As Japanese residents, rescue workers and nuclear power plant employees struggle to regain their footing, the slowly improving conditions were threatened as yet another aftershock earthquake, measuring 7.1, hit exactly one month after the March 11 disaster.
At least three separate smaller shocks, ranging from 5.2 to 6.6, have been recorded off the coast of Honshu within just the last 5 hours, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.
"Things are relatively more stable, and things are stabilizing. However, we need to be ready for the possibility that things may turn for the worse," said Yukio Edano, the Chief Cabinet Secretary, according to CNN.
A larger radius for evacuation has been ordered, with full evacuations expected within about one month.
The cities under evacuation order – Katuo, Kawamata, Iitate, parts of Minami Soma and Nami – are in the surrounding areas of the damaged Fukushima Daiichi plant, which suffered a 40-minute power outage following the most recent large aftershock. During power outages, the nuclear plant is unable to cool its reactors.
There are five other cities which have been asked to evacuate at a faster rate than one month.
In a separate CNN report, the state of nuclear power around the world has been under scrutiny in the aftermath of political and public response to the Japan earthquake.
It is likely that nuclear power – which has already decreased in its percentage share of total world energy supply – will face even more restrictions and limitations in the coming years.
Alternative renewable energies have already seen a surge in the S&P Clean Energy Index – an average rise of 17 percent compared to the S&P Nuclear Index's decrease of 8.7 percent.
According to a 2009 update to its Future of Nuclear Power Report, MIT researchers wrote that “the sober warning is that if more is not done, nuclear power will diminish as a practical and timely option for deployment at a scale that would constitute a material contribution to climate change risk mitigation."