Japan: radiation leaks at nuclear plant

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TOKYO (AP) -- For the second time in three days inspectors found a radioactive leak inside a nuclear plant in central Japan, but officials said Saturday that neither posed danger to humans or the environment.

The latest leak was discovered at about 3:30 p.m. Friday as inspectors were looking into Wednesday's incident at Chubu Electric Power Co.'s plant in Hamaoka, 120 miles southwest of Tokyo, said a company spokesman on condition that his name not be used.

A small quantity of radioactive water dripped inside the reactor vessel from a gap between it and a mechanism called the control rod drive, said Koji Yamashita, an official at the Trade Ministry's nuclear disaster prevention division.

The vessel contains nuclear fuel and the control ride drive regulates the reactor's output, Yamashita said.

On Wednesday, a small amount of radioactive steam was found leaking from a pipe that ruptured during a routine test of a pressure injection system during which fire alarms went off, forcing Chubu Electric to shut down the reactor, the company spokesman said. There was no fire, he said.

Neither leak posed any danger to the outside environment or the 32 inspectors who were at the facility at the time, the Chubu Electric spokesman said.

Japanese have become increasingly wary of nuclear power since a radiation leak at a fuel-reprocessing plant in Tokaimura two years ago killed two workers and affected hundreds of others. Tokaimura is 70 miles northeast of Tokyo.

Japan relies on nuclear power to supply 30 percent of its electricity.

-- Rachel Gibson (rgibson@hotmail.com), November 10, 2001

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