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Police Probe Fatal Accident at Japanese Nuclear Plant - 2004-08-10

Police in Japan have begun a criminal investigation into Monday's accident at a nuclear power reactor, which killed four workers and injured seven others. Police on Tuesday said there are indications safety may have been compromised at the Mihama nuclear power plant to cut costs.

Plant managers have said the steam pipe that burst and sprayed workers was overdue for an inspection. The managers say they thought checks could be delayed until this month and they never expected such rapid corrosion.

Economy Minister Shoichi Nakagawa on Tuesday promised a thorough investigation of the accident at Mihama, about 320 kilometers west of Tokyo. Mr. Nakagawa says Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi told him it is important to make sure that no facts are hidden from the public.

A series of cover-ups and lax inspections at Japanese nuclear power plants in recent years has undermined public confidence in the industry.

In Monday's accident the reactor automatically shut down and officials say no radiation was released.