Japan plant leaks radioactive waste
August 26, 1997
Web posted at: 11:10 a.m. EDT (1510 GMT)
TOKYO (CNN) -- About 2,000 steel barrels leaked low-level radioactive waste at a controversial state-run nuclear
facility north of Tokyo, officials admitted Tuesday.
"We believe that the leaked material was extremely
low-level in terms of radiation and not dangerous, but it was
in fact radioactive," said a spokesman for the Power Reactor
and Nuclear Fuel Development Corp. (PNC), which operates the
nuclear reprocessing plant at Tokaimura.
Nuclear officials told CNN that there was no health risk, but
admitted that they had no idea when the leak started.
The drums, each containing 200 liters (53 gallons), had been
stored in a swimming pool-like pit since 1967. The spokesman
said rainwater had been allowed to accumulate in the concrete
storage pit and that some of the drums had rusted from the
The government agency in charge of the nuclear waste program
said it was now investigating whether radioactive liquid had
seeped into groundwater.
PNC said it had been working under orders to fortify the
storage pit. "The fact that the waste had built up means that
the measures were not sufficient," the spokesman said.
The leakage was uncovered by the Yomiuri Shimbun, Japan's
largest daily, in what was the latest in a series of
incidents that have plagued Japan's nuclear industry.
The Tokaimura facility is near the site of a nuclear waste
reprocessing plant where an explosion took place in March,
when 35 workers were exposed to minor levels of radiation.
A series of cover-ups of similar accidents prompted a review
of the structure of the corporation, and the new
recommendations are expected to be presented to parliament
later this year.
Tokyo Bureau Chief John Lewis and Reuters contributed to this