map_specnewsdct-59_ltst_4namus_enus_650x366JAPAN — A pair of moderate earthquakes struck just off the coast of Japan’s Fukushima Prefecture Wednesday, close to the nuclear power plants crippled by the March 2011 tsunami. There were no early reports of damage, injuries, or new problems at the nuclear plants. The Japan Meteorological Agency says the first earthquake struck at 9:45 p.m. JST (8:45 a.m. EDT in the U.S.) and registered a magnitude of 5.0. The second quake, a slightly stronger magnitude-5.2 tremor, struck 46 minutes later. Both were centered just off the coast of Fukushima Prefecture, where the Fukushima Daiichi and Fukushimi Daini reactors were severely damaged in the March 11, 2011 tsunami that followed a magnitude-9.0 quake farther offshore. The damage spawned the worst crisis at a nuclear power plant since the Chernobyl disaster in 1986, and prompted Japan to shut down most of its nuclear power plants. Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) has been working to contain radioactive materials in the years since. TEPCO said there were no new abnormalities caused by Wednesday’s quakes, nor any changes to radioactivity levels at the monitoring post there, according to public broadcaster NHK. The company said there were no reported abnormalities at its Tokai Daini nuclear power plant, farther south along the coast of Ibaraki Prefecture. The plant has been shut down since 2011.
The greatest shaking from both earthquakes was reported across central and eastern parts of Fukushima Prefecture, where the shaking was rated at level 4 on the 0-to-7 Japanese seismic intensity scale, known in Japan as “shindo.” Weaker shaking was detected from Tokyo all the way north to Sendai in northern Japan. The quakes were not strong enough to generate a tsunami. Japan is one of the most seismically active countries in the world. Earthquakes of this magnitude are relatively common there. A 5.6-magnitude earthquake struck Tochigi Prefecture on Sept. 16, rattling Tokyo and injuring eight people. EP