The 7.6 magnitude earthquake that hit Japan’s western coast on 1 January has raised concerns over the push to bring the country’s nuclear capacity online.  

The earthquake struck just days after the country’s regulators lifted a two-year operational ban on Tepco’s Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant.  

Tepco’s plant is located around 120km from the earthquake’s epicentre but has been offline since 2012. Tepco was also the operator of the wrecked Fukushima nuclear plant and in 2021 was banned from transporting new uranium fuel to its Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant.  

The move was to prevent Tepco from restarting the facility’s seven nuclear reactors, ten years after two of its reactors incurred a triple meltdown at Fukushima.  

Following the quake, Tepco reported water spillage from two nuclear fuel pools of the No. 7 and No. 2 reactors at the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant. 

The company ascertained that about 14 litres of water containing radioactive materials spilled from the pools, although it said the radiation levels were normal.  

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The Shika nuclear power plant, operated by another company, Hokuriku Electric, and located 65km from the epicentre, also reported spillage from spent nuclear fuel pools and oil leaks.  

After the Fukushima nuclear disaster in March 2011, there was a strong public and political sentiment to phase out nuclear plants in the country. However, over the years, severe power crunches coupled with rising energy prices have pushed Japan towards restarting idle reactors.  

In 2023, Japan’s Kansai Electric Power restarted its 12th nuclear reactor at the Takahama plant. The 826MW Takahama No. 2 was the country’s second-oldest operating reactor, having entered service in 1975.