Fall Quarterly 2018
An earthquake of magnitude 6.6 struck Japan’s northern island of Hokkaido Sept. 6, causing widespread power outages, landslides and blocked roads, leaving at least 20 dead, hundreds injured, and 20 missing. The quake also caused a blackout at the closed, 3-reactor Tomari nuclear power station, halting circulation of cooling water. Even in shutdown reactors, the uranium fuel remains ferociously hot. Operators had to switch to emergency diesel backup generators to keep cooling water circulating over the fuel rods. Conflicting reports about the recent quake said that Tomari’s reactors had been shutdown before the power outage (ever since the 2011 Fukushima-Daiichi earthquake). However, the BBC reported Sept. 6, 2018 that “the reactor shutdown automatically.” Yomiuri Shimbun reported in August 2011 that Japan’s government had approved the restart of Tomari’s reactor No. 3, but that on May 5, 2012 reactor 3 was again shut down.