The Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant, closed since Monday following the major earthquake in the north of Japan is now known to be placed directly above a significant geological fault line. This line was thought to be inactive until it caused Monday’s earthquake, measuring 6.8 on the Richter scale.
The world’s largest nuclear power plant has been closed indefinitely, as it was designed only to cope with earthquakes of a magnitude up to 6.5. The quake has caused a number of accidents at the plant, calling into question its safety. Mildly radioactive water leaked into the sea whilst four hundred barrels of radioactive waste toppled over, 40 of them spilling their contents. There were, in total, fifty malfunctions at the plant following the earthquake.
Japan is the third largest user of nuclear energy in the world, using it for over 30% of their energy. However, it is also country that suffers from frequent tremors, and questions are now being asked about the suitability of such a power source for a geologically volatile country.
Nor is this the first nuclear mishap in Japan. In 1999 two workers died in a nuclear accident, whilst in 2004 five workers were scalded to death when a steam pipe burst at an aging nuclear power plant. A further major scandal rocked Japan in 2002 when the Tokyo Electric Power Company had to close down all of its reactors after admitting to falsifying safety information.