Japan: Magnitude 5.7 – BONIN ISLANDS, JAPAN REGION

5.7 Earthquake in the Japan region
5.7 Earthquake in the Japan region

Magnitude: 5.7  
Location 26.767°N, 140.462°E
Depth 437.5 km (271.9 miles)
Distances 177 km (109 miles) W of Chichi-shima, Bonin Islands, Japan
236 km (146 miles) NNW of Iwo Jima, Volcano Islands, Japan
706 km (438 miles) S of Hachijo-jima, Izu Islands, Japan
990 km (615 miles) S of TOKYO, Japan

Noah’s ark for the next Tsunami in Japan?

Modern Noah's Ark (AP Photo/Itsuo Inouye)
Modern Noah's Ark - A Cosmo Power Co. employee crawls out from a spherical earthquake and tsunami shelter "Noah" made of fiber enforced plastic at the company's factory in Hiratsuka, west of Tokyo, Friday, Sept. 30, 2011. The Japanese generator maker has developed a modern version of Noah's Ark in case Japan is hit by another massive earthquake and tsunami. The company of just 10 employees completed the first Noah, that has 1.2 meters (4 feet) in diameter and can hold up to four adults inside, earlier this month and already has 500 orders. (AP Photo/Itsuo Inouye)

While not 100% accurate as these are mini Noah’s arks, that title is very close!  A power company in Japan has devised a unique “lifeboat” of sorts that could possible save 4 lifes in the event another tsunami hits Japan.   Since the chances of another catastrophic tsunami are very low in general, the noah’s ark lifeboat also doubles as a kids room toy.  Clever use of a safety device, I wonder if I can get it in any color? Anyway,  here is the story as reported by the AP

 TOKYO (AP) — A small Japanese company has developed a modern, miniature version of Noah’s Ark in case Japan is hit by another massive earthquake and tsunami: a floating capsule that looks like a huge tennis ball.

Japan’s Cosmo Power says its “Noah” shelter is made of enhanced fiberglass that can save users from disasters like the one on March 11 that devasted Japan’s northern coast, leaving nearly 20,000 people dead or missing.

Company president Shoji Tanaka says the capsule can hold four adults, and that it has survived many crash tests. It has a small lookout window and breathing holes on top. It also can be used as a toy house for children.

The company completed the capsule earlier this month and already has 600 orders, including two delivered.

Japan: update: Now 6 earthquakes with magnitude 5.2 or greater have hit near Japan’s Honshu region

5 earthquakes near Honshu, Japan in just hoursJapan seems to be suffering from a strong string of earthquakes in the region today.  No tsunami alerts have been issued as far as we can tell but the thought of 5 earthquakes over 5.2 is somewhat amazing for such a short period of time in such an specific location.

UPDATE: Another earthquake has hit the same area.  that makes 6 in less than half a day

Magnitude  5.6   2011/09/16 21:36:36    40.122    143.331  17.6   OFF THE EAST COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN
Magnitude  6.2   2011/09/16 21:08:06    40.221    143.050  20.2   OFF THE EAST COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN
Magnitude  5.5   2011/09/16 20:11:15    40.305    143.180  19.0   OFF THE EAST COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN
Magnitude  5.2   2011/09/16 19:39:46    40.403    142.034  10.4   NEAR THE EAST COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN
Magnitude  6.6   2011/09/16 19:26:42    40.288    142.727  36.3   NEAR THE EAST COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN

Japan: The fourth earthquake over 5.2 magnitude has hit near Honshu Japan

As far as we can tell no tsunami warnings have been issued for any of these four earthquakes, the latest of which was a 6.2 magnitude earthquake
4 large earthquakes off Japans coast in short time

Mag. 6.2 2011/09/16 21:08:06 40.221 143.050 20.2 OFF THE EAST COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN
Mag. 5.5 2011/09/16 20:11:15 40.305 143.180 19.0 OFF THE EAST COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN
Mag. 5.2 2011/09/16 19:39:46 40.403 142.034 10.4 NEAR THE EAST COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN
Mag. 6.6 2011/09/16 19:26:42 40.288 142.727 36.3 NEAR THE EAST COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN

3 large earthquakes off japan in just hours

Japan: 6.6 earthquake near Honshu, Japan

Earthquake near Honshu Japan-6.6Magnitude 6.6
Date-Time Friday, September 16, 2011 at 19:26:42 UTC
Saturday, September 17, 2011 at 04:26:42 AM at epicenter
Time of Earthquake in other Time Zones

Location 40.288°N, 142.727°E
Depth 36.3 km (22.6 miles)
Distances 108 km (67 miles) ESE of Hachinohe, Honshu, Japan
149 km (92 miles) ENE of Morioka, Honshu, Japan
177 km (109 miles) ESE of Aomori, Honshu, Japan
574 km (356 miles) NNE of TOKYO, Japan

Location Uncertainty horizontal +/- 15.3 km (9.5 miles); depth +/- 4.2 km (2.6 miles)

It is unclear if a tsunami warning was issued for the coast

Another earthquake in Japan region 7.3 magnitude

Magnitude 7.3 FIJI REGION
Thursday, September 15, 2011 at 19:30:59 UTC
A magnitude-7.2 earthquake rattled Fiji in the Pacific Ocean on Friday morning, the U.S. Geological Survey reported. No tsunami warning was issued, and no damage or casualties were immediately reported.

Magnitude 7.3
Date-Time Thursday, September 15, 2011 at 19:31:02 UTC
Friday, September 16, 2011 at 07:31:02 AM at epicenter
Time of Earthquake in other Time Zones

Location 21.559°S, 179.369°W
Depth 626.1 km (389.1 miles)
Distances 120 km (74 miles) SSW of Ndoi Island, Fiji
425 km (264 miles) W of NUKU`ALOFA, Tonga
453 km (281 miles) SSE of SUVA, Viti Levu, Fiji
1788 km (1111 miles) NNE of Auckland, New Zealand

Location Uncertainty horizontal +/- 14.4 km (8.9 miles); depth +/- 4.7 km (2.9 miles)

JUST IN: 6.1 earthquake off the coast Japan

6.1 magnitude quake was detected
Date-Time Tuesday, March 29, 2011 at 10:54:33 UTC
Tuesday, March 29, 2011 at 07:54:33 PM at epicenter
Location 37.417°N, 142.269°E
Depth 13.8 km (8.6 miles)
Distances 127 km (78 miles) ENE of Iwaki, Honshu, Japan
152 km (94 miles) SE of Sendai, Honshu, Japan
162 km (100 miles) ESE of Fukushima, Honshu, Japan
294 km (182 miles) NE of TOKYO, Japan

Location Uncertainty horizontal +/- 13 km (8.1 miles); depth +/- 4.4 km (2.7 miles)
Parameters NST=484, Nph=486, Dmin=375.1 km, Rmss=0.96 sec, Gp= 22°,
M-type=”moment” magnitude from initial P wave (tsuboi method) (Mi/Mwp), Version=E

Fresh tsunami alert issued as 6.5 earthquake hits

Fukushima tsunami and the resulting whirlpoolsFUKUSHIMA – A magnitude-6.5 earthquake rocked the east of Japan at 7.23am local time (6.23am Singapore time), the latest in a series of aftershocks, prompting Japan to issue a tsunami alert that was later lifted.

The United States Geological Survey said the quake was 5.9km deep, and struck off the coast of Honshu.

There were no immediate reports of damage or injuries, but the Japan Meteorological Agency announced that a relatiely small tsunami of up to 0.5m may wash into the already-devastated Miyagi region.

This was just the latest setback for a country battling to come to terms with a March 11 earthquake and tsunami that left more than 27,000 people dead or missing across Japan’s devastated north-east.

Japan today appeared resigned to a long fight to contain the world’s most dangerous atomic crisis in 25 years after high radiation levels complicated work at the crippled Fukushima nuclear plant, which was damaged by the tsunami.

Radiation at the plant has soared in recent days. Latest readings yesterday showed contamination 100,000 times normal levels in the water at reactor No 2, and 1,850 times normal levels in the nearby sea – the most alarming levels since the crisis began.

“I think maybe the situation is much more serious than we were led to believe,” said one expert, Prof Najmedin Meshkati, of the University of Southern California, adding it may take weeks to stabilise the situation and the United Nations should step in.

“This is far beyond what one nation can handle – it needs to be bumped up to the UN Security Council. In my opinion, this is more important than the Libya no-fly zone.”

Experts said radiation in the Pacific waters will quickly dissipate. In the latest find, traces of radioactive iodine turned up in rainwater samples in Massachusetts in the United States, but health officials there said they posed no threat.

Radiation in drinking water was found in one out of three Tokyo water purification plants based on samples taken yesterday, the metropolitan government said. Two out of three facilities had detected radioactive levels the previous day.

Japanese officials and international nuclear experts have generally said the levels away from the plant are not dangerous for humans, who face comparable radiation doses on a daily basis from natural substances, X-rays or plane flights.

Efforts to repair the cooling systems at the No 2 and No 3 reactors at the Fukushima nuclear plant are being delayed by the need to drain radioactive water from the floors, Plant operator Tokyo Electric Power said this morning in a briefing broadcast over the Internet.

Company officials indicated that the contaminated water is probably coming from inside the reactors, rather than from pools of spent fuel rods outside.

Efforts to gain control over the damaged plant have been hampered by radiation leaks, forcing repair work to be suspended and engineers to rotate shifts.

Professor Tetsuo Iguchi of the department of quantum engineering at Nagoya University said that at the sharply-elevated levels of radiation, workers would be able to remain on site for only about 15 minutes.

Two men who were exposed to radiation had “significant” skin contamination on their legs, the International Atomic Energy Agency said.

TEPCO has conceded it faces a protracted and uncertain operation to contain overheating fuel rods and avert a meltdown.

“Regrettably, we don’t have a concrete schedule at the moment to enable us to say in how many months or years the crisis will be over,” TEPCO vice-president Sakae Muto said in the latest of round-the-clock briefings the company holds.

read the original story here

IMPACT: Nuclear plant owner TEPCO downplayed tsunami risk

The aftermath of the Fukushima meltdown starts with the people it affectsTOKYO — In planning their defense against a killer tsunami, the people running Japan’s now-hobbled nuclear power plant dismissed important scientific evidence and all but disregarded 3,000 years of geological history, an Associated Press investigation shows.

The misplaced confidence displayed by Tokyo Electric Power Co. was prompted by a series of overly optimistic assumptions that concluded the Earth couldn’t possibly release the level of fury it did two weeks ago, pushing the six-reactor Fukushima Dai-ichi complex to the brink of multiple meltdowns.

Instead of the reactors staying dry, as contemplated under the power company’s worst-case scenario, the plant was overrun by a torrent of water much higher and stronger than the utility argued could occur, according to an AP analysis of records, documents and statements from researchers, the utility and the Japan’s national nuclear safety agency.

And while TEPCO and government officials have said no one could have anticipated such a massive tsunami, there is ample evidence that such waves have struck the northeast coast of Japan before – and that it could happen again along the culprit fault line, which runs roughly north to south, offshore, about 220 miles (350 kilometers) east of the plant.

TEPCO officials say they had a good system for projecting tsunamis. They declined to provide more detailed explanations, saying they were focused on the ongoing nuclear crisis.

What is clear: TEPCO officials discounted important readings from a network of GPS units that showed that the two tectonic plates that create the fault were strongly “coupled,” or stuck together, thus storing up extra stress along a line hundreds of miles long. The greater the distance and stickiness of such coupling, experts say, the higher the stress buildup – pressure that can be violently released in an earthquake.

That evidence, published in scientific journals starting a decade ago, represented the kind of telltale characteristics of a fault being able to produce the truly overwhelming quake – and therefore tsunami – that it did.

On top of that, TEPCO modeled the worst-case tsunami using its own computer program instead of an internationally accepted prediction method.

It matters how Japanese calculate risk. In short, they rely heavily on what has happened to figure out what might happen, even if the probability is extremely low. If the view of what has happened isn’t accurate, the risk assessment can be faulty.

That approach led to TEPCO’s disregard of much of Japan’s tsunami history.

In postulating the maximum-sized earthquake and tsunami that the Fukushima Dai-ichi complex might face, TEPCO’s engineers decided not to factor in quakes earlier than 1896. That meant the experts excluded a major quake that occurred more than 1,000 years ago – a tremor followed by a powerful tsunami that hit many of the same locations as the recent disaster.

A TEPCO reassessment presented only four months ago concluded that tsunami-driven water would push no higher than 18 feet (5.7 meters) once it hit the shore at the Fukushima Dai-ichi complex. The reactors sit up a small bluff, between 14 and 23 feet (4.3 and 6.3 meters) above TEPCO’s projected high-water mark, according to a presentation at a November seismic safety conference in Japan by TEPCO civil engineer Makoto Takao.

“We assessed and confirmed the safety of the nuclear plants,” Takao asserted.

However, the wall of water that thundered ashore two weeks ago reached about 27 feet (8.2 meters) above TEPCO’s prediction. The flooding disabled backup power generators, located in basements or on first floors, imperiling the nuclear reactors and their nearby spent fuel pools.

The story leading up to the Tsunami of 2011 goes back many, many years – several millennia, in fact.

The Jogan tsunami of 869 displayed striking similarities to the events in and around the Fukushima Dai-ichi reactors. The importance of that disaster, experts told the AP, is that the most accurate planning for worst-case scenarios is to study the largest events over the longest period of time. In other words, use the most data possible.

The evidence shows that plant operators should have known of the dangers – or, if they did know, disregarded them.

As early as 2001, a group of scientists published a paper documenting the Jogan tsunami. They estimated waves of nearly 26 feet (8 meters) at Soma, about 25 miles north of the plant. North of there, they concluded that a surge from the sea swept sand more than 2 1/2 miles (4 kilometers) inland across the Sendai plain. The latest tsunami pushed water at least about 1 1/2 miles (2 kilometers) inland.

The scientists also found two additional layers of sand and concluded that two additional “gigantic tsunamis” had hit the region during the past 3,000 years, both presumably comparable to Jogan. Carbon dating couldn’t pinpoint exactly when the other two hit, but the study’s authors put the range of those layers of sand at between 140 B.C. and A.D. 150, and between 670 B.C. and 910 B.C.

In a 2007 paper published in the peer-reviewed journal Pure and Applied Geophysics, two TEPCO employees and three outside researchers explained their approach to assessing the tsunami threat to Japan’s nuclear reactors, all 54 of which sit near the sea or ocean.

To ensure the safety of Japan’s coastal power plants, they recommended that facilities be designed to withstand the highest tsunami “at the site among all historical and possible future tsunamis that can be estimated,” based on local seismic characteristics.

But the authors went on to write that tsunami records before 1896 could be less reliable because of “misreading, misrecording and the low technology available for the measurement itself.” The TEPCO employees and their colleagues concluded, “Records that appear unreliable should be excluded.”

Two years later, in 2009, another set of researchers concluded that the Jogan tsunami had reached 1 mile (1.5 kilometers) inland at Namie, about 6 miles (10 kilometers) north of the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant.

The warning from the 2001 report about the 3,000-year history would prove to be most telling: “The recurrence interval for a large-scale tsunami is 800 to 1,100 years. More than 1,100 years have passed since the Jogan tsunami, and, given the reoccurrence interval, the possibility of a large tsunami striking the Sendai plain is high.”

The fault involved in the Fukushima Dai-ichi tsunami is part of what is known as a subduction zone. In subduction zones, one tectonic plate dives under another. When the fault ruptures, the sea floor snaps upward, pushing up the water above it and potentially creating a tsunami. Subduction zones are common around Japan and throughout the Pacific Ocean region.

TEPCO’s latest calculations were started after a magnitude-8.8 subduction zone earthquake off the coast of Chile in February 2010.

In such zones over the past 50 years, earthquakes of magnitude 9.0 or greater have occurred in Alaska, Chile and Indonesia. All produced large tsunamis.

When two plates are locked across a large area of a subduction zone, the potential for a giant earthquake increases. And those are the exact characteristics of where the most recent quake occurred.

TEPCO “absolutely should have known better,” said Dr. Costas Synolakis, a leading American expert on tsunami modeling and an engineering professor at the University of Southern California. “Common sense,” he said, should have produced a larger predicted maximum water level at the plant.

TEPCO’s tsunami modelers did not judge that, in a worst-case scenario, the strong subduction and coupling conditions present off the coast of Fukushima Dai-ichi could produce the 9.0-magnitude earthquake that occurred. Instead, it figured the maximum at 8.6 magnitude, meaning the March 11 quake was four times as powerful as the presumed maximum.

Shogo Fukuda, a TEPCO spokesman, said that 8.6 was the maximum magnitude entered into the TEPCO internal computer modeling for Fukushima Dai-ichi.

Another TEPCO spokesman, Motoyasu Tamaki, used a new buzzword, “sotegai,” or “outside our imagination,” to describe what actually occurred.

U.S. tsunami experts said that one reason the estimates for Fukushima Dai-ichi were so low was the way Japan calculates risk. Because of the island nation’s long history of killer waves, Japanese experts often will look at what has happened – then project forward what is likely to happen again.

Under longstanding U.S. standards that are gaining popularity around the world, risk assessments typically scheme up a worst-case scenario based on what could happen, then design a facility like a nuclear power plant to withstand such a collection of conditions – factoring in just about everything short of an extremely unlikely cataclysm, like a large meteor hitting the ocean and creating a massive wave that kills hundreds of thousands.

In the early 1990s, Harry Yeh, now a tsunami expert and engineering professor at Oregon State University, was helping assess potential threats to the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant on the central California coast in the United States. During that exercise, he said, researchers considered a worst-case scenario involving a significantly larger earthquake than had ever been recorded there.

And then a tsunami was added. And in that Diablo Canyon model, the quake hit during a monster storm that was already pushing onto the shore higher waves than had ever been measured at the site.

In contrast, when TEPCO calculated its high-water mark at 18 feet (5.7 meters), the anticipated maximum earthquake was in the same range as others recorded off the coast of Fukushima Dai-ichi – and the only assumption about the water level was that the tsunami arrived at high tide.

Which, as is abundantly clear now, could not have been more wrong.

Pritchard reported from Los Angeles. AP writers Mari Yamaguchi in Tokyo and Alicia Chang in Los Angeles and AP researcher Barbara Sambrinski in New York contributed to this report.

Japan Extended Reactor’s Life, Despite Warning

The oldest reactor at Fukushima was given a 10 year extension depite concernsTOKYO — Just a month before a powerful earthquake and tsunami crippled the Fukushima Daiichi plant at the center of Japan’s nuclear crisis, government regulators approved a 10-year extension for the oldest of the six reactors at the power station despite warnings about its safety.

The committee reviewing extensions pointed to stress cracks in the backup diesel-powered engines at Reactor No. 1 at the Daiichi plant, according to a summary of its deliberations that was posted on the Web site of Japan’s nuclear regulatory agency after each meeting. The cracks made the engines vulnerable to corrosion from seawater and rainwater. The engines are thought to have been knocked out by the tsunami, shutting down the reactor’s vital cooling system.

The Tokyo Electric Power Company, which runs the plant, has since struggled to keep the reactor and spent fuel pool from overheating and emitting radioactive materials.

Several weeks after the extension was granted, the company admitted that it had failed to inspect 33 pieces of equipment related to the cooling systems, including water pumps and diesel generators, at the power station’s six reactors, according to findings published on the agency’s Web site shortly before the earthquake.

Regulators said that “maintenance management was inadequate” and that the “quality of inspection was insufficient.”

Less than two weeks later, the earthquake and tsunami set off the crisis at the power station.

The decision to extend the reactor’s life, and the inspection failures at all six reactors, highlight what critics describe as unhealthy ties between power plant operators and the Japanese regulators that oversee them. Expert panels like the one that recommended the extension are drawn mostly from academia to backstop bureaucratic decision-making and rarely challenge the agencies that hire them.

Because public opposition to nuclear power makes it hard to build new power plants, nuclear operators are lobbying to extend their reactors’ use beyond the 40-year statutory limit, despite uneven safety records and a history of cover-ups. The government, eager to expand the use of nuclear energy and reduce the reliance on imported fossil fuels, has been largely sympathetic. Such extensions are also part of a global trend in which aging plants have been granted longer lives.

Over the next decade in Japan, 13 more reactors — and the other 5 at the Fukushima Daiichi plant — will also turn 40, raising the prospect of gargantuan replacement costs. That is one reason critics contend that the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency’s committee in charge of inspecting aging nuclear power plants may play down its own findings.

In approving the extension in early February, regulators told Tokyo Electric to monitor potential damage from radiation to the reactor’s pressure vessel, which holds fuel rods; corrosion of the spray heads used to douse the suppression chamber; corrosion of key bolts at the reactor; and conduction problems in a gauge that measures the flow of water into the reactor, according to a report published in early February.

read the rest of this article at the NYtimes website here