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Industry News

Six Arrested in Tokaimura Nuke Accident Case

LCG, Oct. 11, 2000--Japanese police this morning arrested six employees of JCO Co., the operator of the Tokaimura nuclear fuel processing company that was last year the scene of Japan's worst-ever nuclear accident.

The "criticality" accident occurred in September 1999 when three workers used ordinary buckets to pour an unmeasured amount of liquefied uranium into an open tank of nitric acid. Two of the workers subsequently died from radiation exposure and more than 400 residents of Tokaimura, about 90 miles northeast of Tokyo, were exposed to harmful levels of radiation.

Among those arrested on suspicion of professional negligence was Yutaka Yokokawa, the only survivor of the three workers who caused the accident. At the time, one of the workers said the unorthodox procedure, prohibited by Japanese nuclear regulators, was use to save time and was standard operating procedure at the JCO plant.

Other arrested include former plant manager Kenzo Koshijima and a subordinate who was in charge of processing operations. At the time of the accident, it was reported that JCO officials had changed a regulatory agency-approved operating manual, without authorization, to include the shortcuts.

Police, who say the company systematically violated safety regulations, plan to seek charges against JCO as a corporate body. It is also expected that Hiroharu Kitani, the former president of JCO, will be charged.

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