Regional authorities in Japan buck Tokyo and head directly for IAEA in nuke plant leak investigation

Publish date: July 23, 2007

NEW YORK - Japanese regional authorities have called for United Nations inspectors to look into the radiation leaks at the world's largest nuclear plant that were caused by a powerful earthquake this week, media reports said on Sunday.

The request from Niigata prefecture, home to the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear plant that was closed indefinitely after Monday’s 6.8 magnitude quake, follows reports that Japan had turned down offers for help from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Niigata prefecture submitted the petition calling for an inspection by the UN nuclear watchdog to Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and other senior ministers, as well as the plant operated by Tokyo Electric, Kyodo news agency said.

The Japanese government told the IAEA it had decided not to seek an inspection for the time being, but that it may do so in the future, reports said on Saturday.

"Problems (at the plant following the quake) have been reported worldwide, causing public concern and damaging the prefecture’s tourism, agriculture and fisheries industries due to harmful rumours," Kyodo quoted the petition as saying. "Appropriate information needs to be disseminated."

Authorities closed down the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power station after the quake triggered radiation leaks, which the company said were within safety regulations and posed no threat to the environment.

The quake killed 10 people, injured more than 1,000 and flattened hundreds of houses.

The leaks have renewed fears about the safety of the nuclear industry, which supplies about one third of Japan’s power but has suffered from years of accident cover-ups and fudged safety records.