Waste fire sparks in Japan

By Kozo Mizoguchi The Associated Press

TOKYO – A fire broke out at a nuclear power plant’s waste incinerator in western Japan yesterday, but officials said no radiation leaked into the atmosphere. Two workers were injured.

It took firefighters wearing protective suits nearly two hours to reach the blaze because of thick smoke, and another two hours to put out the flames at the facility in Oi, about 235 miles west of Tokyo, said Manabu Kobana of Kansai Electric Power Co.

Sensors inside and around the plant showed no signs of a radiation leak, police said. All four pressurized water reactors at Oi were operating normally, and workers at the plant reactors remained at their stations during the fire. No one was evacuated.

“We don’t believe the reactors were at any time exposed to danger,” Fukui police official Ritsuo Eto said.

Two workers who were inspecting the facility were rushed to a hospital after inhaling smoke, but they were not in critical condition and were not exposed to radiation, fire officials said.

Resource-poor Japan is heavily dependent on its nuclear program, but the public has been increasingly wary of reactor safety following a series of malfunctions and accidents.

The cause of yesterday evening’s blaze was still under investigation. But flames seemed to have come from an area in the facility where the ash from incinerated trash is packed into steel barrels, Kobana said.

The waste processed at the facility includes employee uniforms, rags and other trash from the plant and may contain “minuscule” levels of radiation, Kobana said.