Japan Stops Two Nuclear Reactors

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TOKYO (AP) - Two nuclear reactors were manually shut down Monday because of malfunctions in parts controlling fuel rods, officials said. There were no radiation leaks or other damage.

In the town of Orai, 60 miles northeast of Tokyo, a pilot fast breeder reactor was stopped after fuel rods made abnormal movements, said Science and Technology Agency spokesman Akihiro Myoga.

Also Monday, an advanced thermal reactor had to be manually shut down in Tsuruga, 200 miles northwest of Tokyo, after an indicator monitoring the position of fuel rods malfunctioned, Myoga said.

The state-run Japan Nuclear Cycle Development Institute, which operates both plants, was investigating, he said.

The operator, formerly known as Donen, contributed to earlier accidents that shook Japan's faith in nuclear power. Officials tried to cover up the extent of damage from a fire at a reprocessing facility in March 1997 that exposed 37 workers to low-level radiation.

Fast breeder reactors use plutonium fuel instead of conventional uranium and produce more plutonium that can then be reused as fuel.

The plant in Tsuruga is designed to burn a mixture of uranium and plutonium, and is seen as a major project for Japan's nuclear power generation.

Resource-poor Japan depends on nuclear energy for more than a third of its electricity needs.

-- Risteard Mac Thomais (uachtaran@ireland.com), April 03, 2000

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