• Kyodo

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Police said Monday they plan to arrest several former executives and employees of JCO Co. this week on suspicion of professional negligence resulting in the deaths of two workers and other charges stemming from Japan’s worst nuclear power accident, which occurred last year.

Police have determined that systematic misconduct at JCO’s production department was directly to blame for the self-sustaining fission chain reaction at the firm’s uranium processing plant in Tokai, Ibaraki Prefecture, on Sept. 30, 1999.

Investigators will probably question several people whom they believe were responsible for the accident, sources said.

They include the plant’s manager and the then head of the production department.

A 55-year-old former deputy head of the production department, who was exposed to radiation along with the two deceased workers, will also be grilled, the sources said.

The workers, Hisashi Ouchi and Masato Shinohara, died after being exposed to massive amounts of radiation released in the accident.

Ouchi, 35, died in December, while Shinohara passed away in April, aged 40. They reportedly triggered the accident by pouring an excessive amount of uranium from buckets into a tank not designed to hold the substance.

They were following an unofficial company manual at the time that allowed for illegal procedures.

Police will seek separate charges against JCO as a corporate body and former JCO President Hiroharu Kitani, 62, for alleged violation of a law regulating reactors.

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