Radiation detected in container

Unidentified material has Wakayama importer scrambling


Sumitomo Metal Industries Ltd. and central, prefectural and municipal governments remain at odds over what to do with a sealed container found to be holding unidentified radioactive material at its steelworks here, government and company officials said Saturday.

The 8-meter-long, 3-meter-high container, carrying stainless steel waste from spoon and knife factories in the Philippines, was brought ashore at an Osaka port on Thursday.

The waste was to be melted and processed at the plant, the officials at Sumitomo said.

When the container was transported Friday to the steelworks in Wakayama, a radiation detector at the gate alerted workers of the presence of radioactive material inside, the officials said.

When inspectors from the Science and Technology Agency measured the radiation, they detected gamma rays of up to 75 microsieverts per hour as well as neutron rays of up to 6 microsieverts per hour emanating from the container’s surface, the agency said.

A microsievert is one-millionth of a sievert.

However, the inspectors have remained unable to learn exactly what is inside the container because the steelmaker and the local governments want it carted away before it is opened.

Sumitomo Metal and the Wakayama prefectural and city governments are demanding the agency remove the container from the company’s premises and from Wakayama as quickly as possible, the company and municipal officials said.

Sumitomo Metal is asking the agency to secure consent from both the prefectural and city governments before opening the container.

But the local governments are demanding the agency take responsibility for any consequences arising from opening it, the local government officials said.

Reactor down again

FUKUI (Kyodo) Hours after resuming operations following a coolant leak, a reactor at a nuclear power plant in Mihama, Fukui Prefecture, was halted early Saturday due to problems with the power generation system, said officials of plant operator Kansai Electric Power Co.

The officials reported no leak of radiation.

An alarm was set off at the Mihama plant’s second reactor at around 2:25 a.m. indicating malfunctioning of an instrument automatically controlling the generation system’s voltage.

The system registered 15,000 volts, down from the usual 17,000 volts, according to the officials.

With engineers failing to increase the voltage, the reactor automatically shut down 15 minutes after the alarm, they said.

The company is examining the instrument to try to find the cause of the malfunction.

The 500,000-kw pressurized-water reactor was operating at 20 percent of capacity when the incident occurred.

The incident took place only seven hours after the reactor resumed operations at 7:26 p.m. Friday following a three-week halt to pinpoint the cause of an April 7 leakage of primary coolant.

The coolant leak occurred because of a crack in a pipe caused by the formation of bubbles, according to the company.