Japan's nuclear power industry, which supplies 30 percent of the national grid, was heavily affected by Saturday's earthquake, and will ripple through the country's entire industrial base.
Japan gets 20 percent of the world's earthquakes above six on the Richter scale. This earthquake reached 8.9, and was centered near the city of Sendai in the northeast. The area is a center of auto production, and numerous auto plants — from Toyota, Nissan, Honda and Subaru — are among those closed.
According to Melissa Lafsky, editor of the micro news site Infrastructurist.com in an interview, "The power plants are one of the big issues, because rebuilding them is incredibly expensive and time-consuming, and the loss of available power obviously is a huge problem, too."
Recovery in the nuclear sector is critical, and it may be a few days until damage can be fully assessed. The Tohoku Electric Power Company shut three reactors at the Onagawa power plant, and Tokyo Electric Power closed seven units at two plants. Some 5,800 residents living near the Fukushima nuclear plant were told to evacuate, and a turbine fire was reported at the Onagawa nuclear plant in Miyagi prefecture, one of the areas worst hit by the tsunami. A state of nuclear power emergency has been declared, though no radiation leaks have been reported.
The Japanese economy also runs on oil, and numerous refineries have been closed — Cosmo Oil reports a fire in storage tanks at its now-shuttered Chiba unit. Also reported closed are Tokyo Bay ports, location of important liquefied natural gas shipping terminals. Japan is the world's biggest importer of LNG, and has sought to diversify its energy supply from oil dependence.