Japan’s massive earthquake triggers nuclear safety concerns

January 4, 2024
Updated 2024/01/04 at 7:44 AM
4 Min Read

A series of strong temblors, with a major one of preliminary 7.6 magnitude, hit the Noto Peninsula in Ishikawa prefecture at a shallow depth on Monday.

TOKYO, Jan. 3 (Xinhua) — A major earthquake on Monday rocked central Japan, prompting concerns over the safety of nuclear plants in the quake-affected region.

A series of strong temblors, with a major one of preliminary 7.6 magnitude, hit the Noto Peninsula in Ishikawa prefecture at a shallow depth on Monday. The Japan Meteorological Agency has officially named it the 2024 Noto Peninsula Earthquake.

At least 57 people have been killed by the earthquake, according to Japanese public broadcaster NHK, citing officials from the Ishikawa prefecture.

Following Monday’s 7.6-magnitude earthquake, concerns arose over Japan’s nuclear safety, which has been questioned constantly since the 2011 earthquake and tsunami that triggered nuclear meltdowns at the Fukushima nuclear plant.

The quake in Ishikawa prefecture triggered a rare major tsunami warning and forecast that waves of up to 5 meters could strike, but by 10 a.m. local time (0100 GMT) on Tuesday, all warnings and advisories had been lifted.

Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority (NRA) confirmed no abnormalities were reported at nuclear power plants along the Sea of Japan after the quake, and no rises in radiation levels were detected at the monitoring posts in the region.

Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings (TEPCO)’s Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant in Niigata Prefecture, which has seven shut-down units, was also unaffected, said the NRA.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said it was in contact with the NRA and had been told there were “no abnormalities in nuclear power plants within the affected area,” adding that the agency would continue to monitor the situation.

Hokuriku Electric Power Company, operator of the Shika plant which is the closest to the epicenter, said both of the two reactors at the plant had been offline since before the earthquake, noting that there had been some power outages and oil leaks following Monday’s jolt but no radiation leakage.

Japan is one of the most earthquake-prone countries in the world. In 2011, a powerful earthquake and ensuing tsunami caused multiple meltdowns at the Fukushima nuclear plant.

The Fukushima nuclear disaster has triggered rising anti-nuclear sentiment in Japan.

Japanese journalist Satoshi Kamata is one of the driving forces behind the campaign of an anti-nuclear petition that started soon after the March 2011 triple meltdown.

“After 11 years, the government is now trying to turn back the clock on nuclear power,” Kamata said in November, 2022. “While we will temporarily stop the petition drive, we also want to spread the anti-nuclear movement by joining forces with those promoting renewable energy sources.”

“The Fukushima nuclear disaster greatly changed the public’s sense of values. People have reflected on the structure in which the risks of hosting nuclear power plants were imposed on rural areas, and power-saving efforts have also progressed,” said an editorial by The Mainichi, Japan’s national daily newspaper.

“If the Japanese government makes light of these changes and steers toward the utilization of nuclear energy, it will not gain the public’s understanding,” the editorial said.

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