Japan ends nuclear ban 4 years after quake

By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer

Fukushima
Researchers hope to limit the toxic impact of Fukushima on the surrounding water supplies with underground ice walls.

In 2011, a massive sea wave called a tsunami struck Japan, causing widespread damage. One of the hardest hit areas was the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, which resulted in a dangerous meltdown that released tons of toxic radioactive material. The tragedy, which even inspired a nuclear tsunami scene in the recent Godzilla movie, has left behind a very difficult mess to clean up. Four years after the tragedy, Japan has now opened up the Sendai Nuclear Power Plant in Satsumasendai, in the Kagoshima Prefecture .

Nuclear power plants split tiny particles of the element uranium in a process called fission, which generates heat to turn water into steam, which then powers generators to produce electricity.

Unfortunately, if a nuclear plant is damaged, radiation is released, sending out invisible waves that can severely harm human health and the environment. One of the containment methods scientists are using in Fukushima to prevent contaminated water from entering the drinking water supply is to freeze the ground around the four damaged reactors, which kept chaotic nuclear reactions under control before the tsunami.

Because of the Fukushima disaster, Japanese residents are nervous about the Sendai power plant going operational in the southern island of Kyushu. After approval was given last fall, many safety checks had to be completed before the reactors were reactivated.

Featured image courtesy of Silverkblack on Shutterstock. Image of blue Fukushima walls courtesy of kawamoto takuo on Flickr.