Timeline: Chain reactions...


Published: Wednesday 16 March 2011

The current nuclear crisis in Japan is the most critical one after the Chernobyl disaster in 1986. Tracking it closely means a lot for India as it points out how a nuclear crisis is managed. It is important at a time when the world is getting obsessive with nuclear safety. India, a new and fast growing market for nuclear power, can learn a few lessons from Japan. Below is a chronology of the events developing in Japan. 

March 24

Radiation from the nuclear power plant has contaminated Tokyo's tap water. The levels exceed safety standards for infants. The water is reportedly safe for adults. Supermarkets told to sell only two, two-litre water bottles, per customer. The government plans to take water samples from the sea to see if the fisheries were at risk.


March 21

Tokyo Electric Power Co finds traces of radiation in the Pacific sea waters. Power cables connected to all six nuclear reactors at Fukushima Daiichi power plant.


March 20

Power restored at reactor No 2. Control room functions, lights and cooling function at reactor No 1 to be restored too. The agency doing the restoration work says it may take several days to restore power in reactor No 3 and 4. The Japanese government to decide whether to restrict consumption and shipments of food products from near the vicinity of the nuclear complex, after higher-than-normal levels of radiation were found in milk and spinach from the area.


March 19

A sample of tap water from Tokyo shows small levels of radioactive iodine. The sample contains 1.5 becquerals per kg of iodine 131, well below the tolerable limit for food and drink of 300 becquerals per kg. Tests detect radiation above the national safety level in spinach and milk produced near the Fukushima nuclear plant. Engineers attach a power cable to one of the reactors but electricity was not restored.


March 18
White smoke seen coming out of the reactor No 2, 3 and 4, the nuclear safety agency says. It is believed that there is water in the spent fuel pool at reactor No 3. TEPCO says electricity could be restored next day at reactor No 1, 2 and 4. Japan's nuclear safety agency says it was aware of the ultimate "Chernobyl solution" to contain the nuclear disaster at the quake-hit plant by covering it in sand and encasing it in concrete, but adds that it is currently focusing on efforts to restore power and cool down the reactors.

March 17

Next 24 hours will be critical for the nuclear crisis in Japan. Japanese military helicopters dumped seawater on the damaged reactor of Unit 3 as well as on the spent fuel storage pond of Unit 4.

But, officials disclose that most of the water dispersed in the air. A rare hope: Japanese officials say an alternative power line is being worked upon. If it happens cooling system in the reactors can be restored.


March 16

The Tokyo Electric Power says it is not sure on what was happening in the plant site even as workers are pulled out of it due to high radiation. 

Government, for the first time asks the company to provide more accurate information.


March 15 

Third reactor gets damaged admit government. Fourth reactor on fire. But again, no radiation threat, declares government.

Exclusion zone increases to 19 miles from the site. Around two lakh people told to be indoor. 

Government admits high radiation level and warns of more. Still, terms it not harmful to health.


March 14 

Third reactor explodes. Government reassures safety has not been breached. Number of people affected by radiation goes up to 190. 

By late afternoon, government admits that uranium fuel rods in three reactors are melting. 


March 13 

Government finally admits radioactive meltdown in two of the reactors at Fukushima. It predicts a third explosion. But again reassures that there would be no impact on human health. 

By evening more than 200,000 people are evacuated from near the reactor areas. Confirmation of  22 people having suffered radiation.  


March 12 

Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary reassures again saying: “We are not in a situation in which residents face health damage.”

Within an hour, an explosion takes place in the reactor building. 

Government extends the exclusion zone to six miles. Government reassures there of no threat of radioactive contamination.

Government says radiation level has dipped in the city.

Reactors are flooded with sea water to cool them. 

Another reactor reports failure in cooling system.


March 11 

5.46 am – A 9.0 magnitude earthquake hits the coast of Japan; triggers a tsunami that knocks out power at the Fukushima Daiichi plant. The plant shuts down but its backup power system also gets flooded, affecting the plants cooling

After five hours, the Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan declares a nuclear emergency.

Within two hours people living within 1.3 miles of the power station are evacuated. Government reassures people of safety and asks them to carry on with normal activities.




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