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Lee orders close safety checks on S. Korea's nuclear facilities

Lee orders close safety checks on S. Korea's nuclear facilities

   President Lee Myung-bak instructed his government Wednesday to painstakingly check the safety of local nuclear reactors, a move aimed at easing public anxiety here amid news of Japan's nuclear crisis, officials said.

   The president sent Lee Ju-ho, the minister for education, science and technology, to a major nuclear power facility in the southeastern region of Gori for an on-site inspection, they added.

The minister was accompanied by a group of nuclear scientists.

   Energy-ravenous South Korea has four nuclear power plants, located mostly in southern regions, but no major accidents involving them have been reported so far.

   "Domestic nuclear reactors have placed focus on safety from their construction, and radioactive materials have not been detected at all in our nation since Japan's nuclear accident," said an official at the presidential office, Cheong Wa Dae.

   But the president ordered a general review of nuclear safety measures to dispel public worries, he added.

   Internet-driven rumors have spread that some nuclear radiation from Japan, where several nuclear reactors have been severely damaged by a powerful earthquake and the ensuing tsunami, is moving toward the Korean Peninsula. Officials and experts here dismissed the rumors as groundless, saying chances are slim that such materials can reach the peninsula by wind.

   Meanwhile, the South Korean government plans to provide Japan with blankets, mattresses and bottled water.

   "The Japanese government requested the supply of the materials first," the official said.

   Seoul has sent a 102-member team of workers to Japan for search and rescue operations. About 100 additional South Korean rescue workers are on standby to be dispatched if Tokyo asks, the official added. (Yonhap News)

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