The government body responsible for researching and establishing nuclear recycling systems will farm out its Canadian rights to explore for uranium to a firm jointly set up by four Japanese companies, government officials said Tuesday.

The Japan Nuclear Cycle Development Institute will pass on rights to explore for uranium in 14 locations in Canada to a firm set up by Itochu Corp., Mitsubishi Corp., Mitsubishi Materials Corp. and a uranium resource development company funded by several electric power companies, the officials said.

The institute reported the transfer of the rights to the Atomic Energy Commission on Tuesday, the officials said.

In addition, the institute will look for a private firm to take over exploration rights it has in Australia in two years. It will abandon or give back the remaining rights to governments of the countries concerned, the officials said.

Including Canada and Australia, the institute has uranium exploration rights in 21 locations.

If the joint firm succeeds in finding uranium, it will pay 10 percent of its net profit to the institute.

The firm will maintain the rights for at least five years and the institute will pay up to 100 million yen per year to maintain them.

It was decided to transfer the rights to private firms in 1998, when the institute replaced the Power Reactor and Nuclear Fuel Development Corp. following a series of accidents at nuclear power plants and the firm’s attempts to cover them up, the officials said.

Under a restructuring plan drawn up in the wake of the scandals, it was decided the institute would withdraw from overseas uranium exploration and uranium enrichment and end the development of an advanced thermal reactor within five years of its launch.

The accidents and false reports included a 1995 sodium leak at the Monju prototype fast-breeder reactor, located in Tsuruga, Fukui Prefecture, and a fire and explosion at a nuclear fuel reprocessing plant in Tokai, Ibaraki Prefecture, in March 1997, which exposed 37 workers to radiation, killing two.