Nuclear firm pays $1bn to Japanese victims : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

Thursday, 11 May, 2000, 15:02 GMT 16:02 UK Nuclear firm pays $1bn to victims

The company responsible for Japan's worst nuclear accident said on Thursday it had paid more than $1bn in compensation to affected companies and local residents. JCO, which ran the uranium processing plant in Tokaimura, where the accident occurred, said compensation had so far been settled with 6,450 claimants amounting to 11.56bn yen.

The incident - rated the worst nuclear accident since the 1996 Chernobyl disaster - occurred last September when workers violated safety procedures at the plant 110km from Tokyo.

Nearly 400 claims were also waiting to be settled, spokesperson Katsunori Suzuki said.

JCO President Kitani knelt down in front of residents to apologise after the incident "The accident caused so much trouble to so many people and companies. We are handling the compensation matter as sincerely as possible," he said.

The workers used steel buckets to pour uranium to get work done quickly and added in too much, setting off an uncontrolled chain reaction.

Radiation levels around the plant soared to 15,000 times above normal levels safe for humans.

Two workers died and more than 400 people were exposed to dangerous levels of radiation.

Tens of thousands of Tokaimura residents were also forced to stay indoors, services were shut down and police had to patrol the streets.

Authorities' failure

A new study into the incident says Japanese authorities were slow to react.

Officials waited more than six hours before monitoring radiation levels at the plant, says the study, to be published on 19 May in the UK-based Journal of Environmental Radioactivity.

The company broke regulations by allowing steel buckets to be used to mix uranium Kazuhisa Komura, who led the study, said: "They could have done something to stop the accident sooner."

Mr Komura, professor of nuclear chemistry at Kanazawa University, said his research team was continuing to monitor blood samples from about 50 people exposed to radiation to determine any future health risks.

Former Japanese Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi heavily criticised JCO after the incident, accusing them of carelessness and poor training of workers.

JCO admitted to changing the procedure manual so workers could use steel buckets to transfer uranium solution.

-- Martin Thompson (, May 11, 2000

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