JCO Chief Apologizes Again for 1999 Nuclear Accident

Society

Tokyo, Sept. 29 (Jiji Press)--Kenji Kirishima, president of Japanese nuclear fuel processing company JCO Co., apologized again in a recent interview with Jiji Press for a deadly nuclear criticality accident that occurred at its facility in Ibaraki Prefecture, northeast of Tokyo, 20 years ago.

"I want to offer an apology anew from the bottom of my heart" to victims and other affected people, Kirishima said. The Sept. 30, 1999, accident at the JCO facility in the village of Tokai left two company workers dead and more than 660 residents exposed to radiation.

"Safety management was insufficient and poor" at the time, Kirishima said. The company "caused an accident that should have never happened," he said. JCO instituted guidelines in 2000 to ensure safety and prevent any accident, he said, adding that the company has been putting priority on keeping employees aware of the importance of safety.

In the accident, uranium solution that was poured into a precipitation tank in an amount that substantially exceeded the safety limit led to a state of criticality, an uncontrollable self-sustaining nuclear fission chain reaction, releasing neutrons into the atmosphere.

JCO and six employees, including then head of the facility, have been convicted of charges including professional negligence resulting in death. At present, the company engages mainly in storage and management of uranium waste after its license to process nuclear fuel was revoked in 2000.

[Copyright The Jiji Press, Ltd.]

Jiji Press