German Atomic Forum on the Incident in Tokaimura

Berlin, 01.10.1999

The Germanic Atom Forum in Berlin has described the incident at the Japanese uranium processing plant of Tokaimura as the result of a serious violation of fundamental principles in the field of safety culture. The cause of the peaceful and safe use of nuclear energy, it added, has suffered a serious world-wide loss of confidence from this further incident in Japan. In the view of the Atomic Forum and experts in this field, in light of the present state of German safety culture and practice it is quite impossible to impute any relevance in this incident to the situation in Germany.

Moreover, the plant in Japan was neither a nuclear power plant nor a reprocessing plant. Tokaimura is a conversion plant in which the basic materials are produced which are necessary for the production of fuel elements. According to experts` preliminary assessments, a chain reaction could only be set off if there were to be a total violation of the most basic rules of production. As the Japanese authorities have now stated, a workman filled 16 kilos of uranium mixture into a tank instead of the prescribed 2.3 kilos. All information now available indicates that the chain reaction has now been stopped, and neutron-counter readings are now zero. The radioactivity outside the plant is also back to normal. The local inhabitants can leave their houses again, having initially been prohibited by the authorities from doing so.

Regardless of the present information situation, the German nuclear power industry will analyse the incident in great detail. This event goes to show, according to the Atom Forum, how important the international exchange of experience is in the interests of constantly improving safety standards and safety practice.

As Siemens has in the meanwhile announced, the fuel elements in Germany and the USA are designed to be "criticality-safe". No such accident could be caused either by human error nor by external factors.


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