MIKUNI, Japan — An oil spill affecting hundreds of miles of scenic Japanese shoreline drifted toward seaside nuclear power plants Friday, threatening to clog vital cooling systems.
Coast guard and fishing ships rushed to set up a boom around parts of the spill near the entrance to Wakasa Bay to keep the oil from the power plants ringing the bay.
Officials of Kansai Electric Power Co., which operates three nuclear reactors along the bay, said the oil could damage equipment at the plants, which use large amounts of seawater for cooling.
The 962,000-gallon spill has already taken a toll on the area's fishing grounds.
At least a dozen oil slicks have spread to five prefectures along Japan's western coast since an offshore Russian tanker sank and split in two Jan. 2.
At Japan's request, Russian authorities in the Far East on Friday launched a criminal investigation into the accident. Japan also has begun its own probe, Russia's Interfax news agency reported.
Sergei Vitkazov, director general of the company that owned the ship, formally apologized to Japan, Interfax said.