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2011 Science News of the Year: Science & Society

12:10pm, December 19, 2011

Following earthquake and tsunami, radiation is Japan’s true aftershock

The worst earthquake in Japan’s recorded history — and, at magnitude 9.0, one of the most powerful ever recorded — didn’t end when the shaking did on March 11. Within hours, a meters-high tsunami swamped much of the coastline, including the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station, setting off the worst nuclear accident since the 1986 Chernobyl meltdown in Ukraine (SN: 4/9/11, p. 5).

Three reactors at the Fukushima plant exploded, releasing radioactivity carried by winds across Japan and then around the globe (SN Online: 3/19/11). Radiation physicists continue to argue about how much radioactive material, such as cesium-137, escaped, with independent assessments often

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