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Japan's Worst Nuclear Disaster Claims Second Life

Aired April 27, 2000 - 1:18 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: Japan's worst nuclear disaster claimed a second life. The co-workers who accidentally triggered a runaway reaction at a uranium processing plant are now both dead.

And as CNN's Tokyo bureau chief Marina Kamimura reports, the Japanese attitude towards nuclear power has changed.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

MARINA KAMIMURA, CNN TOKYO BUREAU CHIEF (voice-over): Doctors say the organs of the 40-year-old worker finally gave out after a seven-month battle to fight the complications of his firsthand exposure to radiation. Investigators say Masato Shinohara was one of two JCO workers who triggered a self-sustaining nuclear reaction after they accidentally poured too much uranium into a solution they were mixing by hand.

While a third worker was released from hospital in December, Shinohara's other coworker, who had been exposed to even more radiation, died in December. In February, Shinohara's recovery progressed to the point where he was able to briefly move around in a wheelchair. But physicians say, in the end, the radiation damage, particularly to his lungs, was too severe.

For the government, it was another grim reminder of an event that has changed the way the Japanese view its decades-old nuclear energy program.

HIROFUMI NAKASONE, SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY AGENCY (through translator): We would like to continue implementing the nuclear policies with public understanding by making doubly sure of the safety of nuclear facilities.

KAMIMURA: Since the accident, Tokyo has ordered a review of the policies designed to give the resource-hungry country more energy independence.

(on camera): In response to the accident and the government review, the industry is scaling back plans to build 20 new nuclear reactors by 2010. Thirteen new plants are now being considered instead. Still, that's unlikely to quell opposition to the reactors or ease lingering concerns about the overall safety of Japan's nuclear energy program.

Marina Kamimura, CNN, Tokyo.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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