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At least 5 dead at Japan nuke plant
Updated: 2004-08-09 17:02

A steam leak at a Japanese nuclear power plant killed at least five workers Monday, but officials said no radiation had escaped in the accident, the worst ever in terms of deaths at a Japanese nuclear facility.

Police said five people had died while the Trade and Industry Ministry said about 10 people had been taken to hospital.

The No. 3 reactor of Mihama nuclear plant in the northern city of Fukui, Japan is seen in this September, 2002 file picture.  [Reuters] 

The incident is certain to further increase distrust of the nuclear industry among ordinary people in Japan, which depends on nuclear power for a third of its energy needs.

Local officials said there were no leaks of radiation outside the plant and national broadcaster NHK said there was also no radiation leak within the facility, which housed turbines for a reactor at the Mihama nuclear plant in Fukui prefecture, 200 miles northwest of Tokyo.

The accident occurred at around 3:30 p.m. (0630 GMT) as the result of a lack of cooling water, Kyodo news agency said.

The Fukui prefectural government said the cause of the accident was under investigation.

Japan's worst previous accident at a nuclear facility took place at a uranium processing plant in Tokaimura, a town north of Tokyo, on September 30 1999, when an uncontrolled nuclear chain reaction was triggered when three poorly trained plant workers were using buckets to mix nuclear fuel in a tub.

The resulting release of radiation killed two workers and forced the evacuation of thousands of nearby residents.

In a separate incident involving a nuclear facility, Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), Japan's biggest power producer, said on Monday it had shut a nuclear power generation unit at its Fukushima-Daini plant due to a water leak.

TEPCO was forced to close all its 17 nuclear power plants temporarily by April 2003 after admitting that it had falsified safety documents for more than a decade.

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