5 workers exposed to radiation at Japan nuclear lab
In this Tuesday, June 7, 2017 photo, Masato Kato, senior principal scientist in Fast Reactor Fuel Technology Development Department of Japan Atomic Energy Agency JAEA), bows during a press conference in Mito, north of Tokyo. The JAEA said five workers at a nuclear facility that handles plutonium have been exposed to high levels of radiation after a bag containing highly radioactive material broke during equipment inspection. The state-run agency said the incident occurred Tuesday at its Oarai Research & Development Center, a facility for nuclear fuel study that uses highly toxic plutonium.
TOKYO Japan’s Atomic Energy Agency said Wednesday that five workers at a nuclear facility that handles plutonium have been exposed to high levels of radiation after a bag containing highly radioactive material apparently broke during equipment inspection.
The state-run agency said the incident occurred Tuesday at its Oarai Research & Development Center, a facility for nuclear fuel study that uses highly toxic plutonium. The cause of the accident is under investigation.
The mishap poses a major nuclear security concern as well as a question as to whether the handlers and their health were adequately protected at the facility.
The agency said its initial survey found contamination inside the nostrils of three of the five men — a sign they inhaled radioactive dust. All five were also found to be contaminated on their hands and feet, but the radioactive material was likely to have been removed by taking off their gloves, shoe covers and other protective gear, and by taking a shower.
Agency spokesman Masataka Tanimoto said one of the men’s survey indicated high levels of plutonium exposure in his lungs, with the dose showing nearly 1,000 times that of his earlier nostril survey.
The figure, 22,000 Becquerels, could mean his exposure levels in the lungs are not immediately life-threatening, but are well above an average annual dose limit for nuclear workers.
The workers did not have any visible signs of health problems, Tanimoto said. They were taken to a special radiation medial institute for further health checks.
Japan’s possession of large numbers of plutonium stockpiles, resulting from the country’s struggling nuclear fuel reprocessing program, has already faced international criticism. Critics say Japan should abandon its spent fuel recycling ambitions because nuclear plant startups are still coming slowly amid persistent anti-nuclear sentiment since the 2011 Fukushima crisis.
Radioactive substance exposure at JAEA facility
Japan’s nuclear regulator says 5 workers at a nuclear research facility have accidentally been exposed to a radioactive substance.
Officials at the Nuclear Regulation Authority secretariat say the incident happened at the Japan Atomic Energy Agency’s O-arai Research and Development Center in Ibaraki Prefecture, shortly after 11 AM on Tuesday.
5 workers were inspecting fuel storage containers when a bag of powdered radioactive substance ripped and the contents spilled out.
The workers were wearing protective clothing and their faces were half-covered with masks, as they were in an area at risk of radioactive contamination.
Their hats and clothing were reportedly contaminated.
A maximum 24 becquerels of radioactive material was reportedly detected inside the noses of 3 of the 5 workers.
The facility tests and develops new-type fuel for fast-breeder reactors that run on plutonium.
Regulators say the material has not leaked outside the room where the spill occurred, and there has been no effect on the environment.