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TEPCO to demand removal of nuclear stations from 'Pokemon Go' app

Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) is set to request the operator of the popular smartphone app "Pokemon Go" to exclude, citing security reasons, its nuclear power stations from areas where Pokemon appear, as it has been learned that virtual monsters can be found on plant premises.

The utility searched the premises of three of its nuclear stations -- the Fukushima No. 1 and No. 2 plants in Fukushima Prefecture and the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa plant in Niigata Prefecture -- after the game app was launched in Japan on July 22, and found that Pokemon appeared in at least one of these nuclear plants. TEPCO says the utility cannot reveal where Pokemon were spotted due to the possibility of gamers flocking to plant grounds.

According to a public relations official of app developer Niantic, Inc., the company has excluded at least the Fukushima No. 1 plant -- crippled in the March 2011 nuclear disaster -- and the No. 2 plant from the game so that Pokemon would not be spotted. The app developer says it cannot tell for now whether Pokemon actually appeared at either of the Fukushima plants.

Meanwhile, the Fukushima Prefectural Government began discussions with the central government over possible measures against the app as the game is programmed to have Pokemon appear in areas designated as evacuation zones near the crippled Fukushima plant.

Fukushima Gov. Masao Uchibori told a regular news conference on July 25 that it is "unfavorable" for ordinary citizens to enter such zones while playing the app game.

Eight municipalities around the Fukushima plant still remain under government evacuation orders, and in principle residents are not allowed to stay there overnight. As for areas designated as "difficult-to-return" zones -- approximately 337 square kilometers of land with the highest radiation levels near the nuclear plant -- mere entrance is restricted.

The game app developer explains that because people can enter difficult-to-return zones after going through registration procedures, it incorporated those areas into the game in the same way as all other areas in Japan.

Fukushima Prefectural Police say they have not confirmed any cases of people entering difficult-to-return zones or trespassing into empty homes to catch Pokemon.

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