Last week it was typhoon Wipha’s turn, this week it is an earthquake—and potentially a small tsunami, too—that are rattling the lanky (main) Asian island. At the center of all these Japan disasters is one very vulnerable city, Fukushima, home to the nuclear facility that continues to experience problems since it was first damaged by a tsunami back in 2011.
This afternoon (Saturday morning local time) a magnitude 7.1 earthquake struck off the east coast of Japan, according to the United States Geological Survey. The earthquake occurred in the same general region as the epic 9.0 earthquake and over 100-foot tsunami duo that smashed into the country on March 11, 2011 and killed an estimated 20,000 people. The Japan Meteorological Agency warned that today’s earthquake might have spawned a small tsunami, expected to be 3 feet or smaller.
As news of the earthquake spread across the web, the questions that followed mainly focused on the welfare of Tepco’s Fukushima nuclear power plant. This channeling of concern towards Fukushima also occurred last week when tropical cyclone, or typhoon, Wipha came barreling towards Japan’s eastern coast. While there are not too many reports available of the extent of the earthquake’s damage, Reuters has at least confirmed that there are no “irregularities” at the plant.
Well, uhh, no irregularities beyond the ongoing problems of toxic water waste.
Earlier in the week, the Washington Post provided a progress report on the slow recovery of the Fukushima plant. To date, the site “stores more than 90 tons of radioactive water, more than enough to fill Yankee stadium to the brim.” That number doesn’t even include the 400 tons of polluted water that flows into Pacific Ocean daily from the plant.
In recent months, Tepco, the company in charge of the plant, announced bold plans to stop the toxic leaking. Also, members of the Japanese government have publicly criticized the company’s handling of the situation.
The Associated Press recently published a story offering a timeline of the plant’s worst problems over the last two years. The situation has been so dire that several countries have pressed pause on their own nuclear power projects, most notably Germany who announced dismantling the country’s nuclear program altogether.
A member of the Tepco advisory board recently told the Washington Post: “Tepco didn’t play enough what-if games.” Today’s earthquake is a reminder of how that fault continues to haunt the plant today, not just in the form on the nuclear waste, but every time another earthquake, typhoon or tsunami strikes the region.