Japan shuts nuclear reactor in quake zone

JAPAN has shut down the final working reactor at a nuclear plant near a tectonic fault line as Prime Minister Naoto Kan pledged a new law to help compensate victims of the Fukushima nuclear crisis.

Workers suspended the Hamaoka power station’s number five reactor in a bid to avoid a repeat of the atomic emergency sparked by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

“The shutdown was confirmed after we inserted all 205 control rods into the reactor,” said Hiroaki Oobayashi, a spokesman for the plant’s operator Chubu Electric Power Co. said.

Seismologists have long warned that a major earthquake is overdue in the Tokai region southwest of Tokyo where the Hamaoka plant is located.

The prime minister called for Hamaoka’s closure last week, eight weeks after the quake and tsunami which knocked out the cooling systems at the Fukushima Daiichi plant, sparking the world’s worst atomic crisis in 25 years.

Kan has insisted the Hamaoka plant should stay shut while a higher sea wall is built and other measures are taken to guard it against natural disasters. The process is expected to last a few years.

Kan told the governor of Fukushima prefecture in a meeting that he was considering legislation to compensate people forced to flee their homes in the wake of the nuclear crisis.

More than 80,000 people have been forced from homes, farms and businesses in a 20km zone around the plant which has leaked radiation into the air, ground and sea.

The governor, Yuhei Sato, said Kan told him: “The government will firmly put a special law in place and take the responsibility for compensation.”

Sato told reporters that the existing law on nuclear accidents was limited in scope as it does not cover damage such as the cost of misinformation on radioactive contamination of farm, fishery and other products from Fukushima.

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