INTERNATIONAL

Nuclear plants to close

Tokyo: Japan's second largest power company is to close all 11 of its nuclear reactors to carry out urgent safety checks after an accident at one of its plants on Monday in which four workers died and seven others were injured. Kansai Electric Power said the closures would not affect power supplies, but admitted it would have to restart two ageing oil-fired plants to make up the expected shortfall in electricity generation. The announcement came four days after four men burned to death when scalding non-radioactive steam escaped from a ruptured turbine pipe at a reactor in Mihama, about 320 km west of Tokyo. The company later admitted that the burst pipe had not been properly inspected for 28 years, though a subcontractor warned last year that it should be checked urgently. It ruptured as the workers were preparing the plant for an inspection scheduled to begin this weekend.— © Guardian Newspapers Limited 2004

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