Typhoon slams Japan and renews nuclear safety concerns

Hundreds of thousands evacuate amid "unprecendented" rain and floods

Topics: Japan, Typhoon, Natural Disasters, Fukushima, Nuclear Power, ,

Winds topping 100 mph lashed mainland Japan late last night as an “unprecedented” amount of rainfall flooded parts of Kyoto. Trains in Tokyo and surrounding areas were suspended, planes were grounded and some 260,000 were ordered to evacuate to shelters.

Typhoon Man-yi injured hundreds across the country and has left at least two dead — both were women in their seventies whose bodies were found in mudslides. The AP reports that three others are missing and presumed to have been swept away by swollen rivers.

At the Fukushima nuclear power plant, damaged two years ago in a different natural disaster, workers pumped rainwater in an effort to prevent it from mixing with the plant’s storage tanks of contaminated water, which are susceptible to leaks. Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), the plant’s operator, reports that the rainwater is being released into the Pacific and is believed to be untainted.

TEPCO, however, does not have a history of honesty and transparency when it comes to reporting on the escalating situation at the plant. Japan’s Nuclear Regulation Authority is stepping in to re-measure the radioactivity of the rainwater and will then decide whether its release qualifies as a nuclear “event,” in which case an official safety report would need to be made.

Lindsay Abrams

Lindsay Abrams is a staff writer at Salon, reporting on all things sustainable. Follow her on Twitter @readingirl, email labrams@salon.com.

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