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Page last updated at 14:35 GMT, Tuesday, 17 July 2007 15:35 UK

Japan admits more nuclear leaks

The fire at the Kashiwazaki plant was put out after several hours
Clouds of smoke poured from the nuclear power plant on Monday

Japanese officials have confirmed further leaks of radioactive material from a nuclear power plant following Monday's earthquake in central Japan.

In addition to a leak of radioactive water, drums containing nuclear waste burst open and radioactive gases escaped into the atmosphere.

Monday's quake killed nine people and flattened hundreds of homes.

Officials at the plant are keeping all seven of its reactors closed while further inspections are carried out.

Thousands of people affected by the tremor - which was centred off the coast of Niigata prefecture - have crowded into evacuation centres.

Large parts of the coastal town of Kashiwazaki remain without power and water.

Safety concerns

On Tuesday, officials at the Kashiwazaki Kariwa nuclear plant confirmed that about 100 barrels of low-level nuclear waste had tipped over.

Police pass by a collapsed house in Kashiwazaki

The Tokyo Electric Power Company also said a small amount of radioactive materials, including cobalt-60 and chromium-51 had been emitted into the atmosphere.

There have long been concerns about the safety of Japan's nuclear power plants, which many fear are vulnerable in earthquakes.

Monday's 6.8-magnitude quake sparked a small fire at an electrical transformer in the Kashiwazaki plant, the world's largest in terms of power output capacity.

It was later announced that the tremors had also caused a leak of water containing radioactive material, which officials then said was harmless.

Counting the cost

Elsewhere in Kashiwazaki, rescue workers are looking for survivors in the rubble, while attempts are being made to restore severed utilities.

Map

"The damage is more than we had imagined," said Kashiwazaki's Mayor, Hiroshi Aida, during a tour of the town.

"We want to restore the water supply as soon as possible so more people can return home."

One man living in nearby Niigata City described the earthquake as the biggest he had ever experienced.

"It was a very strange feeling... some crazy power was shaking the house with such a force that I wasn't able to stand on my feet for 20 seconds," said Evgeniy Podolskiy.

"After that, our huge concrete building was still shaking smoothly like a jelly in complete silence," he told BBC News.

Other businesses are also beginning to count the cost of the earthquake.

Riken Corp, which makes car parts for companies such as Honda and Toyota, says its is unsure when it will be able to resume production at its factory in Kashiwazaki after the quake injured some of its employees and damaged equipment.

Fuji Xerox has also had to halt production at its Kashiwazaki plant, which mainly assembles printers, because it is without power and there has been some damage to the building.



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