The full significance of a 6.6 Richter Scale earthquake that struck off the coast of Japan's Niigata Prefecture on July 16 still was not clear, especially for the future of nuclear power. At least 9 died and about a thousand suffered injuries. Tens of thousands of households lost utility services and 13,000 people crowded into emergency shelters. But much of the attention was focused on the damage to a Tokyo Electric Power Company nuclear power plant in Kashiwazaki, a town near the epicenter about 150 miles northwest of Tokyo. An electrical transformer caught fire and small amount of water contaminated with low-level radiation leaked into a water tank and was later discharged into the Sea of Japan. The company claims there is no danger to the environment but the company was rebuked by the government for not reporting the leak promptly. Later the company confirmed that barrels holding nuclear wastes had tipped over, spilling their contents. The incidents prompted renewed calls for stricter oversight of nuclear plant construction and operations.