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Four dead in Japanese nuclear plant accident

But no leaked rads, say officials

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At least four people have died, and seven others were injured, in an accident at a nuclear power plant in Japan.

Superheated steam escaped from a turbine after cooling systems failed. "Steam spewed in the turbine building area at the number three nuclear reactor," a spokesman for Kansai Electric Power, the company that operates the plant, told The BBC. The steam was reportedly at 200C.

The Japanese trade and industry ministry said that ten workers had been taken to hospital, and according to Reuters police put the death toll at five.

The managers of the Mihama plant in Fukui prefecture said that there was no radiation leak, and that there was no danger to the surrounding area. The Japanese nuclear safety body, Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, said that there was no way that the steam could be radioactive because water from the reactor was never in contact with the turbines.

Japan relies of nuclear power for around 25 per cent of its energy, but the plants have become less popular with the public after a series of high profile safety problems, including the death of two plant workers in 1999. Six people were handed suspended jail sentences following that incident, which saw another 600 people exposed to radiation after too much uranium was added to a precipitation tank.

Plant operations have been suspended while officials investigate the accident. ®

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