Indian-born nuke expert warns China to ensure safety of its quake-hit nuke plants

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New Delhi, May 19 : Indian-born Dr Anupam Srivastava, director of the University of Georgia's Asia programme and a nuclear consultant, has reportedly ruled out leakage of radioactive material in China's earthquake-hit Sichuan Province, but cautioned the authorities in that area to take steps to ensure proper storage and safety of the stockpile.

Srivastava's warning came as China ordered its atomic weapons industry to be ready for an "environmental emergency" after last week's earthquake struck its nuclear weapons storage and research facilities.

Officials have also dispatched a team of 21 experts to inspect sites.

The announcement follows growing international concern over the safety of nuclear installations in the earthquake zone.

China stores some of its vast arsenal of warheads in Sichuan province, which is also home to several reactors and two plutonium plants.

Last week a French nuclear monitoring agency claimed a number of Chinese nuclear sites had suffered minor damage in the quake, but praised China for taking precautionary measures.

China had reported "light damage" but had "reacted well" by immediately shutting down nuclear sites for inspection, Xinhua quoted Thierry Charles, plant safety director of the French Institute for Radiological Protection, as saying.

China's announcement of contingency plans was aimed at reassuring the international community, which had expressed concern over secrecy about nuclear sites in the area.

They include the country's largest storage facility for nuclear warheads, hidden in underground bunkers, and Plant 821, a warhead assembly site that houses one of China's largest reactors.

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