5.5 Quake hits Japan nuclear crisis zone

A 5.5-magnitude earthquake has hit Japan’s Fukushima area, but officials say the region’s crippled nuclear plant remains stable.

The offshore quake struck at 11.45am on Monday (1345 AEDT) off Fukushima prefecture in the country’s north, at a depth of 30.2 kilometres, the US Geological Survey said.

A tsunami was not expected, the Japan Meteorological Agency said, while there were no reports of damage.

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Japan needs energy: What’s the alternative?

As Japan’s earthquake and tsunami ripped through the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, the wind turbines at nearby Takine Ojiroi Wind Farm did what they were designed to do – they swayed, they stopped, they electronically checked themselves and automatically restarted.

"Except for one turbine that was very close to the nuclear power plant, all the turbines were up and running after the quake," said Sean Sutton of Vestas, the world’s largest manufacturer of electricity generating wind turbines.

"And the damaged turbine we were able to monitor remotely," he said. Even now, the turbines are generating power for the grid despite being isolated within the nuclear exclusion zone.

As a source of power, wind energy is about as clean, safe and earthquake-proof as it gets — the problem is it generates a fraction of Japan’s energy needs.

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Obama requests nuclear review, sees risk in Japan

President Barack Obama said on Thursday he had requested a comprehensive review of U.S. nuclear facilities, maintaining his support for atomic energy while seeking to apply lessons from the crisis in Japan.

Obama expressed confidence that Japan would recover from the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear emergency that have seemed to overwhelm its government, but said radiation from a stricken plant there posed a "substantial risk" to people nearby.

He pledged to support Japan while Washington also seeks to aid and evacuate Americans from the country.

"In the coming days, we will continue to do everything we can to ensure the safety of American citizens and the security of our sources of energy," he told reporters at the White House. "And we will stand with the people of Japan as they contain this crisis, recover from this hardship, and rebuild their great nation."

U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission chairman Gregory Jaczko said the United States was working to provide ideas and possibly equipment to help Japan cool its overheating Daiichi nuclear power plant about 240 km (150 miles) north of Tokyo.

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Japan earthquake: Nuclear Disaster feared as reactor overheats

Prime minister Naoto Kan declared a nuclear emergency as his trade minister admitted that a radiation leak might occur at the Fukushima power plant.

The reactor’s cooling system failed after the 8.9-magnitude tremor hit northern Japan at 2.46pm local time. Pressure in the reactor was continuing to rise after repeated efforts to return power to the cooling systems failed. Radiation inside the plant soared to 1,000 times its normal level, officials said, triggering evacuation orders for about 3,000 residents as the government declared its first-ever state of emergency at a nuclear plant.

Reports were also emerging of a second atomic plant in the earthquake-hit area experiencing reactor cooling problems.

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