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Last Updated:  Monday, 3 March, 2003, 05:49 GMT
Japan nuclear six sentenced
Emergency workers at the Tokaimura plant after the accident
Two workers died from exposure to radiation

A Japanese court has given suspended prison sentences to six employees of a uranium processing plant responsible for the world's worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl, which killed two people.

In 1999, workers at the Tokaimura plant, 120 kilometres (75 miles) north-east of Tokyo, poured too much uranium into a precipitation tank, causing a major leak of radiation.

More than 600 people were exposed to radiation and about 320,000 people were told to shelter indoors for over a day.

Two of the workers who caused the disaster later died in hospital from multiple organ failure caused by exposure to radiation.

The six, all employees of JCO Co Ltd, which operated the plant, were arrested in October 2000 on charges of professional negligence and violating nuclear safety laws.

Jail terms

Kenzo Koshijima, head of the Tokaimura facility, received the heaviest sentence.

Workers check for radiation inside the plant
Employees were accused of negligence

He was fined more than 4,000 dollars and given a three-year jail sentence, suspended for five years.

The others, including an injured survivor of the accident, were given suspended prison terms of up to three years.

The world's worst nuclear accident was the April 1986 explosion and fire at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in the Ukraine.

The blast contaminated vast areas of Belarus, Ukraine and Russia, and sent a radioactive cloud across Europe.




WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Charles Scanlon
"Three hundred thousand people were told to stay in their homes"



SEE ALSO:
Arrests over Japan nuclear accident
11 Oct 00 |  Asia-Pacific
Japan nuclear worker dies
21 Dec 99 |  Asia-Pacific
A classic case of human error
08 Oct 99 |  Science/Nature


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