Magnitude 7.4 Quake Hits Japan; No Abnormality at Fukushima

Kyodo News March 23, 2011 photo of Fukushima I, from security gate of #1 and #2 reactors.

The Associated Press reported about 20 minutes ago as of this writing that a magnitude 7.4 quake hit off the coast of Japan’s Miyagi prefecture, about 90 miles from Fukushima. The quake generated a tsunami warning. Kyodo News reports that as of 11:50 Japan time (about 30 minutes ago as of this writing), there was “no extra abnormality” reported at the Fukushima nuclear site, where they’ve been injecting nitrogen into the #1 reactor to decrease the chance of a hydrogen explosion.

The Miyagi quake is far from the first aftershock — there have been hundreds of them, with some of them even topping magnitude 7.0. This one occurred at a depth of 25 miles, which is very deep; shallower quakes tend to cause much more damage and are more likely to cause tsunamis.

Kyodo news also reported before the newest aftershock that the government pleaded for objective reporting of the crisis, noting not only sensationalistic reporting but also, sometimes, out-and-out misreporting (like the five deaths of Fukushima plant workers — not true):


State Foreign Secretary Chiaki Takahashi told a press conference that Tokyo believes some reports by foreign media on the Fukushima crisis were ”excessive” and has urged the organizations responsible for the stories through Japanese diplomatic missions abroad to correctly and objectively disseminate information.

Ministry officials said some foreign media, including tabloids, emphasized the danger of radioactive materials leaking from the Fukushima nuclear plant by focusing on extreme projections, while erroneously reporting that the plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. has hired homeless people to tackle the ongoing crisis.

Other examples include a report that five nuclear workers had died at the site, giving the impression that they perished due to high-level radiation amid efforts to bring the crisis under control.

In fact, the reported casualties consisted of workers who died shortly after the quake and tsunami hit the plant and those who were missing in Ibaraki Prefecture, south of Fukushima, the officials said.


Carl Safina, for his part, expressed the view in CNN that the radioactive seawater found leaking from the Fukushima plant (and finally stopped a couple days ago) will probably have virtually no effect on human health — especially in light of all the other crap humans do to the environment:

Some higher-end sushi bars do get their fish from Japan, but they’re likely to play it safe on this issue and get fish from elsewhere (or tell you they have; fibbing is a constant issue in the seafood business). The bigger issues with sushi is that top predators such as tuna already have relatively high mercury, and most are overfished and in decline.

Moreover, theoretical models do not predict that hazardous levels of radiation will reach the U.S. coast. However, the most scientifically accurate statement is that while any radiation can pose some health risk, in many cases, including this one, the human health risk is infinitesimally low. Driving a car is certainly much more dangerous.

Radioecologist F. Ward Whicker told National Geographic that the concentrations of iodine and cesium “would have to be orders of magnitude larger than the numbers I’ve seen to date to cause the kind of radiation doses to marine life that would cause mortality or reductions in reproductive potential. I am very doubtful that direct effects of radioactivity from the damaged reactors on marine life over a large area off the coast of Japan will be observed.”


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2 comments on “Magnitude 7.4 Quake Hits Japan; No Abnormality at Fukushima
  1. Crisis Maven, you look kinda like a bot with your shameless self-promotion, but hey, I approved your comment anyway because you make a good point. But for what it’s worth, Kyodo said no FURTHER abnormality; the shorthand is my fault, and I take the blame. Obviously the whole fucking thing at Fukushima is nothing but a series of “abnormalities,” putting it nicely.

    I would also suggest that freaking out about “more radiation leaking and being deposited through the air by rainfall” is not that helpful. There are a lot of factors going into this, and Fukushima radiation is far from the most dangerous environmental threat posed for today’s urban farmer.

    Which is not to minimize the Fukushima situation, but your comment has a tone of panic-mongering, and I’d suggest people stay frosty no matter what. Panic is never good; furthermore, the fear of radiation makes crappy policy decisions, and potentially (wait for it) MORE COAL. Which would be the worst case scenario here, though I certainly think some really tough questions should be asked of Tepco (and the nuclear industry in general).

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