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Update on Fuel Reprocessing Plant fire
This is normally sent to my news list distribution, but since several
have asked about it, I am sending this to Radsafe as well. I will not
make this a habit, since I am currently sending out as many as 2
postings a day containing as many as 5 or more articles, depending on
what happened around the world... Hope this update is informative.
Tuesday March 11 5:18 PM EST
Radiation Levels Normal at Nuclear Plant
TOKYO (Reuter) - A small fire at a Japanese nuclear fuel processing
plant exposed 10 workers to small amounts of radiation on Tuesday in a
new blow to the country's ambitious nuclear power program.
The fire, followed 10 hours later by a mystery explosion, briefly set
off a nuclear scare before officials determined radiation levels were
normal and the contaminated workers were given a clean bill of health
and allowed to go home.
A spokesman for the Power Reactor and Nuclear Fuel Development Corp's
(PNC) told Reuters the 10 employees were exposed to "an extremely,
extremely small amount" of radiation after the fire at the Tokaimura
plant in Ibaraki Prefecture, 100 miles north-east of Tokyo.
"They were examined and have been allowed to go home," the spokesman
said. "We never considered an evacuation of the plant or area around
it. There was a small amount of radiation released after the fire but
levels are back to normal."
The incident happened on a day when Japan's nuclear program was
buffeted by the withdrawal of plans to build a new nuclear plant
because of local opposition and environmental groups announced
protests next week against a British ship carrying radioactive waste
Tuesday's drama started Tuesday morning, when a small fire broke out
on a turntable that handles drums of vitrified nuclear waste.
The fire, extinguished after 14 minutes, caused the four-story plant's
ventilation system to fail allowing minimal amounts of radiation to
escape into the atmosphere.
The PNC spokesman said radioactivity was just 0.2 percent of the
legally admissible maximum and never posed a danger.
He said 10 of the 59 workers in the facility, which is owned by the
state-run PNC, were found to have inhaled an "extremely tiny amount"
of radioactivity-contaminated air.
The spokesman said contamination of the workers was less than 0.002
percent of an employee's admissible annual intake.
Ten hours later, after the workers had been allowed to go home, there
was a mystery explosion at the site of the fire which blew out nine
White smoke escaped for about 10 minutes from the building.
There was again a tiny rise in atmospheric radiation levels but once
the smoke dissipated the levels returned to normal.
The spokesman said firemen were on standby and no cause had yet been
found for either the fire or the explosion.
Nuclear investigators were at the scene and there was no danger of
further radiation escapes.
The plant is located in the cradle of Japan's nuclear power industry
which supplies one-third of the country's electricity.
However there is growing opposition to the plants because of a recent
string of accidents at the facilities.
Cover-ups in the scale of the accidents has increased public distrust
in the only country to suffer atomic bombing.
In a twin sign of the opposition on Tuesday, Kyushu Electric Power
Company, one of Japan's 10 power companies, said it was abandoning a
plan to build a nuclear plant in the southern city of Kushima because
of strong local opposition.
Also on Tuesday, the environmental group Greenpeace announced protests
next Tuesday against the arrival on that date of a British freighter
carrying about 20 tonnes of radioactive waste from France.
The toxic waste, carried by the Pacific Teal, is due to arrive at
Mutsu-Ogawara port on the northern tip of Japan's main island of
The cargo, which has drawn protests from countries on the ship's
route, is the second shipment of waste being returned to Japan after
processing by French state company COGEMA.
ICN Dosimetry Division
Costa Mesa, CA 92626
Office: (800) 548-5100 x2306
Fax: (714) 668-3149
"The object of opening the mind as of opening
the mouth is to close it again on something solid"
- G. K. Chesterton -