Radioactive water leaks from Japanese nuclear plant

Coolant water containing radioactive material leaked from a non-active nuclear power plant in western Japan, the plant's operator said Tuesday. A worker discovered water leaking from the primary coolant tank after an alarm went off Tuesday afternoon at Reactor No. 3 of the Mihama nuclear power plant in Fukui prefecture (state), about 320 kilometers (200 miles) west of Tokyo, according to Kansai Electric Power Co. spokesman Hiroshi Toshikiyo.

No radiation leaked outside the compound, and no one was exposed to radiation, Toshikiyo said. Workers may have incorrectly attached a pipe to the tank, which caused water to spill into a catchment area, he said. The reactor has been closed since August 2004 after a corroded pipe ruptured and sprayed plant workers with boiling water and steam, killing five and injuring six others in the country's worst-ever nuclear plant accident. There was no radiation leak then.

The government in December said Kansai Electric could restart the reactor, saying the pipe had been repaired in line with government safety standards. The energy company has been carrying out checks since then, but the plant has yet to resume operations.

Resource-poor Japan is heavily dependent on its nuclear program, with the country's 52 active nuclear reactors supplying 35 percent of its electricity. The government has said it wants to raise the figure to nearly 40 percent by 2010. But the Japanese public has grown increasingly wary of the nuclear power industry following a spate of safety problems, shutdowns and cover-ups. In 1999, an accident at a reprocessing plant north of Tokyo killed two workers and exposed hundreds to radioactivity, reports the AP.