Earthquake in Japan causes Oil refinery fire and Nuclear Power Plant fire

Industrial Accidents

For a more recent update on the nuclear plant incident please click here.

Tokyo, March 12 update– Pressure at one of  the Daiichi reactors is continuing to rise, worrying the authorities. Reportedly radioactive steam from one reactor was vented out after evacuating residents in a 10 Km radius in Fukushima, about 170 miles north of Tokyo.

Tokyo, Mar 11, 2011– An earthquake of a very large magnitude (8.9 on the Richter scale) has caused massive damage at an oil refinery as well as a nuclear power plant. The Cosmo oil refinery, near the city of Ichihara, in Chiba prefecture experienced a massive blaze after the earthquake hit. You can see it in the video below.

According to reports, natural gas storage tanks were part of the blaze. It is still not clear if the fire is under control. Things are equally bad, if not worse at the  various Nuclear Power plants, where safety shutdown systems are automatically programmed to shut down the plants in case of an earthquake above a certain magnitude.  Residents near the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, located about 170 miles north east of Tokyo, were reportedly evacuated after the cooling system failed, triggering a fear of a possible nuclear meltdown. If cooling water is unable to be pumped to the core, then it may cause the reactor to melt and carry over into a steel containment vessel, which also has an outer concrete containment chamber. So far no reports suggest that anything has come into the containment chambers.However this thought itself is scary as if something radioactive does escape, it can cause severe radiation damage to large parts of the countryside.

Meanwhile apparently Ms. Hillary Clinton, US Secretary of State has informed that the US Military has transported additional coolant to the facility and will extend its help as needed.

There are reports of a fire in the turbines of the Onagawa Nuclear Power plant, while another facility at the same site is having a “water leak”, which is not good news at all.

The unprecendented nuclear power shutdown means that large swathes of areas are without any electricity at all, making the disaster worse than it had to be. Though diesel backup power generators are on, they cannot substitute for all the load. The earthquake highlights the consequential accidents and damages that can occur due to a natural phenomenon such as an earthquake.

The incident also highlights that supposedly “clean” nuclear power has a very big disadvantage-the danger of a radiation leak after something like an earthquake. Environmentalists please note!

Meanwhile various news reports suggest that there could be various nuclear facilities in Japan which could have failures that have been unreported so far, which is cause for worry. This has caused the Japanese government to declare an “atomic emergency”, a scary word indeed, not only for the Japanese, but for all of us as well.

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