On 11 March 2011, a magnitude 9 earthquake on the Richter scale hit the East Coast of Japan. As part of the contingency plan, all the nuclear reactors in the area shut down and emergency generator power systems were activated. However, the 14-16 meter high tsunami waves that followed the earthquake affected some of the emergency generators at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant, which had three reactors in operation at the time. Units 1 to 4 were left without any power, preventing the cooling systems for the reactor’s core and for the spent fuel pools to function. The generated heat damaged the fuel rods causing several explosions.
Although some radiological contamination spread into the environment and food and milk restrictions still exist in some of the surrounding villages, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency "no health effects have been reported in any person as a result of radiation exposure from the nuclear accident". The International Maritime Organization affirms "screening of radiation for health and safety purposes is currently considered unnecessary at airports and seaports around the world". Radiation doses to the nuclear plant workers are continuously being monitored. To prevent further dispersion of radioactive substances, the buildings of the affected units will be covered.
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