Nuclear-plant fire raises new alarms

Click to follow

A fire at a Japanese nuclear power station has again called into question the nation's reliance on nuclear energy, five months after a serious accident at the Tokaimura atomic plant near Tokyo.

A fire at a Japanese nuclear power station has again called into question the nation's reliance on nuclear energy, five months after a serious accident at the Tokaimura atomic plant near Tokyo.

Yesterday's fire at the Onagawa Number One nuclear plant, a 524-megawatt reactor at Onagawa, 180 miles north of Tokyo, was extinguished after half an hour and there was no danger of radiation, said a spokesman for the Tohoku Electric Power Company, which owns the plant.

The fire was in a building not directly involved in the generation of power, the spokesman added. The plant, which had been closed for maintenance last month, was scheduled to reopen in early April.

Coming so soon after the country's worst nuclear accident, at a uranium processing plant in Tokaimura last September, yesterday's incident will add to the fears of Japan's already jittery population.

That accident was caused by workers who used a bucket to transfer seven times the proper amount of condensed uranium into a mixing tank, triggering a nuclear chain reaction. It exposed 440 people to radiation, including one plant worker who later died.

Earlier this week, amid growing public concern about nuclear safety as a whole, the governor of Mie prefecture in western Japan said that plans to build a nuclear power plant in the area, which had been on the drawing board for 37 years, should be shelved indefinitely. In response, the company behind the scheme agreed to scrap its plans altogether.

Despite last September's accident, the government says Japan will forge ahead with its nuclear power programme, which calls for another 20 reactors to be built by 2010.

Last December the Japanese parliament enacted a set of bills aimed at strengthening nuclear safety. Japan is poor in natural resources, including fossil fuels, and its 51 nuclear reactors provide about 30 per cent of its energy needs.

Comments