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Tue, Oct 03, 2000 - Page 2 News List

Japan's nuclear activists say `think again'

FALLOUT A year after Japan suffered what has been called the worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl in 1986, Japanese activists and legislators came together in Taipei to warn that a similar incident could easily happen here


Following the first anniversary of the Tokaimura nuclear accident in Japan on Sept. 30, Japanese anti-nuclear activists accompanied by Taiwanese legislators highlighted the dangers of nuclear plants yesterday in Taipei by releasing updated information on the accident.

Speaking through a translator Theodore Kay (郭惠二), Hideyuki Ban, (伴英幸), secretary-general of the Japan-based Citizens' Nuclear Information Center (CNIC), said at a press conference yesterday that the accident was the first nuclear accident in Japan involving fatalities.

"The Japanese people were told that the probability of such an accident was pretty low, but it still happened," said Ban, adding that it had caused two deaths in the past year and left 310,000 residents within 10km of the reprocessing plant living with nuclear fallout.

Ban said that the residents had organized an association to seek compensation from the Japanese government by following a precedent set in the aftermath of the atomic bombs that devastated Hiroshima and Nagasaki at the end of World War II.

New Party legislator Josephine Chu (朱惠良) said that Premier Tang Fei (唐飛) should take accidents in Japan into serious account when considering the future of the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant (核四廠).

KMT legislator Jao Yung-ching (趙永清) said the safety of the advanced boiling water reactor which was to be installed at the plant was questionable because Taiwan was the only country in the world to purchase such reactors apart from the Japanese manufacturer itself.

Since this type of reactor has already been the source of problems in Japan, Jao argued, Premier Tang should consider alternatives, including renewable sources of energy, such as solar energy and wind power.

In the book published by the CNIC, Criticality Accident at Tokaimura: 1mg of uranium that shattered Japan's nuclear myth, CNIC activists reveal the hidden dangers of nuclear plants, which they claim are seldom addressed by government agencies and suppliers of nuclear power.

"Criticality," according to the report, occurs when "a nuclear chain reaction becomes self-sustaining."

The accident at the reprocessing plant operated by the JCO Co in central Japan on Sept. 30, 1999, is now regarded as Japan's worst nuclear accident and the world's worst since Chernobyl in 1986.

"The potential dangers could be far more serious because about three million times the amount of uranium that caused last year's accident is still being processed at the plant," said Ban.

Ban also said that he was "astonished" by what he observed at nuclear power plants in Taiwan because "safety was simply ignored."

"At the Second Nuclear Power Plant (核二廠), workers who deal with nuclear waste simply wear T-shirts instead of protective suits," said Ban.

Ban said that nuclear waste could be very dangerous and that a serious fire occurred at Tokaimura in 1997 when workers mixed nuclear waste with asphalt.

Pan Han-chiang (潘翰疆), deputy secretary-general of the Taiwan Environmental Protection Union, said the reason why more and more Japanese anti-nuclear activists were allying with local activists in Taiwan to urge the Taiwan government to cancel the Fourth Nuclear Power Plant project was that Taiwan's purchase of a nuclear reactor for the plant represented Japan's first ever export of nuclear facilities.

"The nuclear industry in Japan could be revived by this purchase. Further exports will increase nuclear risks in other countries," said Pan.

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