Following the effects of the Japan quake and tsunami

I’m starting to see a few chemical safety-related things pop up related to the earthquake in Japan and ensuing tsunami. Here’s what I’m watching so far; I’ll update as I see more throughout the day.

  • Nuclear emergency: Most nuclear power plants in Japan seemed to shut down safely when the quake hit, but the cooling system failed at the Fukushima No. 1 plant, operated by Tokyo Electric Power. “Near midnight Japan time on Friday, Jiji Press, a Japanese news agency, quoted officials as saying that the cooling system would be reactivated and resume normal operations.” Two other plants have unspecified “trouble” No radiation leaks are reported (NY Times, Guardian, BBC); Update Friday evening: back-up generators at Fukushima 1/Daiichi failed, leaving two reactors without proper cooling and radiation levels in the control room are 1000x normal, there are also cooling system problems at three Fukushima 2/Daini reactors, technicians are releasing possibly radioactive steam to reduce pressure (BBC, NYT)
  • Dow Chemical Japan: “Early reports indicate that the impact to Dow people and sites is minimal. We do have reports of flooding at Dow’s Soma facility, but no injuries or environmental incidents to report. Limited communication is currently hampering area inspection efforts, but we will continue to monitor the situation and provide updates as we learn more.” (Midland News, Reuters)
  • A more general round-up of petrochemical facilities from ICIS:

    There was a major explosion at a petrochemical complex in Shiogama, Miyagi prefecture and the facility is currently on fire, according to local media reports

    An uncontrolled fire at the Ichihara petrochemical complex in Chiba prefecture had still not been extinguished as of 22:50 local time, television news footage showed. [Photo #16 in the Boston Globe’s “Big Picture” blog post on the disaster shows the Ichihara complex]

    There was also a fire at the chemical factory of JFE Chemical in the Chuo ward in the city of Chiba, Chiba prefecture, as well as at the 220,000 bbl/day refinery of Cosmo Oil, at the city of Ichihara in the same region. No one was available for comment at either company.

    JFE Chemical produces coal tar, benzene, toluene and xylene and industrial gases including oxygen, nitrogen and argon. Chiba prefecture is one of Japan’s petrochemical hubs.

    JX Nippon Oil & Energy shut its paraxylene facilities in Kashima, with a combined capacity of 600,000 tonnes/year and in Kawasaki with a combined capacity of 350,000 tonnes/year, market sources said.
    Meanwhile, a source close to the company said that three of JX Nippon Oil’s refineries were down – a 145,000 bbl/day unit at Sendai in Miyagi prefecture, a 189,000 bbl/day crude oil refinery at Kashima in Ibaraki prefecture and a 270,000 bbl/day unit at Negishi, Kanagawa prefecture.

    Mitsui Chemicals and Mitsubishi Chemical operate chemical plants in Kashima, Ibaraki prefecture, and Ichihara. A spokesman for Mitsubishi Chemical said all of its petrochemical sites in Kashima had closed down.

  • And from the WSJ:

    Food giant Nestle SA (NESN.VX) said two of its buildings in Japan had suffered structural damage. The Swiss company’s sales office in Sendai was affected and a factory in Kasumigaura producing powdered beverages, confectionary and non-dairy creamers was closed while damage is assessed. Headquartered in Kobe, Nestle Japan operates three factories and has 2,200 employees. Its factories in Shimada and Himeji, both producing soluble coffee, were unaffected.

    “At this stage all Nestle employees were reported safe,” the company said.

    The majority of employees in Japan at consumer-product giant Procter & Gamble Co. (PG) have been accounted for, but the company is still “continuing to reach out to all employees in the region,” spokeswoman Robyn Schroeder said, noting that downed communication lines are making the process challenging. A plant making fabric care products in Takasaki had been suspended, Schroeder said.

    GlaxoSmithKline PLC (GSK) said operations at a plant making drugs including allergy medicines and anti-depressants for the Japanese market had been halted “for a few days” while it assessed damage to the facility. …

    Companies including pharmaceuticals giants Novartis AG (NVS) and Roche Holding AG (ROG.VX) and bank UBS AG (UBS) said operations were unaffected and staff were safe.

Added: For those interested in earthquake and tsunami science,’s Surprising Science blog has a nice collection of resources.

Author: Jyllian Kemsley

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1 Comment

  1. Wow…this is like the AM radio version of a blog. I guess “following” the events in Japan, means, just for a few minutes.