comscore Workers exposed to radiation at Japan nuclear lab | Honolulu Star-Advertiser
Top News

Workers exposed to radiation at Japan nuclear lab

  • KYODO NEWS VIA AP

    Workers at the Oarai Research & Development Center were exposed to high levels of radiation after a bag containing highly radioactive material broke during equipment inspection.

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.

Click here to see our full coverage of the coronavirus outbreak. Submit your coronavirus news tip.

Be the first to know
Get web push notifications from Star-Advertiser when the next breaking story happens — it's FREE! You just need a supported web browser.
Subscribe for this feature
Comments (0)

By participating in online discussions you acknowledge that you have agreed to the Terms of Service. An insightful discussion of ideas and viewpoints is encouraged, but comments must be civil and in good taste, with no personal attacks. If your comments are inappropriate, you may be banned from posting. Report comments if you believe they do not follow our guidelines.

Having trouble with comments? Learn more here.

Scroll Up