Friday, March 25, 2011

The Japanese Workers

douple This is the most thorough account I’ve seen yet of what happened to the workers at Fukushima Daiichi Unit 3 who were contaminated with radiation. From Nucnet:

JAIF also confirmed that three workers were contaminated when laying cables in the turbine hall of unit 3.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said the three were contract workers laying cables in the turbine hall. Two of them were found to have radioactivity on their feet and legs. JAIF said they were exposed to more than 170 millisieverts (mSv).

The workers were washed in an attempt to remove radioactivity, but since there was a possibility of beta-ray burning of the skin, the two were taken to the Fukushima University Hospital for examination and then transferred to Japan's National Institute of Radiological Sciences for further examination. They are expected to be monitored for around four days.

It is thought that the workers ignored their dosimeters’ alarms believing them to be false and continued working with their feet in contaminated water.

According to JAIF, the level of radioactive fission products in the water was about 3.9 million bequerels per cubic centimeter or 10,000 times higher than the reactor water used in the course of normal operations.

Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) has asked plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco) to review the radiation control system immediately in order to avoid similar incidents in the future.

As of 24 March at 19:30 Japan time (11:30 central European time), the number of workers at the plant found to have received more than 100 mSv of radiation dose was 17 including the three contract workers. The remaining fourteen are Tepco employees, the IAEA said.

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NPR talked to Evan Douple, associate chief of research at the Hiroshima-based Radiation Effects Research Foundation, which has worked on a decades long study of atomic-bomb survivors. The question was whether Fukushima Daiichi would be a plausible follow-up project. Answer: No The interviewer is Richard Knox.

Given what you said about the impossibility of doing the kind of long-term study you mounted of the atom-bomb survivors, can we learn anything from the current episode?

Douple: On the basis of our current estimates, there shouldn't be measurable numbers of cancers. So you won't be able to count them, ever. But once the dose estimates are put together and extrapolated, you should be able to make a crude estimate of the health effects, based on the RERF data. And I think that estimate will surprise a lot of people.

And they'll be surprised because?

Douple: They're so low.

Evan Douple

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