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Earthquakes Rattle Fukushima Region Once More

No tsunami warnings or damage reported, but latest tremors provide grim reminder of perilous situation

- Jacob Chamberlain, staff writer

(Reuters)Once again revealing its perilous geographic location, a pair of earthquakes shook the ground near the damaged nuclear power plant at Fukushima on Tuesday.

The first earthquake, which measured 5.4 on the Richter scale, rattled eastern Japan Tuesday morning roughly 50 miles south of the crippled plant where efforts continue to cool the unstable reactors and decommission the radioactive site.

Agence France-Presse reports:

The quake hit at 10:03 am (0103 GMT) in Ibaraki prefecture, 146 kilometers (91 miles) northeast of Tokyo, the [US Geological Survey] said.

The tremor was 9.9 kilometers deep, the agency said.

Located roughly 80 kilometers southwest of the Fukushima nuclear plant, the quake was strong enough to gently rock high-rise buildings in the capital.

The first tremor, which was felt in the Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures in addition to the Tokyo metropolitan area was followed shortly by a 3.6-magnitude quake in the same area.

Although high rise buildings reportedly swayed in Tokyo, and the Joban Expressway was closed for safety checks, there were no reports of serious damage.

Fukushima operator Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) said the plant was not damaged in the quake.

However, as experts have warned, the decommissioning process currently being undertaken by TEPCO at Fukushima—particularly at the damaged and sinking Reactor 4 building—is exceedingly fragile.

And as long-time anti-nuclear activist Harvey Wasserman explained to Common Dreams earlier this year, "The potential radiation released in this situation can only be described as apocalyptic."

Wasserman continued:

The cesium alone would match the fallout of 14,000 Hiroshima bombs.  If the job is botched, radiation releases could force the evacuation of all humans from the site, and could cause electronic equipment to fail.  Humankind would be forced to stand helplessly by as billions of curies of deadly radiation pour into the air and the ocean.  

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