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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Simulated Finnish Nuclear Accident Hits Crisis Point

HELSINKI, Finland -- A critical stage was reached Thursday at an exercise designed to simulate an emergency at a nuclear power plant in southern Finland.

Under the exercise, the Loviisa nuclear plant on the south coast of Finland was suddenly deprived of the power to maintain its cooling systems.

It experienced a broken gas pipeline, a small plane crashed into a power line feeding electricity to the plant and annual maintenance began, planners assumed.

The plant is now faced with a potential meltdown of its radioactive core. If supplies of cooling water fail to reach the core, it melts and releases radioactive particles.

"Everything is not under control," Jukka Laaksonen, head of the Finnish Center for Radiation and Nuclear Safety told a dummy news briefing.

Later Thursday, planners expect the crisis to lead to a simulated leak of radioactive material.

The exercise is designed to test alerts and emergency procedures in 27 other countries, in Europe, Japan and South Korea.

In one of three emergency rooms at the safety center, nuclear physicists monitored developments. In another, experts calculated likely levels of radioactive fallout and contamination.

Coordinating the exercise, Laaksonen dictated press releases and organized information. Every move was recorded by a secretary.

Halfway through Thursday's exercise, experts predicted that fallout would probably reach Estonia by early evening. The Estonians were informed, Laaksonen said.

People living near the plant were thought unlikely to face much risk from radiation. Laaksonen said they would receive about the same amount as they get in a year from normal background levels and it would not "cause any immediate health risk."

The exercise assumed the plant's operators try to play down the risk, but at the halfway stage this had not emerged as a problem.

This aspect will be particularly important for Japan, which decided at the last minute to join in the exercise after Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto ordered an investigation into the coverup of the nation's worst nuclear accident last month.