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Japanese maritime authorities will launch a computer system by March 2004 to trace radiation in seas after accidents involving vessels carrying cargo such as spent nuclear fuel, according to Transport Ministry officials.

Using the system, the ministry, which oversees the Japan Coast Guard, would be able to foresee the effects of such radiation by analyzing the speed and direction of tides and winds, and the topography of the seabed near Japan, the officials said.

The ministry is set to ask the Finance Ministry to allot some 40 million yen for the fiscal 2001 budget to launch a three-year project to develop the system, they said.

The plan for the project came after the Special Law of Emergency Preparedness for Nuclear Disaster took effect in June. The law, enacted in the wake of the nuclear criticality accident that took place in Tokai, Ibaraki Prefecture, in September 1999, requires the central government to take a more active role in responding to nuclear disasters.

The Transport Ministry has been working on the new system to prepare for sea transport of spent fuel from nuclear plants throughout the country.

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