OSAKA — The exhaust pipe of a nuclear waste incinerator in Kawachinagano, Osaka Prefecture, ruptured Thursday, exposing a female worker to a small amount of soot, police said.
The 25-year-old employee was not exposed to radioactive substances, agrochemical maker Nihon Nohyaku Co. said, adding that no radiation had been detected outside its facility.
Nihon Nohyaku was burning carbon-14 dissolved in toluene and other volatile fluids when the pipe, connected to a device to filter out soot, ruptured at around 10:15 a.m.
Carbon-14 is a radioactive isotope used as a tracer in biochemical research. The ash is disposed of under the same category as low-level nuclear waste.
The Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology Ministry said it plans to send two radiation experts to inspect the facility, adding Nihon Nohyaku only handles nuclear waste with low levels of radiation.
Company officials, suspecting the accident was caused by imperfect combustion, gave assurances there will be no adverse effects because the air pressure within the facility is controlled.
They said the institute is developing a new agricultural chemical, meaning waste solvent is burned there every day.
The institute said it did not issue a warning to residents living near the facility because it was confident that there was no risk of high-level radiation exposure.
The institute is near a residential area. Osaka Chiyoda Junior College is located to its north.
The company waited almost an hour before reporting the incident to police sometime after 11 a.m. Fire trucks did not arrive at the institute until around noon. Firefighters said they went to the scene voluntarily.
Nihon Nohyaku, based in Tokyo, was established in 1928. It develops and sells chemicals for agriculture and gardening, as well as wood preservatives and fine chemicals.
Nihon Nohyaku has 540 employees and is listed on the first section of the Tokyo Stock Exchange.
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