I have previously written about the difficulties of storing nuclear waste in Taiwan. The earthquake in Niigata, Japan yesterday serves as a reminder of the dangers of nuclear power. As a result of the earthquake radioactive water leaked into the ocean. Drums storing nuclear waste also broke open and a fire broke out.
The Times Online reports:
Nuclear investigators revealed today that more than 100 containers of radioactive clothes, shoes and building materials were toppled by the massive earthquake that ripped through central Japan on Monday morning and leveled nearly 1,000 homes.
The discovery follows the admission by authorities in Niigata that a small quantity of radioactive coolant water had leaked from the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant into the sea shortly after the quake.
The leak has also prompted the Japanese Government to issue an urgent order that all nuclear facilities be checked for quake-resistance. The management of the plant said that the tremor had been stronger than the quake-resistance level for which the plant equipment and facilities had been produced.
It seems that the damage has been fairly limited and no humans have been directly injured by the leaks. However, the problems at the plant highlight some of the difficulties of managing nuclear materials. In particular the capacity to manage problems may be negatively affected by a disaster situation such as an earthquake. The Times Online goes on to report:
The quake has already badly embarrassed Tepco, which has been heavily criticised for its slow response to a fire that broke out yesterday and which did not appear to be dealt with for at least two hours.
One government minister said that as part of its quake-preparation, Tepco should have assumed that no emergency services would be available in the immediate aftermath of a big tremor, and should have made arrangements to fight fires on its own.
Tepco it said that the delay between the quake occurring and the discovery of the fallen drums was caused by the lack of staff at the plant – many of Kashiwazaki’s 1,000 employees were either injured in the quake or unable to reach the plant because of landslides.
Taiwan could very easily face a similar scenario in the event of a major earthquake. Let's hope that the Taiwanese government pays attention to what has just happened in Japan and reviews the disaster preparedness at its own nuclear power plants.
Update: The Taipei Times has an article on this topic today. Groups urge better nuclear safety after Japanese quake (18 July 2007).