Japanese Nuclear Plant Suffers Leak

Japan’s Shika nuclear power station has acknowledged that it spilled 20,000 liters of oil after the 7.6-magnitude earthquake on New Year’s Day, followed by 10-foot tsunami surges that struck the facility.

Huge waves crashed into the plant, which has two reactors, soon after the devastating earthquake rocked the central Ishikawa area on January 1. Hokurika Electric Power, the facility’s operator, said that the two nuclear reactor transformers were damaged in the earthquake, leading to the leakage of around 19,900 liters of insulating oil. Yesterday, news broke of a second oil spill, adding to the growing list of safety concerns.

The 7.6-magnitude earthquake, which killed over 200 people, caused the water used to cool spent fuel rods to spill and briefly cut off the plant’s electrical supply. Despite Hokuriku Electric’s assurances that no radiation escaped the facility, concerns persist because the earthquake knocked down a few adjacent monitoring stations. A member of the safety panel of Japan’s nuclear watchdog NRA, Nobuhiko Ban, called this a “major concern” and suggested that radiation levels be measured using drones and planes until the operator’s monitoring stations could be fixed.

Houses were flattened, infrastructure was wrecked, and many lost power in the central Ishikawa area after the New Year’s Day 7.6-magnitude quake and its severe aftershocks killed at least 203 people. The Shika facility has been inaccessible since 2011, when a tsunami of up to three feet was recorded close to it. The facility, situated on the Noto peninsula about three miles from the earthquake’s epicenter, is 36 feet above sea level and shielded by a 13-foot barrier constructed after the 2011 Fukushima disaster.

Following the most recent leak, Hokuriku Electric put oil absorption mats in the gutters and on oil fences along the shore, and they sealed the drainage gate to prevent rainfall from flowing out. The company is still investigating more facts, but it is believed that a transformer was the source of the second oil spill during the January 1 quake.