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|Wednesday, September 26, 2001, updated at 15:05(GMT+8)|
Nuclear Plant Accident Exposed in BrazilA leak accident of a Brazilian nuclear plant was exposed Tuesday after government officials concerned had covered it up for four months.
The Epoca Weekly magazine broke the news earlier this week that government officials played down the gravity of an internal leak of radioactive water since May at the Angra I plant, 130 kilometers west of Rio de Janeiro, saying there had been no need to inform the public.
On May 28, thousands of gallons of slightly radioactive water, which cools Brazil's two oldest reactors, leaked from the main system but was mainly contained by an emergency tank. The plant was shut down for a week.
Officials said the accident, ranking 1 on a 7-point gravity scale, has never posed any danger to the workers or population around the two-reactor Angra complex, which is surrounded by lush tropical forest and a popular bay resort area.
However, environmentalists and the media took the government to task for hiding facts of the accident.
"Radiation spills in Angra and the government conceals," said a front-page headline in Journal do Brasil. O Globo Daily said: " Information about Angra delayed for four months."
Head of Brazil's Federal Power Claudio Avila said he knew nothing about the accident and complained at "a serious lack of communication" in the sector.
Avila said that such accident should be announced immediately if there is a leak outside the plant. "In case of an internal problem, the population should be informed later." he added.
Two nuclear reactors are located at Angra dos Reis. Angra I was a joint project between Brazil and the U.S. Westinghouse company, and Angra II was built together with the German company of Siemens.
Angra I has been running since 1985, and Angra II has been in service for just over one year.
Meanwhile Mayor of Angra dos Reis, where the plant is located, said it was deeply disturbing that news of a leak at the plant had been kept secret, and demanded that he be notified of any future incident, however small.
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