Japan’s economy was dealt a devastating blow by the 9-magnitude earthquake and tsunami that pummeled the country on March 11, 2011. An estimated 28,000 were dead or missing, and at least 500,000 were displaced. Many of the people in the area were elderly, and cold weather and disrupted transportation routes made rescue efforts difficult.
To make things worse, radiation contamination was added to their concerns. The earthquake and resultant tsunami were bad enough caused a radioactive leak at the Fukushima nuclear power plant. Japan classified this nuclear disaster as a 7, the same level as the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. However, while worse than Three Mile Island, it wasn’t quite as bad as Chernobyl. There, a raging fire spewed radioactive particles into the jet stream for days, contaminated the surrounding countryside and even made its way to Europe.
In Japan, although workers were initially unable to stop radioactive leaks at the damaged Fukushima nuclear power plant, only 1/10 the level of radiation was emitted. However, radiation continued to leak into the Pacific Ocean, raising levels to 4,000 times the legal limit. It took months to stop the leak. Radiation showed up in local milk and vegetables, and briefly appeared in Tokyo’s drinking water.