Japan seeks criminal charges against nuclear officials
April 16, 1997
Web posted at: 12:30 p.m. EST (1630 GMT)
From Tokyo Bureau Chief John Lewis
TOKYO (CNN) -- The Japanese government filed a criminal
complaint Wednesday against its own nuclear development
agency for filing a false report last month about a fire at a
nuclear fuel reprocessing plant.
The Science and Technology Agency's action against the Power
Reactor and Nuclear Fuel Development Corporation -- Donen in
Japanese -- followed a series of accidents and cover-ups that
enflamed public opinion. The complaint asks police to pursue
charges against Donen.
"We have decided to take legal action against Donen and
several of its officials," said the Science and Technology
The agency action had a lot of support. Prime Minister
Ryutaro Hashimoto said he was "disgusted" with the nuclear
power corporation and promised to "investigate them
thoroughly and beat them into shape."
The complaint filed by the agency involves an explosion and
fire at the Tokaimura plant on March 11. Donen reported to
the government that someone had confirmed the fire had been
extinguished, when in fact there was no such confirmation.
Donen acknowledged that the report had been falsified, and
demoted five officials. At least 37 employees were exposed to
low-level radiation during the accident.
The public was vocal after the Tokaimura accident, insisting
that they have the right to know what is happening.
"These nuclear accidents continue to be repeated. Everyone
worries about the situation," said one citizen, while another
expressed "no confidence in Donen ...they are terrible."
And the Tokaimura accident is not the only thing Donen and
its officials have to worry about.
The mayor of Tsuruga City, home to two Donen facilities, has
expressed concern. Kazuharu Kawase called for Donen's staff
to be replaced to restore public confidence in the agency.
The mayor and his constituents may have a right to worry. In
1995, Donen was found to have covered up a potentially
dangerous accident at its Monju facility in the city.
And on Monday, an accident occurred at the corporation's
Fugen plant in Tsuruga -- an incident not disclosed until
Tuesday. The government immediately ordered the facility
closed and accused Donen of yet another failure to report.
Japan's chief cabinet secretary acknowledged the problems
surrounding the state-run corporation.
"What we have to do is put them back on the right track,"
said Seiroku Kajiyama. "They will have to quickly find out
the causes of accidents and how to prevent them in the
The recent accidents have forced the closure of four of
Donen's six nuclear plants around Japan.
Related sites:Note: Pages will open in a new browser window
External sites are not endorsed by CNN Interactive.
© 1997 Cable News Network, Inc.
All Rights Reserved.