Nuclear Energy Insight
Winter 2012—The 2011 earthquake and tsunami did not affect most of Japan’s 55 reactors, located at 18 sites, but a number of facilities—including Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima Daini plant—experienced temporary power outages and high water.
The Onagawa nuclear energy facility was 12.5 miles away from the epicenter of Japan’s disastrous March 11, 2011 earthquake, but it weathered the event without serious damage and became a shelter for refugees from the nearby community.
When the earthquake struck, reactor cooling was briefly lost at the plant, but workers quickly brought the reactors to a safe shutdown. There was no release of radiation from the facility, operated by Tohuku Electric Power Co.
The plant is situated high above the port city of Onagawa, so flooding at the facility was not a problem. The city, however, was inundated by the tsunami, and hundreds were killed in the tidal wave.
The city was nearly deserted, with many neighborhoods lacking electricity, running water and phone service.
Tohuku Electric supported the community, using its gymnasium as a shelter for 300 area residents for three months. Employees ensured that victims of the earthquake and tsunami received blankets and access to medical care—including a helicopter to bring one woman to a nearby hospital to give birth. (More information about the Onagawa facility is online at safetyfirst.nei.org.)
TEPCO drew upon its resources to aid recovery at Daini. The company’s Kashiwazaki-Kariwa facility was unaffected by the tsunami, so workers moved equipment and supplies—everything from fire trucks to flashlight batteries—to the damaged facility.
Fukushima Daini has been shut down since last March, as TEPCO works to enhance safety with projects that include construction of a temporary seawall.
The Tokai plant, located in the Ibaraki Prefecture about 75 miles down Japan’s coastline from Fukushima Daiichi and Daini, automatically shut down in the earthquake and maintained a functioning cooling system.
Several years ago, the plant’s operator, the Japan Atomic Power Co., opted to increase the seawall height to better protect emergency diesel generators. The improved levee was under construction at the time of March’s earthquake and tsunami.
Though it wasn’t completed, the higher wall kept most of the water away and the diesel generators safe. External power was lost, but thanks to two operating seawater pumps, the plant was safely shut down.
—Read more articles in Nuclear Energy Insight and Insight Web Extra.