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IAEA To Visit Japanese Quake-Hit Nuclear Plant, As Car Production Plummets

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by Staff Writers
Vienna (AFP) July 24, 2007
The UN's nuclear watchdog agency said Tuesday it would send a team of experts to Japan in the next few weeks to examine a nuclear power plant damaged during a deadly earthquake on July 16. "The IAEA intends to send a team of IAEA and international experts in the coming weeks" to examine the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant northwest of Tokyo, the International Atomic Energy Agency said in a statement.

"The exact timing will be decided in consultation with the Japanese authorities," it added. Japan invited the IAEA on Monday to visit its largest nuclear plant in hopes of easing international concern after last week's 6.8-magnitude earthquake caused a radiation leak.

IAEA director-general Mohamed ElBaradei said in the statement it was important to draw lessons from this case "that might have implications for the international nuclear safety regime."

He had earlier called for transparency and said the UN watchdog was ready to assist in an inspection.

The earthquake struck off the coast just nine kilometres (five miles) from the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa nuclear power plant, killing 10 people, destroying hundreds of homes and causing a fire at the plant that lasted for hours.

The plant's operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), later said radiation leaked. The company said the amount was far too small to pose a health hazard but has come under criticism for initially underreporting radiation levels.

The governor of Niigata prefecture, where the plant is located, had also called for the assistance of the IAEA, saying it would help prevent the spread of rumours that the radiation leak was more dangerous than thought.

related report

Quake cuts Japan's auto production by 110,000 vehicles
Tokyo (AFP) July 24 - Japan's auto production has been cut by an estimated 110,000 vehicles after a recent earthquake, the government said Tuesday, as several major manufacturers resumed output. The industry should not suffer any lasting impact from the shutdowns caused by lack of parts after last week's quake northwest of Tokyo, said Economic and Fiscal Policy Minister Hiroko Ota.

"If (automakers) are able to catch up and make up for the delayed production, I do not expect to see a significant long-term effect," she told reporters.

Leading Japanese automaker Toyota Motor resumed partial production Tuesday after halting all of its domestic output last Thursday in the wake of the strong tremor that registered 6.8 on the Richter scale.

"We expect to restart all the factories, all the lines from Wednesday," a Toyota spokeswoman said.

Toyota estimates the quake has reduced its production by some 55,000 vehicles but it aims to make up for it by the end of the year.

Honda Motor Co. resumed operations Tuesday at some of its plants hit by a lack of parts while Nissan Motor Co. and Suzuki Motor Corp. plan to restart their affected factories on Wednesday.

Key supplier Riken Corp. resumed some production Monday at its factory in Niigata prefecture making auto parts such as piston rings.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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Russian Activists Denounce Cover-Up On Nuclear Protest Attack
Moscow (AFP) July 23, 2007
Russian activists on Monday denounced what they said was a police cover-up over the killing of a protester near a Siberian nuclear facility over the weekend. The activist group Autonomous Action, which organised the protest, said in a statement there had been "insistent requests from police and prosecutors to camp participants ... not to make a fuss and to avoid speaking to journalists" group said the raid on the camp on Saturday, which left one protester dead and seven others in hospital, was "not carried out by ordinary hooligans, but was a planned attack by Nazis."

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