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Japan Shuts Down Nuclear Power Plant - 2002-09-03


As the president of Japan's largest power utility prepares to step down to take responsibility for a scandal, there is more bad news for Tokyo Electric Power. The company says one of its nuclear reactors has been shut down because of a fuel leak. This is the latest in a string of incidents involving the firm's nuclear power plants.

Tokyo Electric Power Company says a tiny amount of radiation was detected in exhaust from a reactor at the Fukushima Number Two nuclear power plant. But, it says, no radiation from the leak has been detected outside the facility. Company officials say it is not clear when the reactor will go back online.

Word of the trouble Tuesday comes a day after the company's top executives announced they intend to resign over falsified inspection records at several Tokyo Electric's nuclear power plants, including Fukushima Number Two.

Company president, Nobuya Minami, told a news conference Monday that he would be among the executives stepping down to take responsibility for what he called a betrayal of the public trust. Mr. Minami admits that his employees falsified safety records, as has been alleged. He says there is no room for excuses and he must apologize to the people of Japan for causing such enormous trouble.

A Tokyo Electric spokesman says Tuesday's leak at the million-kilowatt water reactor is not related to the falsified inspection reports. The reports apparently concealed a crack in a core structure of the reactor.

Japan's Trade Ministry last week accused Tokyo Electric, the world's largest private utility, of falsifying check-up reports for several years through the early 1990s involving its nuclear plants. An internal company probe found 29 cases of cracks or other minor structural damage in 13 of the firm's 17 plants.

Japan, with few natural resources, is one of the few nations still building nuclear power plants. It has more than 50 operating reactors, which provide one-third of the country's electricity.

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