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Friday, 31 December, 1999, 21:13 GMT
Japan nuclear plants malfunction
Tokaimura
The glitches follow the Tokaimura disaster in September
Two nuclear power plants malfunctioned in Japan seconds after the clock ticked into 2000.

Officials said the faults were minor and there was no danger.

The government and company officials have launched investigations into whether the glitches were related to the millennium bug.

nuclear power plant
Japan relies on nuclear power for a third of its electricity
Officials said a system to monitor radiation levels malfunctioned at a nuclear plant in Ishikawa, central Japan, immediately after midnight.

"There is a possibility that this is related to the 2000 computer problem,'' said local government official Takashi Minami. ''Our preparation might not have been good enough."

However, officials said radiation checks at the plant showed levels were normal.

Alarm

In a separate incident an alarm sounded at another nuclear power plant in Onagawa, northern Japan, two minutes after midnight.

The alarm showed a defect with a device measuring the temperature of sea water cooling the reactor.

But no serious problems were found and the plant, run by Tohoku Electric Power Co, continues to run normally.

Japan's nuclear crisis
Takashi Ichinomiya, an official at the Ministry of International Trade and Industry working on the millennium bug, said he was investigating the incident, but there was no danger and the plant would not have to be shut down.

Fears about nuclear power have increased in Japan since September when three workers at a uranium processing plant in Tokaimura, north-east of Tokyo, set off the world's worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1986.

They triggered a critical reaction that exposed at least 126 people to radiation. The worst affected worker, Hisashi Ouchi, died this month.

Japan has 51 nuclear reactors providing roughly one third of the nation's electricity needs.

See also:

31 Dec 99 | Science/Nature
30 Sep 99 | Asia-Pacific
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