ABC News is reporting that a 5.6 magnitude earthquake has struck off the coast of the island of Honshu, Japan. This is the same area that was devastated by a 9.0 magnitude earthquake and tsunami on March 11. In fact, this quake was centered only 51 miles southeast of Fukushima, site of the damaged Japanese nuclear power plant. This latest earthquake was reported around 3:35 a.m. Japan time. There has not been a tsunami warning issued and there are believed to be no casualties.
Japan’s Recovery Efforts Stalled by Recent Series of Quakes
This earthquake is only the latest in an alarmingly frequent series of Japanese quakes since the first of the year. The devastating March 11 earthquake, the strongest ever to hit Japan, killed over 15,000 people and left many thousands more missing. The quake and ensuing tsunami also caused an explosion and partial meltdown of the Fukushima nuclear plant. Aftershocks continued to rattle the area as late as April 7, when a 7.1 magnitude aftershock killed three and injured another 100 people. On April 11, a 6.6 magnitude aftershock killed six.
On June 23, a 6.7 magnitude quake hit northeast Japan in the early morning hours. A tsunami warning was issued following that earthquake, but cancelled within the hour. June 30 saw a 4.7 magnitude quake in the eastern Honshu region. Seven people were injured in that quake.
These earthquakes have essentially slowed, and in some cases stopped altogether the recovery and rebuilding efforts in Japan. But there is an even greater concern than a stalled rebuilding effort.
Latest Japanese Earthquake Could Threaten Damaged Nuclear Plant
This latest Japanese earthquake has reignited fears that further damage to the Fukushima nuclear plant could cause another release of radiation or further meltdown. According to the International Atomic Energy Agency, since the March 11 Japanese earthquake and tsunami, conditions at Fukushima have remained “very serious.” The plant is by no means stable and the continuing series of earthquakes have the potential to cripple the ongoing efforts to stabilize the nuclear plant. If these earthquakes continue, they could put countless lives and the environment in jeopardy.
Although many discount the latest hub bub surrounding the safety of the Fukushima nuclear plant as overly alarmist, it is important to remember where the plant is located. Philip White, international liaison officer at the Citizens’ Nuclear Information Center in Tokyo stated the possible danger in simple terms. “There is no such thing as a safe nuclear power plant in Japan, because it’s an earthquake-prone country,” White warned.
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