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    The maiden voyage of Japan's first nuclear-powered merchant vessel, the Mutsu, has been plagued with troubles.

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    The maiden voyage of Japan's first nuclear-powered merchant vessel, the Mutsu, has been plagued with troubles.

    The latest and most serious, is the leak that has developed in the ship' reactor. The leak was reported on 2 September and led to a massive outcry in Japan ... where a large proportion of the public still fear any type of nuclear energy.

    The ship was lying about five hundred miles (about 300 kms) north of Japan's main island where technicians went to meet it.

    First attempts to neutralise the leaks were made with beiled rice soaked in baron -- a radioactivity absorbing agent.

    The technicians from Japan arrived at the vessel on Saturday (7 September) with more sophisticated materials for stepping the leak.

    They utilised hundreds of old socks stuffed with plastic pellets which have now reduced the radioactivity by a third. The leakage was a thousand times over the planned level and about 20 times the amount people are exposed to in normal life.

    The outcry in the country has intensified and it now appears the Mutsu has no home port. Authorities at its base in the Gulf of Mutsu have refused to allow it to return and officials at all other ports in the country have since followed this lead.

    The ship has been plagued with trouble all through its life. It was launched in 1969 but remained in port until late last month. Local fishermen were worried that the Mutsu could pollute their fishing grounds and prevented the ship leaving on its maiden voyage by surrounding the ship with their boats. An approaching typhoon forced them to seek shelter and the Mutsu slipped away for its first sea trials. Just a few days after this voyage began the reactor leak developed and the ship started virtually drifting through the Pacific north of Japan.

    SYNOPSIS: Japanese technicians were sent to the country's first nuclear powered cargo ship, the Mutsu, on Saturday to try and stem a leak in its reactor.

    The ship is on its maiden voyage and had only just begun sea trials when the leak was discovered.

    The crew unsuccessfully tried to stop the leak. The technicians brought more sophisticated materials, but ended up by using hundreds of socks filled with plastic pellets.

    The Mutsu has been plagued with troubles since it was launched in 1969 and only left on its maiden voyage late last month.

    There's been widespread outcry in Japan against the ship and it now seems it will be unable to return.

    Port officials throughout the country say they won't allow the Mutsu to berth.

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    Reuters - Source to be Verified
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