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Monday, 2 September, 2002, 09:57 GMT 10:57 UK
Jail sought for Japan nuclear staff
Emergency workers in Tokaimura on the day of the accident
The accident occurred after safety procedures were ignored
Japanese prosecutors have demanded prison sentences for six employees of a uranium processing plant on trial over the country's worst nuclear accident.

Lawyers prosecuting the six men for negligence at the plant in Tokaimura, 120 kilometres (75 miles) north-east of Tokyo, have demanded they serve sentences of between two and a half and four years.


The damage was extremely serious and it affected the nuclear industry significantly

Prosecutors
Three workers at the plant set off a critical reaction in September 1999 when they ignored proper safety procedures and used buckets instead of a pump to transfer a uranium solution to a tank.

The accident exposed more than 400 residents to radiation and resulted in the death of two workers.

Boss on trial

The six men on trial include the head of the plant, owned by JCO Co, Kenzo Koshijima, and an injured survivor.

The lawyers are asking that Mr Koshijima serve a four year prison term and that he also be fined 500,000 yen ($4,202).

Tokaimura uranium processing plant
It took 20 hours to control the nuclear chain reaction

They are also demanding that JCO Co be fined one million yen for being negligent in its supervisory role and putting profits ahead of safety.

"The damage was extremely serious and it affected the nuclear industry significantly," prosecutors said at the Mito District Court, in Ibaraki prefecture, about 100km north-west of Tokyo.

The demands were made as the prosecution team gave their closing arguments in the negligence trial which is predicted to last until spring of next year.

Illegal changes

The staff were charged with allowing employees to use buckets illegally.

Mr Koshijima and other officials allegedly approved the procedures by which staff were allowed to transfer uranium in buckets at an in-house safety committee in 1995.

Local man shows the rash on his hand
More than 400 people were exposed to radiation

Operators of nuclear facilities are required by law to obtain approval from the prime minister before changing production methods.

The workers mistakenly loaded 16 kilograms (35 pounds) of condensed uranium into a mixing tank - nearly eight times the proper amount - causing it to reach "criticality", the point at which a nuclear reaction becomes self-sustaining.

The first such accident in Japan, it exposed hundreds of residents, plant workers and emergency personnel to radiation.

JCO, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Sumitomo Metal Mining Co Ltd 5713.T, still exists although it no longer operates having lost its uranium fuel processing license in March last year.

See also:

23 Apr 01 | Asia-Pacific
30 Sep 00 | Asia-Pacific
30 Sep 00 | Asia-Pacific
07 Oct 99 | Asia-Pacific
13 Dec 99 | Asia-Pacific
09 Nov 99 | Asia-Pacific
30 Sep 99 | Science/Nature
08 Oct 99 | Asia-Pacific
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