Radiation leak reported at Tokai facility, Ibaraki, Japan

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Japanese authorities are reporting a radiation leak took place at an old nuclear fuel manufacturing facility in Tokai, Ibaraki Prefecture, Japan on January 30, 2019. This plant has not been operational since the reactor shut down automatically due to the 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami.

The Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA) officials said nine people were in the room where MOX nuclear fuel was once produced when the radiation leak took place. Seven have been cleared with no ill effects while two are still being tested.

The alarm reportedly took place at around 14:30 JST (05:30 UTC) at the time the workers were removing radioactive materials from sealed-up equipment and plastic bags, Kyodo reports. The containers were filled with mixed oxide fuel (MOX) for future research, the agency said.

Prefectural officials said that measuring equipment on the outer rim of the facility had not revealed any abnormal swings in radioactivity.

This fuel manufacturing plant is closed since 2011 Tohoku earthquake and tsunami. According to NHK, the workers are currently dismantling the structure and collecting nuclear fuel stored in the facility.

The Tōkai Nuclear Power Plant was Japan’s first commercial nuclear power plant. The first unit was built in the early 1960s to the British Magnox design, and generated power from 1966 until it was decommissioned in 1998.

A second unit, built at the site in the 1970s, was the first in Japan to produce over 1 000 MW of electricity. The site is located in Tokai in the Naka District in Ibaraki Prefecture, Japan and is operated by the Japan Atomic Power Company. 

Featured image: Tokai plant as seen by Sentinel-2 satellite on January 27, 2019. Credit: ESA/Copernicus

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