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Damage at quake-hit Japanese power plant 'less than expected'

by Staff Writers
Vienna (AFP) Aug 14, 2007
Damage at the world's largest nuclear plant in Japan, which was hit by a powerful earthquake last month, appears less than expected, the UN nuclear watchdog said Tuesday.

"The Kashiwazaki Kariwa Nuclear Power Plant in Japan, affected by a strong earthquake on 16 July, shut down safely and damage appears less than expected," said the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in a statement.

An IAEA mission comprising six experts had spent four days inspecting the plant.

"Damage from the earthquake appears to be limited to those sections of the plant that would not affect the reactor or systems related to reactor safety," the IAEA said.

The watchdog noted that the plant had a "design safety margin" when it was built but designers had not taken into account a massive quake like the one that hit it last month.

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.

The agency confirmed earlier reports that "the very small amount of radioactivity released was well below the authorized limits for public health and environmental safety".

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

The IAEA statement also said that "significant work, such as detailed examination of the reactor vessels, cores and fuel elements, has still to be performed".

And it cautioned: "Physical stresses resulting from the earthquake could affect the long term safe operation of some plant components."

"The mission's findings and the Japanese analyses of the event include important lessons learned - both positive and negative - that will be relevant to other nuclear plants worldwide," said IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei in the statement.

UN inspectors said Friday that the plant would be closed for months.

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.

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Indian PM defends controversial US nuclear deal
New Delhi (AFP) Aug 13, 2007
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday defended a controversial civilian nuclear accord with the United States, saying it would not affect the nation's military programme or any plans to test atomic weapons.

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