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Asia Minute: Power questions linger after Japan’s latest earthquake

Japan Earthquake march 2022
Hiro Komae/AP
People wait for a train service to resume at a Tokyo train station in Tokyo, early Thursday, March 17, 2022, as all the services were suspended after an earthquake hit the area. A powerful 7.3 magnitude earthquake has struck off the coast of Fukushima in northern Japan, triggering a tsunami advisory and plunging more than 2 million homes in the Tokyo area into darkness. (AP Photo/Hiro Komae)

Crews in northern Japan are still cleaning up from a powerful earthquake that struck Wednesday night. At least four people were killed and more than 100 were injured, and for some the recovery is lingering.

The 7.4 earthquake struck in the middle of the night — in roughly the same area devastated by a quake and tsunami in 2011 — which sparked a nuclear disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant.

This quake immediately cut electricity to more than 2 million households — including hundreds of thousands in Tokyo — about 150 miles away.

By the next day, most of that power had been restored — but another kind of power issue is lingering.

Bloomberg reports more than 6 gigawatts of thermal power capacity was shut down after the quake.

Based on figures from the U.S. Department of Energy, that’s enough electricity to supply more than 4 million homes.

One result of the shutdown: wholesale power prices in Japan spiked to their highest point in a year.

Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry says gas and coal-fired electricity was halted at several facilities.

In the short term, other utilities are supplying power to Tohoku Electric, but the timeline for the resumption of the thermal power plants remains uncertain.

The Financial Times reports several factories also suspended operations after the quake — from auto plants to semiconductor makers.

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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