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Extremely Powerful Typhoon To Hit Japan Tomorrow

Will their nuclear plants be safe?

Via Mother Jones. Forecasters are expecting waves of 40 to 50 feet:

Japanese forecasters are calling it a "once in decades storm." And at Kadena Air Base, a US military installation on the island of Okinawa, one commander dubbed the storm "the most powerful typhoon forecast to hit the island in 15 years."

Super Typhoon Neoguri, currently sporting maximum sustained winds of nearly 150 miles per hour and just shy of Category 5 strength, is heading straight at Japan's islands, and its outer bands are currently battering the island of Okinawa. Here's the forecast map from the Navy's Joint Typhoon Warning Center. As you can see, the forecast for tomorrow brings the storm up to maximum sustained winds of 140 knots (161 miles per hour), or Category 5 strength.

The Western Pacific basin, home to typhoons (which are elsewhere called tropical cyclones or hurricanes), is known for having the strongest storms on Earth, such as last year's devastating Super Typhoon Haiyan. July is, generally, when the Western Pacific typhoon season really starts getting into gear, but August, September, and October are usually busier months.

Neoguri will weaken by the time it strikes Japan's main islands, but as meteorologist Jeff Masters observes, "the typhoon is so large and powerful that it will likely make landfall with at least Category 2 strength, causing major damage in Japan."

One pressing issue is the safety of Japan's nuclear plants. In the wake of the 2011 tsunami and the subsequent disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, it's important to consider whether a similar vulnerability arises here.

Fukushima is located north of Tokyo on Japan's largest island, Honshu. By the time the typhoon reaches that point, it is forecast to be considerably weaker. But there are a number of other reactors spread across the islands; perhaps most exposed will be the southwestern island of Kyushu, where the current forecast has the typhoon making its first major landfall.

According to reporting by Reuters, there are two nuclear plants on the island. A company spokeswoman for Kyushu Electric Power Co. told the news agency that it "has plans in place throughout the year to protect the plants from severe weather."

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