(Jul 18, 2007)

Problems persist at Japanese nuclear plant rocked by earthquake

By Eric Talmadg
From AP

Nearly 13,000 people packed into evacuation centers in the quake zone, according to the Fire and Disaster Management Agency. By nightfall, the number dropped to about 8,200.

Nine people in their 70s or 80s were killed, and 47 were seriously injured. About 450 soldiers to sent to clear rubble, search for survivors under collapsed buildings, and provide food, water and toilets.

About 50,000 homes were without water and 35,000 were without gas, local official Mitsugu Abe said. About 27,000 households were without power.

Japan has a history of nuclear accidents, some of them deadly.

In 2004, five workers at the Mihama nuclear plant in western Japan were killed and six were injured after a corroded pipe ruptured and sprayed plant workers with boiling water and steam. The accident was the nation's worst at a nuclear facility.

The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission requires that nuclear plants be built with the capacity to withstand the strongest earthquake to hit its site within 100 years. In a ''safe shutdown earthquake,'' the chain reaction in the reactor stops, but the cooling system keeps running so excess heat is carried away from the core.

William Miller, a professor of nuclear engineering at the University of Missouri, said the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant ''did what it was supposed to. It shut down.''

Although its operator said there were leaks, Miller called the amounts he had heard were ''so small as to be negligible.''

However, David Lochbaum, director of the Nuclear Safety Project at the Union of Concerned Scientists, noted that fire and loss of power, both of which occurred at Kashiwazaki-Kariwa, are the two most likely causes of meltdowns at nuclear facilities.


AP writers Hiroko Tabuchi and Kozo Mizoguchi contributed to this report from Tokyo and AP writer Sarah DiLorenzo contributed from New York.

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