8th anniversary of quake in northeastern Japan
NHK -- Mar 11
March 11th marks the eighth anniversary of the major earthquake that hit northeastern Japan and the ensuing nuclear accident at the Fukushima Daiichi plant.

The magnitude-9.0 earthquake occurred off the coast of the northeastern Tohoku region at around 2:46 PM on March 11th, 2011. A quake-induced tsunami higher than ten meters hit the coast of Tohoku and Kanto regions.

Japan's National Police Agency says that as of March 8th, 15,897 people had been confirmed dead, and 2,533 others are still missing. At least 22,131 people have died from the 2011 disaster, including those whose health deteriorated while evacuating.

Many problems have been left unresolved in the affected areas, including a declining regional population and elderly people living in isolation.

Seven municipalities in Fukushima Prefecture still have no-entry zones. A Reconstruction Agency survey in February shows 51,778 people from the affected areas are still staying elsewhere across the country as evacuees. The number of evacuees has been gradually decreasing. But the evacuation period is getting unprecedentedly long.

In the 2011 disaster, three reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi plant experienced a meltdown in what's considered one of the world's worst nuclear accidents.

Last month, a robotic probe sent inside one of the reactors made direct contact with debris, which is believed to be a mixture of molten nuclear fuel and structural parts. The debris resembling a clay mound was too hard for the robotic probe to move. Further probes and assessments have been underway.

The removal of the debris is considered the most difficult part of the decommissioning of the plant.

The government and Tokyo Electric Power Company that operates the plant say that based on the results of the assessment, they are hoping to start removing the debris from the reactors in 2021 after considering ways to carry out the work by the end of March, 2020.

In the meantime, coolant water that is being poured over the debris in the three reactors is collecting under the ground. That water, mixed with groundwater flowing into the compound from nearby hills, continues accumulating as contaminated water.

The Nuclear Regulation Authority says releasing the water into the ocean after sufficiently diluting it below the government's maximum allowable radioactive level will be a reasonable way to cope with the problem.

But a final plan on how to deal with the contaminated water has yet to be decided because of objections from local fishermen.

They protested to the proposal at hearings held in Fukushima and other prefectures last August, citing radiation-related rumors over their catches.

東日本大震災から11日で8年です。午後には政府が追悼式典を開きます。 警察庁によりますと、1日時点で東日本大震災による死者数は去年から2人増えて12の都道県で1万5897人になりました。
News sources: NHK, ANNnewsCH
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