This photo from The Asahi Shimbun Facebook site shows buildings in Kesennuma, a city in Miyagi Prefecture that sustained major damage.

Japanese Recovery to Cost $125 Billion or More

Four water drops by helicopters were made in an attempt to cool reactor 3 at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. Japanese politicians believe the government must spend at least $125 billion on recovery.

Four loads of water were dumped by helicopters in an attempt to cool reactor 3 of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, IAEA reports as its director general, Yukiya Amano, announced he will travel to Japan to see how IAEA can assist. On March 15, Japan requested that IAEA send expert teams to help with environmental monitoring and assessing radiation's effects on human health.

IAEA's March 17 update says 17 people (nine employees of the utility that owns the plant and eight subcontractor employees) have suffered low-level radiation exposure but were not transported to hospitals.

The Asahi Shimbun's English-language Facebook page reported Wednesday that more than 4,957 people were confirmed dead in the first five days of the disaster and the whereabouts of more than 15,000 others had not been confirmed. More than 410,000 evacuees from areas affected by the disaster were in shelters, according to the report.

At least 10 trillion yen ($125 billion), and possibly twice that much, will be needed to rebuild, leaders of the current government and opposition parties agree, if a plan for floating bonds or raising taxes can be agreed upon. Reserve funds are being used so far to send relief supplies to the damaged areas. By comparison, the government spent 3.2 trillion yen after the 1995 Kobe earthquake.

The American Institute of Architects' 2011 president, Clark Manus, FAIA, said the Japanese disaster should remind Americans that vulnerabilities exist at home. "The U.S. has its own vulnerabilities outside of the San Andreas Fault region in California that need to be further addressed," Manus said. "The Pacific Northwest has seismic hazards that are remarkably similar to those in Japan, and an earthquake off the cost of Oregon or the state of Washington could trigger a tsunami throughout the region. In the Midwest, the New Madrid fault experienced a series of earthquakes up to an estimated 8.0 in 1811 and 1812. Building codes in each of these regions should be re-examined in light of the Japan quake."

Earthquake Losses Frequently Uninsured
EQECAT Inc., an Oakland, Calif.-based catastrophe modeling firm for property and casualty insurance, reinsurance, and financial institutions, has initially estimated the economic losses from the earthquake and tsunami at more than $100 billion.

EQECAT's report noted higher economic losses were reported from the 1995 Great Hanshin Earthquake in Kobe, Japan, but said only about $6 billion of the losses were insured because the location was perceived to be a low risk, causing relatively few residents to buy earthquake insurance coverage. Similarly, the 2010 earthquake in Chile caused an estimated $30 billion in economic damages, about 25 percent of which were covered by insurance. About 75 percent of the Christchurch, New Zealand earthquakes' $20 billion in economic losses will be covered by insurance, while about 25 percent of the estimated $125 billion in economic losses caused by Hurricane Katrina were, the firm reported.

Germany has temporarily shut down seven older nuclear power reactors to conduct a three-month review of all 17 reactors operating in the country. Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin instructed the energy ministry, Rosatom, and the Ministry of Natural Resources to analyze the current state of Russia's nuclear industry and deliver a report to the government within a month, according to the Itar-Tass news service, which reported March 16 that more than 150 Russian rescue personnel are now in Japan, many of them working near Sendai. A search and rescue team of 72 Australians flew to Japan on Tuesday -- rescuers who also responded after the recent earthquake in Christchurch.

Countries around the word are sending aid, and the U.S. Department of Defense is going all-out to assist Japanese authorities and to help survivors. For more information about what the department is doing, visit this website. Corporate donations are being tracked by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce's Business Civic Leadership Center.

IAEA Monitoring Radioactivity Readings
Despite one high recording of a 400 millisieverts (mSv) per hour radiation dose taken at the Fukushima Daiichi plant between units 3 and 4, radioactivity levels were falling March 15 at the power plant's main gate, according to the information given by Japanese authorities to IAEA. A March 15 dose rate of 11.9 millisieverts per hour was taken there, and six hours later, a dose rate of 0.6 millisieverts per hour was recorded.

The 400 millisieverts dose rate "is a high dose-level value, but it is a local value at a single location and at a certain point in time," according to IAEA. "It should be noted that because of this detected value, non-indispensable staff was evacuated from the plant, in line with the Emergency Response Plan, and that the population around the plant is already evacuated. About 150 persons from populations around the Daiichi site have received monitoring for radiation levels. The results of measurements on some of these people have been reported and measures to decontaminate 23 of them have been taken. The IAEA will continue to monitor these developments. Evacuation of the population from the 20-kilometer zone is continuing. The Japanese have asked that residents out to a 30 km radius to take shelter indoors. Japanese authorities have distributed iodine tablets to the evacuation centers but no decision has yet been taken on their administration."

On average, a person's normal radiation exposure from natural sources is about 2.4 millisieverts per year. A chest X-ray gives a dose of about 0.1 millisieverts of radiation, according to IAEA.

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