IAEA: Japan nuclear plants nearest earthquake safely shut down

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March 11, 2011 — Latest reports indicate that the four nuclear power plants in Japan closest to the epicenter of the 8.9 earthquake have been safely shut down, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency.

"The four Japanese nuclear power plants closest to the quake have been safely shut down," the agency said in a statement.

The IAEA, based in Vienna, is monitoring the situation closely and will continue to seek information on any nuclear facilities that might be put at risk by the earthquake or the tsunami triggered by it.

Earlier reports from Japanese news wires said that the reactor cooling systems in two units of Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant had failed. Other reports held that the plant's operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co., was considering venting radioactive vapor into the air to relieve reactor pressure that had risen.

About 2,000 people were urged to evacuate the area as a precaution, according to reports.

The Fukushima I is an 8-unit nuclear power plant with an installed capacity of about 4.7 GW. Built in 1966, the plant uses boiling water reactors built by GE, Toshiba and Hitachi. It is operated by TEPCO.

Fukushima Prefecture is located on the eastern side of the island of Honshu, Japan's mainland island.

In the U.S., nuclear power plants along the West Coast are on alert, but continue to operate as normal.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission said that a tsunami warning requires nuclear plants to remain on alert as a precaution. All units are still in service and operating normally.

Nuclear power plant operator PG&E Corp. said it declared an unusual event at its Diablo Canyon power plant in California due to the tsunami warning, which is normal operating procedure at the California but both reactors there were operating normally.

Southern California Edison, a unit of Edison International, said workers would be monitoring "unusual small waves" that were likely to hit the coast.

The U.S. government said shorelines appear to be out of major danger from the tsunami, caused by the large quake that killed hundreds in Japan, but that there is still some risk to the U.S. West Coast.

President Barack Obama held a news conference in which he said that the Japanese government had assured him there had been no reports of radiation leakage from the Japanese power plants.

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