When the stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan experienced an extended blackout this week, it seemed like the place was plagued. Then engineers there discovered the likely culprit: a rat.

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Fukushima’s worst power failure since the 2011 earthquake and tsunami began on Monday and stopped the plant’s crucial cooling systems from working for several pools, the New York Times reported on Tuesday. The power company said the fuel rods in those pools weren’t in immediate danger of overheating, but when a nuclear power plant has to rig something up like MacGyver, the public gets understandably nervous.

On Wednesday, engineers at the power plant inspected a switchboard linked to the cooling system and discovered the charred remains of a six-inch long rat. They think the rodent might have gnawed on the switchboard cables, causing the outage.

“We cannot be sure exactly what it was, but can say what we saw at the scene was the body of a dead animal below the switchboard,” a spokesperson for the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) told the press.

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Cooling was restored to the pools within a day, and the company says more investigation is needed. Fukushima experienced the worst nuclear disaster since the Chernobyl accident in 1986. Beyond investigating, I hope the power company comes up with better pest management. Next time there may not be much left to find.

Photo Credit: What What via Flickr