Fukushima prefecture (1990 pop. 2,129,647), 5,321 sq mi (13,781 sq km), is partly mountainous. Its main agricultural area is watered by the Abukuma River. Rice and tobacco are the major crops; fishing, forestry, and gathering seaweed are the principal occupations. The Joban coalfield is the center of the region's coal mining. Fukushima (the capital), Koriyama, Iwaki, and Aizuwakamatsu are the chief cities.
Coastal areas of the prefecture were devastated by the tsunami that followed the Mar., 2011, NE Honshu earthquake. At the Fukushima No. 1 (Fukushima Daiichi) nuclear power plant, the destruction led to cooling system failures in the plant's reactors and fuel-storage pools, which caused meltdowns at three of the six reactors, explosions due to suspected hydrogen gas buildup at two reactors, and other problems. As a result of what became the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl, radioactive material was released into the atmosphere and ocean. The radiation releases led to concerns over water, food, and environmental contamination, and complicated the tsunami cleanup in the region around the plant. People were banned from a 12-mi (20-km) evacuation zone beginning in Apr., 2011, and later were evacuated from more distant locales, especially to the north and northwest. The cleanup of the disaster is expected to take 45 years or more and cost as much as $250 billion. By Apr., 2017, most less heavily contaminated areas were no longer under the evacuation order, but areas to the west and northwest, some as far as 18 mi (30 km) from the accident, remained evacuated.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2023, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
See more Encyclopedia articles on: Japanese Political Geography