This just in from Reuters:
An earthquake with preliminary magnitude of 5.5 shook eastern Japan, including the capital Tokyo, on Sunday morning, but there were no immediate reports of damage and no irregularities at the wrecked Fukushima nuclear power plant.
The earthquake was centred in southwest Ibaraki Prefecture, just northeast of Tokyo. There was no threat of a tsunami.
This is particularly disturbing in light of this story, which appeared yesterday in The Guardian:
Gazing down at the glassy surface of the spent fuel pool inside the No 4 reactor building at Fukushima Daiichi, it is easy to underestimate the danger posed by the highly toxic contents of its murky depths.
But this lofty, isolated corner of the wrecked nuclear power plant is now the focus of global attention as Japan enters the most critical stage yet in its attempt to clean up after the worst nuclear accident in the country’s history.
Later this month the plant’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco), will begin removing more than 1,500 fuel assemblies from the pool, the first step in a decommissioning process expected to last at least three decades.
The Guardian stressed that the damaged fuel pool could fail in the event of a severe earthquake:
The risk posed to the reactor by earthquakes and other natural catastrophes has made removal of the fuel – 1,331 spent assemblies and 202 fresh ones – a matter of urgency. An event similar to the 9.0 magnitude quake that crippled the plant on 11 March 2011 could collapse the fuel pool altogether, some observers say, leading to the leaking of huge quantities of radiation into the atmosphere. Tepco, however, insists the structure could withstand such a quake.
Does anyone believe Tepco when they assert that the fuel pool would survive another 9.0 earthquake?
More on the earthquake as details become available.
Here’s a link to the Reuters article: http://in.reuters.com/article/2013/11/09/japan-quake-idINL4N0IU03U20131109
And here’s one to The Guardian piece: http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2013/nov/07/fukushima-nuclear-cleanup-spent-fuel