Japanese nuclear plant damaged in earthquake, needs coolant

An evacuation is underway after an 8.9-magnitude earthquake rocked northeastern Japan this morning, damaging two reactors at the Fokushima Daiichi nuclear plant. The country has declared a nuclear emergency.

Japan has declared a nuclear emergency. The 8.9-magnitude earthquake that rocked northeastern Japan earlier this morning also damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.

Tokyo Electric Power officials say they have not detected any radiation leak from the plant so far, but people living within 3 kilometers are being evacuated.

The quake damaged two of the plants six reactors, with one in need of coolant due to the failure of a diesel generator for its water pumps. The water helps cool the nuclear fuel rods and prevent meltdowns.

At a meeting of the President's Export Council, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said:

We just had our Air Force assets in Japan transport some really important coolant to one of the nuclear plants. You know Japan is very reliant on nuclear power and they have very high engineering standards but one of their plants came under a lot of stress with the earthquake and didn't have enough coolant.

Further north, a fire broke out at the Onagawara nuclear facility but has been extinguished, with no reports of radiation leaks there either. Japan has 54 reactors (11 within the earthquake zone) that supply about a third of its energy needs.

The Financial Times reports:

The declaration of a nuclear emergency was the first under an 11-year old law that requires utilities to notify the public and the government immediately of potentially dangerous situations at atomic plants. The law was prompted in part by previous cover-ups of safety problems at nuclear facilities.

Update: According the International Atomic Energy Agency, another earthquake of magnitude 6.5 has occurred off the coast of Honshu, near the Tokai nuclear plant.

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