Massive earthquake hits Japan

11 March 2011

UPDATE 8: 9.48pm GMT 


Nuclear reactors shut down during today's massive earthquake in Japan. Work to stabilise three reactors at Fukushima Daiichi continues into the morning. 


The magnitude 8.9 quake hit at 2.46pm, centred offshore of the city of Sendai on the eastern cost of Honshu island. Serious secondary effects followed including a significant tsunami causing widespread destruction. The quake comes just two days after one of magnitude 7.3 also offshore in the same general region.


The Japan Atomic Industry Forum (JAIF) issued a notice saying all reactors in the north-eastern part of Japan had shut down automatically. Japanese prime minister Naoto Kan made a statement on television in which he noted that there had been no early indication of any radioactive release. 


Tohoku Electric Power Company's Onogawa 1 suffered a fire in the non-nuclear turbine building which took eight hours to extinguish. A minor fire burned in a non-nuclear service building of Tepco's Fukushima Daini 1 but this was extinguished within two hours.


A tsunami warning was issued for most of the Pacific Ocean, including Taiwan, but reactors there operated normally throughout. There was no tsunami concern for nuclear power plants in South Korea or China.


At Tokyo Electric Power Company's (Tepco's) Fukushima Daini 1, an increase in reactor containment pressure was noted around 6pm, and "assumed to be caused by leakage of reactor coolant in the reactor containment" this led Tepco to notify government of another emergency status. As of 11pm Tepco said it had not detected additional radiation, making a coolant leak seem less likely.


Fukushima Daiichi 


A more serious situation emerged at Tepco's nearby Fukushima Daiichi power plant, after the sudden stoppage of emergency diesel generators. These had started as expected upon automatic reactor shutdown, but stopped after one hour leaving units 1, 2 and 3 with no power for important cooling functions.


This led the company to notify the government of an 'emergency' situation, which allows local authorities to take additional precautionary measures. An evacuation was subsequently ordered of over 1000 people living within three kilometres while engineers worked to restore power.


Almost nine hours later, an announcement from the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry said that three of four mobile power supplies had arrived at Fukushima Daiichi and cables were being set up to supply emergency power. Other power modules were in transit by air.


However, pressure inside the containment of unit 1 had been steadily increasing over the time that emergency core cooling systems had not been active. Tepco reported at 2am that pressure had increased to around 600 kPa, compared to normal operating levels of 400 kPa.


The company then announced a decision to reduce the pressure within containment "for those units that cannot confirm certain levels of water injection" by the safety systems. "We will endeavor to restore the units and continue monitoring the environment of the site periphery."


An International Atomic Energy Agency announcement at 4.20am confirmed the work to restore power using mobile power supplies. It noted the increase in pressure at unit 1 and said that this would be relieved by a controlled venting operation, "which will be filtered to retain radiation within containment."


JAIF issued a statement giving the status of nuclear power reactors in the effected area of Japan. This was based on various information sources, including event reports from Nisa released half an hour after the earthquake struck.





Onagawa 1 Tohoku Automatically shutdown
Onagawa 2 Tohoku Automatically shutdown
Onagawa 3 Tohoku Automatically shutdown
Higashidori 1 Tohoku Shut for periodic inspection
Fukushima Daiichi 1 Tepco Automatically shutdown
Fukushima Daiichi 2 Tepco Automatically shutdown
Fukushima Daiichi 3 Tepco Automatically shutdown
Fukushima Daiichi 4 Tepco Shut for periodic inspection
Fukushima Daiichi 5 Tepco Shut for periodic inspection
Fukushima Daiichi 6 Tepco Shut for periodic inspection
Fukushima Daini 1 Tepco Automatically shutdown
Fukushima Daini 2 Tepco Automatically shutdown
Fukushima Daini 3 Tepco Automatically shutdown
Fukushima Daini 4 Tepco Automatically shutdown
Tokai Japco Automatically shutdown
Hamaoka 3 Chubu Shut for periodic inspection
Hamaoka 4 Chubu  In normal operation
Hamaoka 5 Chubu  In normal operation
Kashiwazaki-Kariwa 1 Tepco  In normal operation 
Kashiwazaki-Kariwa 2 Tepco  Not operating 
Kashiwazaki-Kariwa 3 Tepco  Not operating 
Kashiwazaki-Kariwa 4 Tepco  Not operating 
Kashiwazaki-Kariwa 5 Tepco  In normal operation
Kashiwazaki-Kariwa 6 Tepco  In normal operation
Kashiwazaki-Kariwa 7 Tepco  In normal operation
Tomari 1  Hokkaido  In normal operation
Tomari 2  Hokkaido  In normal operation
Tomari 3  Hokkaido  In normal operation

In addition, the reprocessing plant at Rokkasho is being supplied by emergency diesel power generators.




Researched and written

by World Nuclear News