Ministers mull spill, admit unreadiness

The government Jan. 20 convened the first meeting of 15 Cabinet members to deal with the oil spill in the Sea of Japan, Transport Minister Makoto Koga said.Meanwhile, oil continued to threaten the cooling systems of several nuclear power plants. The operators of the Tsuruga plant in Fukui Prefecture and the new converter power plant of the Power Reactor and Nuclear Fuel Development Corp., also in Tsuruga, put up a third oil fence around each facility. At Hokuriku Electric Power Co. Shiga Nuclear Power Plant in Shiga, Ishikawa Prefecture, company workers attempted to clean up slicks that got by oil fences.At the government meeting, attending Cabinet members talked in generalities and discussed current conditions of the oil spill as well as such future problems as compensation issues, ways to deal with old ships and increasing the number of oil cleanup ships to prepare for future accidents. “We have only been equipped to deal with oil spills occurring in calm seas,” Koga said. “We must be prepared to conduct cleanup operations in rough sea conditions.”The 13,157-ton Nakhodka is a Russian tanker that was carrying some 19,000 kiloliters of fuel oil. The tanker broke in two during a storm near the Oki Islands off Shimane Prefecture on Jan. 2.