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Japan Quake Forces Evacuation Near Reactor; Oil Refinery Burns

Japan Quakes Force Evacuation Near Reactor; Oil Refinery
In this aerial image, refinery plants of Cosmo Oil Co., Ltd are on fire after the earthquake on March 11, 2011 in Ichihara, Chiba, Japan. Source: Sankei via Getty Images

Residents near a Tokyo Electric Power Co. nuclear reactor were ordered to evacuate because of a possible radiation leak as Japan’s strongest earthquake in a century shut power plants and oil refineries.

About 5,800 residents living within 3 kilometers (2 miles) of the Fukushima Dai-Ichi No. 1 reactor were ordered to leave their homes, said Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano. Residents within 10 kilometers were told to stay indoors.

Firefighters continued to battle a blaze at Cosmo Oil Co.’s refinery, 40 kilometers east of Tokyo, said Seiichi Aso, a spokesman at the local fire department. The blaze started at the 220,000 barrel-a-day plant’s storage tanks, Cosmo Oil spokesman Yusuke Kaneda said. JX Nippon Oil & Energy Corp. said it shut its refineries in Sendai, Kashima, and Negishi.

Millions of homes were without electricity as utilities shut 11 nuclear reactors and 21 thermal units. The closures amount to more than 9 percent of Japan’s installed capacity, according to Bloomberg calculations. The refinery shutdowns account for about 20 percent of Japan’s 4.6 million barrels a day refining capacity, Sanford C. Bernstein analysts including Neil Beveridge said in a note today.

Reactors operated by Tokyo Electric Power Co., Asia’s biggest utility, Tohoku Electric Power Co. and Japan Atomic Power Co. were shut, the trade ministry said in an e-mailed statement. A fire was put out at a turbine building at Tohoku Electric’s Onagawa plant, and there was no radiation leak, said Satoshi Arakawa, a spokesman. Three reactors were shut.

Hundreds Killed

The 8.9-magnitude quake struck at 2:46 p.m. local time and unleashed a seven-meter-high tsunami, engulfing towns along the northern coast and killing as many as 300 people. The temblor hit 130 kilometers off the coast of Sendai, north of Tokyo, at a depth of 24 kilometers, the U.S. Geological Survey said. A 7.1-magnitude aftershock followed at 4:25 p.m., it said.

The Philippines, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea were among more than 20 countries bracing for a possible tsunami, the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said.

Tokyo Electric shut seven reactors at its Fukushima Daiichi and Daini atomic plants, the trade ministry’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency said in the e-mailed statement. Japan Atomic Power shut the No. 2 reactor at its Tokai plant, the agency said.

Tokyo Electric

About 3 million Tokyo Electric customers were without power as of 11 p.m. local time and about 4.4 million homes served by Tohoku Electric, which supplies northern Japan, had no power at 9 p.m., according to the trade ministry.

Tokyo Electric shut 11 thermal plants with about 7,365 megawatts of capacity, and Tohoku Electric shut nine stations with 4,846 megawatts. Electric Power Development Co. shut its 600-megawatt No. 2 unit of the Isogo coal-fired plant in Yokohama, spokesman Hiroshi Nakatani said by telephone.

Tokyo Electric’s Kashiwazaki Kariwa, Chubu Electric Power Co.’s Hamaoka and Hokkaido Electric Power Co.’s Tomari nuclear plants are operating, the agency said.

Showa Shell Sekiyu KK halted shipments at refineries in Keihin and Yokkaichi. Liquefied natural gas import facilities at Sodegaura, Ohgishima and Negishi weren’t affected by the earthquake, said Atsuhiko Ashikawa, a Tokyo Gas Co. spokesman.

Emergency Stockpiles

The International Energy Agency doesn’t expect Japan to use its emergency crude and oil-product stockpiles, Aad van Bohemen, head of emergency policy at the Paris-based organization, said by phone. Many of the refineries that were shut as a precaution “can come back online,” he said. “So far as we can see the impact on the oil sector is limited.”

Officials at ports and energy companies in China, Taiwan, South Korea and Russia said the quake and tsunami aren’t expected to affect operations.

The tsunami due to reach China’s southern Guangdong and Fujian provinces today isn’t expected to have a significant impact, the official Xinhua News Agency reported, citing the National Marine Environmental Forecasting Center. There’s no need to shut the country’s ports, Chen Jianmin, director of the China Earthquake Administration, said in Beijing.

Gao Ting, a media official at China National Offshore Oil Corp.’s LNG terminal in Fujian, said she isn’t aware of any emergency measures being drawn up. Spokesmen at PetroChina Co. and China Petroleum & Chemical Corp. said they haven’t had reports that offshore operations have been affected.

Sakhalin Island

Taiwan shut schools and business in its eastern and northeastern counties after the Central Weather Bureau issued a tsunami alert. Taiwan Power Co., the island’s biggest electricity producer, expects its two operating nuclear plants on the northern coast to remain safe. They were designed to withstand waves as high as 12 meters (39 feet), said Huang Huei-yu, a company public relations officer.

Operations at the Exxon Mobil-led Sakhalin-1 oil production project on the island off the Pacific coast of Russia are unaffected, Olga Shishkina, a spokeswoman for Exxon said today. She declined to comment on whether the events caused any tanker cargoes to be diverted to different destinations.

Russia’s Sakhalin-2 venture, which includes an LNG plant with an annual capacity of 9.6 million tons, hasn’t been affected because the tsunami warning hasn’t been issued for Sakhalin Island, a spokesman said.

Russia has issued a tsunami warning for the Kuril Islands, also known as the Northern Territories in Japan.

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