Japan Radiation

By: Associated Press Email
By: Associated Press Email

TOKYO (AP) - Six more workers at Japan's tsunami-damaged nuclear
power plant may have exceeded the radiation exposure limit,
bringing the total to eight, the government said Monday.

The health and labor ministry released the preliminary results
of tests on how much radiation they had been exposed to as they
worked at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant. Three men are control room
operators and the five others worked to restore power that was
knocked out by the earthquake and tsunami March 11.

Operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. said none of them was showing
immediate health problems but would require long-term monitoring as they have an increased risk of cancer. All eight have been
transferred to desk jobs.

"We find it extremely regrettable," said Tadashi Mori, a
health ministry official in charge of occupational health,
referring to the six likely additions. Mori said the ministry plans
to take "appropriate steps" over TEPCO's violation when the
results are confirmed.

The government soon after the disaster raised the radiation
limit for men to 250 millisieverts from the standard 100
millisieverts so workers could tackle the emergency.

The health ministry also said Monday that at least 90 others
have exceeded the earlier limit of 100 millisieverts, including
several who are nearing the higher limit.

On Friday, the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency said that
the first two workers who reached the government's limit had been
exposed to more that double that amount. It reprimanded TEPCO and
demanded an investigative report within a week. The health ministry
separately submitted a written warning over the two workers'
exposures and is likely to do the same for the six additional
workers if their cases are confirmed.

The two control room operators were exposed to more than 600
milisieverts - about 100 CT scans - mostly by inhaling radioactive
particles, NISA spokesman Hidehiko Nishiyama said.

The newly confirmed six workers may have exposures from about
265 millisieverts to 498 millisieverts, mostly while working at the
plant March 12 when a hydrogen explosion heavily damaged the Unit 1 reactor building, TEPCO spokesman Junichi Matsumoto told a news
conference.

TEPCO already has admitted that workers in the earliest, most
chaotic, and most dangerous moments of the crisis did not wear
masks, possibly other protective gear as well, and lacked
dosimeters to monitor their radiation exposures in real time. TEPCO
has been warned for failing to observe a legal requirement to
provide a dosimeter each for those entering controlled areas.

Workers have been fighting to get the plant under control since
the quake and tsunami knocked out its power and cooling systems,
largely melting three reactor cores. Explosions, especially in the
immediate days after the disaster, scattered radioactive particles
and debris around the plant, making their working environment
highly dangerous.

"The workers had received safety instructions, but I believe
that probably slipped their mind in the crisis," Matsumoto said.

Matsumoto said the operator now removes workers from the plant
work when their exposures exceed 170 millisieverts. By end of May,
a total of 25 workers have been reassigned to other jobs, according
to NISA.

On Monday, plant workers struggled to complete a system designed
to reprocess tons of highly radioactive water leaking from the
reactors, with its planned test-run delayed by leakage and
malfunctioning of pumps and other parts detected at the last
minute, TEPCO said. A full operation of the system, initially set
for Wednesday, would have to be postponed for a few days, setting
off concerns about a possible overflow of the contaminated water
pooling around the plant.

The revelation about the workers' high exposures have boosted
concerns about health risks at the plant.

About half of the nearly 4,000 people who had worked at the
plant during March have been checked for internal exposures so far,
with further examination pending. Mori said there could be more
workers exceeding the limit.

A massive single whole-body exposure of 500 millisieverts could
decrease lymphocyte cells in some people, which would compromise
their immune systems. Radiation sickness, which has the signature
symptoms of nausea and hair loss, can occur from an acute dose of
1,000 millisieverts.


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