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World's largest nuke plant closed for months

by Staff Writers
Tokyo, Aug 10, 2007
UN inspectors said Friday that the world's largest nuclear plant in Japan will be closed for months, weeks after being hit by an earthquake.

A mission from the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), spent four days inspecting the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant.

The giant facility northwest of Tokyo caught fire and leaked a small amount of radiation following a powerful earthquake on July 16, which killed 11 people in unrelated incidents.

"When you think of starting such a plant, you have to very carefully think about what you have to check first" and the possibility of future earthquakes, IAEA team leader Philippe Jamet said.

"This is one of the tasks in the following months (or) a year, I don't know, that has to be carried out, if this plant is to restart," Jamet told reporters after meeting with authorities in Tokyo.

But asked if the team's final report would be bad news for Japan, Jamet said: "I'm not too worried."

He said the team would present its preliminary findings to IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei on Monday at the UN agency's Vienna headquarters.

"It's very important for us that all the different countries can have good lessons to learn from this earthquake," Jamet said.

The plant's operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co., has already downgraded earnings forecasts on the assumption that the seven-reactor facility will be down for at least the rest of the financial year.

Authorities have ordered it shut until the company confirms its safety.

Tokyo Electric, the world's largest private power company, said the leaked radiation was far below amounts that would be dangerous but came under criticism for initially under-reporting the severity of the incident.

Despite its propensity for earthquakes, Japan relies on nuclear plants for nearly one-third of its power needs as it has virtually no natural energy resources.

The government invited the IAEA team in the hope of easing concern both at home and overseas.

Jamet said he had a "very serious" conversation Friday with Japanese nuclear safety authorities including some disagreements.

"It's completely impossible that you always agree on everything," he said.

"And to a certain extent it's our job to push them as far as we can to make sure that what they say is really trustable. So that's what happened," he said, stressing that the IAEA will issue 'an independent statement'."

The company and government have acknowledged they did not anticipate an earthquake as strong as 6.8 on the Richter scale in the area of the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant.

In a report issued Friday on nuclear safety, the Cabinet Office said Japan "learned a great lesson as the quake affected facilities with lower quake-resistance, even though the safety of the nuclear reactors remained intact."

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Russia To Commission Second Unit Of China Tianwan NPP In Sept
Moscow (RIA Novosti) Aug 10, 2007
Russia's nuclear equipment export monopoly Atomstroyexport confirmed Tuesday it will commission the second unit of China's Tianwan nuclear power plant in September. The company is building the Tianwan NPP in eastern China's port city of Lianyungang under a 1992 agreement. The plant features improved VVER-1000 reactors and K-100-6/3000 turbo generators.

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