Fires and Nuclear Shutdowns: Japan Quake Hits Energy Infrastructure

fukushima

Special Report: Fukushima and the Future of Nuclear Power

Editor's Note: This is part of IEEE Spectrum's ongoing coverage of Japan's earthquake and nuclear emergency.

As news and images continue to roll in from the devastating earthquake that struck near northern Japan, issues at energy sites are among the acute problems being reported.

The 9.0-magnitude quake led to the government declaring an atomic power emergency immediately afterward; four nuclear plants were immediately shut down as a safety precaution. Operators were having trouble cooling the Fukushima I plant, and nearby residents were evacuated. There was not enough electricity available to pump cooling water through, but that situation is apparently under control with no real danger reported. At another nuclear plant, the Onagawa plant (pictured), a fire was quickly extinguished, again with no apparent major damage or danger.

Video taken from a helicopter and shown on CNN.com (and elsewhere) featured a large fire burning at an oil refinery near Tokyo, and it remains unclear if firefighters have been able to start fighting it yet.

These are obviously only among the first reports coming in since the quake struck at 2:46 p.m. local time, and it seems clear that the casualties and property damage will be immense.

(Image via Getty Images)

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