Japan location map with side map of the Ryukyu Islands: Maximilian Dörrbecker (Chumwa) The full effects of the devastating earthquake and subsequent tsunami on Japan’s chemical industry remain to be seen, but chemistry and the industries it supports have clearly been hit hard.

Much of Japan’s chemical industry is at a near standstill, according to a report in Chemical and Engineering News, and the country has called for international help to avert a nuclear disaster after a third reactor at the quake-stricken Fukushima power plant risked going into meltdown.

While Japan might be keeping quiet about the full extent of the damage, commentators in the UK are in full flow. Over at the Financial Times, Nick Butler of the King’s Policy Institute at King’s College London, speculates: ‘If the situation at Fukushima deteriorates with a significant release of radioactive material, international confidence in the sector will be destroyed’.  While at the Daily Mail, former newspaper editor and war correspondent Max Hastings is urging Britain to keep nuclear power in its plans for a credible energy future: ‘…remember that the Fukushima plant is 40 years old. Britain does not suffer earthquakes on any significant scale.’

Speculation is rife but, as we watch the story unfold, Martyn Poliakoff explains what must be going on inside those nuclear reactors.




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