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Nuclear authorities failed to report 11 minor radioactive leaks

April 17, 1997

TOKYO (AP) _ The company that oversees Japan’s nuclear fuel plants failed to report 11 minor radioactive leaks at a reactor west of Tokyo, a state official said today.

Akio Shimasaki, a safety official for Fukui state, said investigators discovered the leaks at the thermonuclear plant in the town of Tsuruga while inspecting plant records following a radioactive tritium leak there Monday.

Monday’s leak followed a March 11 fire and explosion at another nuclear facility _ a fuel reprocessing plant in Tokai, northeast of Tokyo. That leak led to the exposure of 30 workers to low levels of radiation.

The Power Reactor and Nuclear Fuel Development Corp. _ known as Donen _ has been accused of falsifying its report to the government about the Tokai accident.

Donen has stressed that none of the accidents resulted in dangerous levels of radioactive contamination, but it has admitted to consistently covering up mishaps at Japan’s reactors.

At the reactor in Tsuruga, 202 miles west of Tokyo, the radiation involved in the 11 leaks over two years reached levels almost equal to Monday’s leak at least twice, Shimasaki said.

The radioactive tritium-laced water leaked from an exhaust pipe in a recycling chamber, but the leak was not reported to government authorities for more than a day.

The recycling chamber, which is separate from the reactor core, was shut down shortly after alarms went off and workers repaired the crack.

Shimasaki said 11 workers in the chamber when the incident occurred were exposed to radioactive ``levels too low to cause any harm.″

Update hourly