Japan activist warns another "nuclear quake" looms

Sun Mar 27, 2011 6:29am EDT
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By Edmund Klamann

TOKYO (Reuters Life!) - The nuclear safety crisis entering its third week in Japan was not exactly the disaster that long-term activist and author Takashi Hirose foresaw in his book last summer, "Nuclear Reactor Time Bomb."

But except for the location -- Hirose had predicted an imminent megaquake and nuclear accident at the Hamaoka plant 200 km southwest of Tokyo, not the Fukushima Daiichi plant 240 km northeast -- the scenario depicted in his first book on nuclear power in 15 years has proved eerily prescient.

Japanese authorities evacuated workers on Sunday from a reactor building they were working in after high doses of radiation were detected at a crippled nuclear power plant.

As Hirose watches what he believes is a bungled response by the government and Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO), which runs the plant, his fears are as strong as ever that a repeat is set to hit on the other side of the Japanese capital.

"I think it will definitely occur soon," he said, citing geological research on earthquake cycles suggesting that a massive quake may be imminent in the Tokai region near the Hamaoka plant.

"I've looked at the entire country, and there's not a single reactor that's safe."

Japan, at the crossroads of four tectonic plates, is the site of one-fifth of the world's earthquakes of magnitude 6 or more. The massive magnitude-9.0 quake that struck northeast Japan two weeks ago left an estimated 27,000 dead or missing and was the world's fourth largest since 1900.

The possibility of an imminent magnitude 8-plus earthquake in the Tokai region near the Hamaoka plant was brought to the public's attention by geologist Ishibashi Katsuhiko in the 1970s and a government report has estimated there is an 87 percent chance of such an earthquake within the next 30 years.   Continued...

<p>Protesters take part in an anti-nuclear rally in Tokyo March 27, 2011. REUTERS/Toru Hanai</p>