July 17, 2007 – Two earthquakes (magnitudes 6.0 and 6.8) that struck off the coast of Japan Monday morning caused damage to areas in central Japan, causing a handful of deaths, flattening neighborhoods and roads, and sparking a fire at a nuclear facility, but appear to have had little impact on the island’s semiconductor manufacturing operations, according to local news and analysts’ reports.
A research note from Objective Analysis noted that most of the country’s capacity is on the southern or eastern side of Honshu, away from the quake’s epicenter off the western coast. Fabs in Japan typically halt operations when quakes register 5 degrees on the Japanese earthquake scale (these two were >6 degrees), so it’s likely that some fabs in the southern part of the island will interrupt operations for a day or so to check for any impact to work in process, which is the far more likely problem than any physical damage so far away, the analysts noted.
The only chipmaker pointed out in press reports was Sanyo Electric Co., which has already resumed operations at the main plant of subsidiary Sanyo Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. in Ojiya, Niigata Prefecture after stopping operations to inspect and adjust production facilities, noted the Nikkei daily. Another Sanyo site in Ojiya href=”http://sst.pennnet.com/articles/article_display.cfm?Section=ARCHI&C=COMPN&ARTICLE_ID=215486″>was severely damaged by a major quake in Oct. 2004, causing the company to move production at its Gunma and Gifu semiconductor plants for several months, and putting a major dent in the company’s profitability for that fiscal year.
While seemingly benign to Japan’s chipmakers, the quake certainly took a tool on other areas, including at least seven deaths and hundreds of injuries, hundreds of homes destroyed and thousands of evacuations, and causing widespread problems with transportation, power, and water services. Four of seven nuclear reactors at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant in Niigata Prefecture shut down automatically at the time of the quake, which was located around 60km southwest of the city of Niigata, about 17km under the seabed. Radiation-contaminated water leaked from the company’s No.6 reactor, and an electric transformer caught fire at the No.3 reactor but was put out about 90mins later, noted the Nikkei daily.