More than a year after a tsunami swamped the Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear power plants, the radiation peril continues — reactor 4 is teetering on the edge of collapse, which would force the evacuation of one-third of Japan’s population. The meltdown at Fukushima parallels the meltdown of the US economy.
On March 11, 2011, Japan experienced a 9.0 earthquake. The six nuclear plants  at Fukushima — about 136 miles north of Tokyo — survived the quake but were swamped by a 45-foot wave that overwhelmed the 19-foot seawalls. Fukushima units 5 and 6 were in cold shutdown for maintenance and Unit 4 had been deactivated. Units 1, 2 and 3 lost power and were unable to cool down properly; they experienced full meltdown. This was a catastrophe but there was a robust containment system that minimized the spread of contamination.
As part of the maintenance process, the 1,535 fuel rods in Fukushima reactor 4 had been removed and placed in a pool of water outside the containment system. The aftermath of the tsunami severely damaged the building. This April, Senator Ron Wyden  toured Fukushima and warned that another big earthquake could further damage unit 4, producing “an even greater release of radiation than the initial accident.” (Since March 11, more than 1000 significant earthquakes  have struck Japan.) In January at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, former Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan warned  of the possibility of a nuclear disaster and said that a meltdown at unit 4 would force the evacuation of Tokyo and close half of Japan. (On April 15th, the European Union Times  reported that the Japanese government had engaged with in discussions with China and Russia about the migration of 40 million Japanese because of the “extreme danger of life threatening radiation poisoning.”)