• Kyodo

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Some 200 representatives of the central government and the Niigata prefectural government joined local citizens taking part in a joint nuclear disaster drill Saturday in Kashiwazaki, Niigata Prefecture.

About 1,000 local residents took part in the drill alongside staff from the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, the Self-Defense Forces, the city of Kashiwazaki and local towns and villages.

Concern over the safety of nuclear power plants has increased in the wake of a number of recent coverups of defects at nuclear plants by Tokyo Electric Power Co.

The drill was held on the assumption that Tepco’s No. 2 reactor at its Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant had come to an emergency halt and radioactive material was leaking from the reactor’s exhaust tube due to damage to the reactor’s core.

The participants checked communications arrangements between various offices while residents took part in an evacuation drill.

Niigata Gov. Ikuo Hirayama, in an address just before the drill, touched on Tepco’s coverup of defects.

“When residents are losing confidence in safety, some argue that it is worthwhile conducting drills without changing the status quo,” he said. “With nuclear plants operating every day, I believe jointly conducting drills will serve as a step forward toward restoring confidence.”

It is the first time an off-site center has been used for the drill. The center, which serves as an emergency headquarters, was established in March this year under a law covering disasters involving nuclear reactors following the Tokai nuclear accident in 1999 in Ibaraki Prefecture.

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