A 5.3 earthquake rumbled under Japan today, reportedly near the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant that was rendered inoperative in the 2011 earthquake and tsunami. According to a Sept. 19 report from The Associated Press, the quake hit at 1:29 EDT, or 2:29 a.m. Friday in Japan.
No warning was issued by the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center, and officials at the Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), which owns the nuclear plant, do not believe the earthquake caused any more damage to the reactors or the containment. However, TEPCO has been historically slow to release facts regarding the extent of the damage at the plant since a meltdown occurred in 2011.
The reactors have been offline since March of 2011, when an earthquake and subsequent flooding from a tsunami produced equipment failures and a coolant loss. The inability to cool the reactors caused a nuclear meltdown and a radioactive materials release – the largest since the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.
According to the AP report, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe ordered TEPCO this week to scrap all six reactors and concentrate on tackling pressing issues like leaks of radioactive water.
In early August, Japanese officials acknowledged that radioactive materials were flowing into the Pacific Ocean, calling the radioactive seepage an emergency.
On September 1, it was reported that radiation leaking from the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant was 18 times higher than what officials previously thought, making the radiation level lethal enough to cause death within four hours.