From: Reuters
Published August 31, 2007 11:10 AM

Japan Halts Nuclear Research Units On Safety Concerns

TOKYO - Japan has halted work at three nuclear research units run by its Atomic Energy Agency due to concerns over the handling of fuel material and other problems, Kyodo news agency said on Friday.


The Science and Technology Ministry suspended activities at the units in Tokaimura, Ibaraki prefecture, after the agency reported 46 problems including procedural flaws, Kyodo said.


The ministry had ordered the Atomic Energy Agency to investigate after an anonymous whistle-blower revealed in June that a shared duct at its Nuclear Science Research Institute in Tokaimura was contaminated with radioactive material.


Kyodo said the ministry did not believe the reported problems threatened the safety of the facilities concerned, but told the agency to examine them and report back.


One of the units is a critical testing facility for the fast breeder reactor, and safety rods there had not been checked and approved by the government, Kyodo quoted the ministry as saying.


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At the other two units, nuclear fuel material has been stored for about a decade in containers meant for temporary storage, it said.


Japan's nuclear industry has been shaken up by a series of scandals and safety incidents. Its biggest reactor was shut down in July due to a leak after it was hit by an earthquake.


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