May 21, 2022

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Japan earthquake tsunami warning: live updates

Japan earthquake tsunami warning: live updates

credit…James Whitlow Delano for The New York Times

The devastating tsunami that crippled the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant 11 years ago has left Japan with a formidable challenge: how to protect an island nation prone to earthquakes, tsunamis, and nuclear reactors from another disaster?

The 7.3-magnitude earthquake off the coast of Fukushima late Wednesday night, triggering a tsunami warning, sharply mitigated that challenge.

There were no immediate reports of major problems with nuclear power plants in the region. But since the Fukushima accident, concerns about the preparedness of plants for a tsunami have remained.

To allay persistent concerns, Japanese nuclear regulators in recent years have ordered a series of new safety measures at the nation’s reactors, including new seawalls, flood gates and protection for vital backup generators that power the pumps that cool the hot reactor cores.

But the challenge can be tough.

The Hamaoka Nuclear Power Plant, for example, is located on the Pacific coast west of Tokyo, and workers have built a 72-foot seawall to protect its three reactors, which are among the tallest in the country. Then came the bad news: Scientists working on new forecasts for potential tsunamis in the region warned last year that waves could reach nearly 74 feet.

This two-foot shortage, combined with continued local opposition, prevented the plant from passing safety inspections. It is still closed.

Across the country, only five of the 33 operational reactors are in operation. Factories are trying to embrace the new safeguards, but face regulatory roadblocks and local opposition.

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Despite the energy crisis that has engulfed Japan, opposition to the rapid reopening of nuclear power plants remains strong.

Kitaro Fukuchi, a writer for the Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun, wrote in a recent editorial: “After the Fukushima Daiichi incident, we have repeatedly heard the word ‘unprecedented.’” Are current measures really sufficient? We need to remain vigilant.”