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On 11 March 2011, Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant – operated by corporate giant Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) – was hit by a tsunami triggered by the magnitude 9.0 Tohoku earthquake. Three of the plant’s six nuclear reactors melted down, and the plant began releasing substantial amounts of radioactive material on 12 March. This was the largest nuclear incident since the Chernobyl disaster in April 1986 and the second to measure Level 7 on the International Nuclear Event Scale. To this day, workers continue to mitigate leaking with measures such as chemical underground walls. Although there were no immediate fatalities from radiation exposure, some 300,000 people were evacuated from the area; close to 16,000 people died from the earthquake and tsunami; and 1,600 deaths were attributed to evacuation conditions, such as temporary housing and hospital closures. The Fukushima Nuclear Accident Independent Investigation Commission found that the nuclear disaster was ‘manmade’ and that its direct causes were all foreseeable and predictable. Various other inquiries reached similar conclusions. They suggested that ‘regulatory capture’, collusion, lack of oversight, and corruption were key contributors to the extent of the disaster, resulting from years of close relationships between industry, government, and academia. International reaction to the disaster was diverse and widespread. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) halved its estimate of additional nuclear generating capacity to be built by 2035, and anti-nuclear demonstrations were followed by a significant re-evaluation of existing nuclear power programmes in many countries. In June 2011, an opinion poll from Ipsos MORI revealed that 62 per cent of the citizens from 24 different countries were opposed to nuclear energy. Nuclear power plans were abandoned in Malaysia, the Philippines, Kuwait, and Bahrain, and radically changed in Taiwan. China suspended its nuclear development programme, but restarted it on a reduced basis in late 2012.
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