electricity [along with parallel development in northern Europe] has qualitatively changed the picture…for the better, I believe. Regardless of all the hollering, trade sanctions, whining from Congress, the result has been legitimate cuts in the cost of establishing alternative power generation both on a large-scale and home-based.

A win for nations and individuals. A win for the environment.

We don’t know enough about quake, tsunami hazards, along Southern California

While their attention may be inland on the San Andreas Fault, residents of coastal Southern California could be surprised by very large earthquakes – and even tsunamis – from several major faults that lie offshore…

The latest research into the little known, fault-riddled, undersea landscape off of Southern California and northern Baja California has revealed more worrisome details about a tectonic train wreck in the Earth’s crust with the potential for magnitude 7.9 to 8.0 earthquakes. The new study supports the likelihood that these vertical fault zones have displaced the seafloor in the past, which means they could send out tsunami-generating pulses towards the nearby coastal mega-city of Los Angeles and neighboring San Diego.

“We’re dealing with continental collision,” said geologist Mark Legg of Legg Geophysical in Huntington Beach, California, regarding the cause of the offshore danger. “That’s fundamental. That’s why we have this mess of a complicated logjam…”

The logjam Legg referred to is composed of blocks of the Earth’s crust caught in the ongoing tectonic battle between the North American tectonic plate and the Pacific plate…The mostly underwater part of this region is called the California Continental Borderland, and includes the Channel Islands.

…What they were searching for are signs, like those seen along the San Andreas, that indicate how much the faults have slipped over time and whether some of that slippage caused some of the seafloor to thrust upwards.

What they found along the Santa Cruz-Catalina Ridge Fault are ridges, valleys and other clear signs that the fragmented, blocky crust has been lifted upward, while also slipping sideways like the plates along the San Andreas Fault do. Further out to sea, the Ferrelo Fault zone showed thrust faulting – which is an upwards movement of one side of the fault. The vertical movement means that blocks of crust are being compressed as well as sliding horizontally relative to each other-what Legg describes as “transpression…”

As Southern California’s pile-up continues, the plate movements that build up seismic stress on the San Andreas are also putting stress on the long Santa Cruz-Catalina Ridge and Ferrelo Faults. And there is no reason to believe that those faults and others in the Borderlands can’t rupture in the same manner as the San Andreas, said Legg…

NOAA was working on complete high-resolution bathymetry of the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone – the waters within 200 miles of shore – until the budget was cut, said Legg. That left out Southern California and left researchers like himself using whatever bits and pieces of smaller surveys to assemble a picture of what’s going on in the Borderland, he explained.

“We’ve got high resolution maps of the surface of Mars,” Legg said, “yet we still don’t have decent bathymetry for our own backyard.”

Just in case our readers in the Southland didn’t have enough to worry about. 🙂

RTFA for the scary details.

Pic of the Day


Click to enlargeAP Photo/Wong Maye-E

Ben Atreu Flegel, 25, a German survivor of the Asian tsunami who lost his grandparents ten years ago in this very beach, stands facing the sea in quiet reflection during a commemoration and religious ceremony for German, Austrian and Swiss victims of the tsunami, Friday, Dec. 26, 2014, in Khao Lak, Thailand. Dec. 26 marks the 10th anniversary of one of the deadliest natural disasters in world history: a tsunami, triggered by a massive earthquake off the Indonesian coast, that left more than 230,000 people dead in 14 countries and caused about $10 billion in damage.

We watched the tsunami coming from thousands of miles away.

Kinfolk were visiting for the holidays and one of them – a science teacher – had an app on his iPhone for global alerts of planet-affecting events. We knew of the tsunami alert before the poor buggers on the beaches of Thailand.

Fish from 2011 tsunami wash up alive in Washington

Five fish stow away on tsunami-tossed boat

Most outrageous fish tales begin with an arching arm gesture and “a fish this big” — but this one starts with “fish that traveled this far.”

Just over two years after the Japan earthquake and tsunami, researchers made a startling discovery in a 20-foot-long Japanese fishing vessel that washed ashore last month near Long Beach, Washington: five tropical fish, alive and well.

They are called striped beakfish, and they are native to warmer waters near Japan, China and the Korean Peninsula.

The five stowaways, roughly the size of your palm, lived in a cozy spot at the back of the boat.

A 20- to 30-gallon containment hold in the boat’s stern lost its cover, and that part of the boat was submerged as the vessel drifted in the ocean, said Allen Pleus, a scientist with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. That “created like a cave they could go in and out of,” Pleus said…

When researchers first explored the boat, they saw just one of the fish in the holding tank. They collected it in a bucket and took it to Long Beach City Hall.

Someone at City Hall called the Seaside Aquarium in Seaside, Oregon, to come and get it. Fish and Wildlife personnel found three more in the tank’s murky water. Finally the boat was towed to a state yard, where the fifth fish came swimming up to Pleus.

The one that went to the aquarium will live out its life there.

The other fishies along with anemones, scallops, crabs that also survived the journey will be dissected and examined in detail at Oregon States University.

Tsunami motorcycle to be preserved in Harley-Davidson museum

A Harley-Davidson motorcycle from Japan that washed ashore in Haida Gwaii after a devastating tsunami a year ago will be preserved in the Harley-Davidson Museum in Milwaukee, Wisconsin…

Masset resident Peter Mark found the 2004 FXSTB Softail Night Train on Graham Island on April 18 after it drifted 7,000 kilometres across the Pacific Ocean in a Stryofoam-lined storage container.

Harley-Davidson offered to ship the bike back to its owner, 29-year-old Ikuo Yokoyama, and restore it to running condition. Yokoyama — who is still trying to rebuild his life after losing three family members and his home in Yamamoto, in Miyagi Prefecture — said he’d rather see the bike displayed in the museum, in honour of those killed, injured and displaced by the earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011. Miyagi Prefecture, on the east coast, was one of the areas hardest hit by the massive tidal wave.

“It is truly amazing that my Harley-Davidson motorcycle was recovered in Canada after drifting for more than a year,” Yokoyama said in a statement released by Harley-Davidson Friday morning. “I would like to take this opportunity to express my heartfelt appreciation to Peter Mark, the finder of my motorcycle…”

“I would be delighted if it could be preserved in its current condition and exhibited to the many visitors to the Harley-Davidson Museum as a memorial to a tragedy that claimed thousands of lives,” Yokoyama said…

“Finally, I would like to thank all people around the world once again for their wholehearted support of the areas hit by the earthquake and tsunami,” Yokoyama said in the statement. “I would like to ask them to help convey messages from the Japanese people about the tragedy of the Great East Japan Earthquake, which was a disaster of historic proportions.”

As folks in the article said, “It’s a good end to the whole story.”

Thanks, Ursarodinia

Alaskan crews start the task of clearing Japan tsunami debris

Cleanup workers will soon attack a jumble of debris from Japan’s 2011 tsunami that litters an Alaskan island, as residents in the state gear up to scour their shores for everything from buoys to building material that has floated across the Pacific.

The cleansing project slated to start on Friday on Montague Island is expected to last a couple weeks, and organizers say it marks the first major project in Alaska to collect and dispose of debris from the tsunami.

The March 2011 tsunami, caused by a magnitude 9.0 earthquake, killed nearly 16,000 people and left over 3,000 missing on Japan’s main island of Honshu, and precipitated a major radiation release at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant…

While debris from Japan is also floating toward other U.S. states along the West Coast, Alaska has a more extensive shoreline, much of it difficult to reach.

Montague is an uninhabited island at the entrance to Prince William Sound, southeast of Anchorage. About a dozen volunteers and employees from the environmental group Gulf of Alaska Keeper and the Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies will handle the debris-removal project at the island.

“We’ll probably remove 30 to 40 tons from there. That’s just a start,” said Patrick Chandler, special programs coordinator for the Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies.

Japan has estimated 5 million tons of debris was swept out to sea, but that most of it sank, leaving 1.5 million tons floating. Still, those figures are rough estimates, said the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration…

With more debris headed for the West Coast, questions about cleanup costs remain unanswered. Those expenses could be high in Alaska because of geographic and weather challenges.

Beachcombing was part of my life for a reasonable spell back in New England. It’s hard for most folks to imagine what comes ashore – from where – in the normal course of time. An event like the Fukushima Tsunami blows everything normal way
out of proportion.

Owner located — of Tsunami motorcycle that crossed the Pacific

We’re reaching that point in time when flotsam from the tsunami that crushed coastal Japan last year is showing up on the western shores of North America on a daily basis. This is one of the more interesting finds.

The Japanese owner of a Harley-Davidson motorcycle that was washed out to sea in the tsunami of March 2011 says its discovery on a remote beach on the West Coast of B.C. last week is a miracle.

The owner, Ikuo Yokoyama, a 29-year-old resident of the town of Yamamoto, in Miyagi Prefecture, was tracked down by a Harley-Davidson representative in Japan who saw the story, first reported by CBC News, in the media.

A company spokeperson told CBC News they are now hoping to pay for the return of the bike to Yokoyama and to see if they can restore it for him.

Yokoyama…said he lost his home and three family members in the tsunami and is now living in temporary accommodation. The motorcycle was being kept at his house in the back section of a cube van that he was using as a storage shed when the tsunami struck…

After it was washed out to sea in the tsunami in the makeshift storage container, the motorcycle apparently floated 5,000 kilometres across the Pacific Ocean. It was discovered by Peter Mark, a resident of B.C.’s Haida Gwaii, while he was exploring a remote beach on Graham Island.

The bike was rusty, particularly on the wheels and handlebars, but the logo on the fuel tank was unmistakable.

The motorcycle’s licence plate showed it was registered in Miyagi Prefecture, and writing on the container matched photos of a commonly used Japanese moving van. Mark also found a few golf clubs, tools and camping equipment in the container.

Poisonally, I think Harley-Davidson should return a well-restored bike to Yokoyama – and offer a replica model for sale as the HD Tsunami. I know a half-dozen bikers who would consider buying one.

Thanks, Ursarodinia

Tsunami ghost ship spotted off the coast of British Columbia

A fishing trawler swept away more than a year ago by a tsunami off the east coast of Japan has been spotted floating near British Columbia…”It looks fairly sound and has rust streak from being out there for a year,” said Marc Proulx, the maritime coordinator of the Joint Rescue Coordination Center in Victoria, British Columbia.

The trawler is part of a giant debris field that was generated by the giant wall of water that struck the east coast of the island nation following a 9.0 earthquake, sweeping everything from cars to houses into the ocean.

The fishing vessel is about 120 miles off the Queen Charlotte Islands, commonly referred to as the Haida Gwaii. The islands are an archipelago on the north coast of the British Columbia.

It was first spotted by a Canadian military air patrol, and it has since been determined that it has been adrift without anybody at the helm since March 11, 2011, Proulx said.

The Japan Coast Guard identified the owner of the vessel after being contacted Friday by Canadian officials, who were able to provide the identification number on the hull of the ship. The vessel, which was used for squid fishing, was moored at Hachinohe in the Aomori prefecture when the tsunami hit, said Toshiro Yoshinaga, a Coast Guard official.

The trawler is considered a navigation obstruction for vessels in the area, according to Canada’s Department of National Defense. Canadian agencies are monitoring the ship for possible marine pollution, though there are no reports of leaks from the vessel, the defense department said.

Everyone certain there is no one, nothing on board?