Indie | Two workers who exceeded 250 millisievert radiation level WERE wearing masks

Posted on June 17, 2011

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Indie | EX-SKF | June 17, 2011

Remember the news on June 3 about 2 TEPCO employees working at Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant exceeding 600 millisieverts in radiation exposure, with extremely high internal radiation?

At that time, the blame was placed on the workers for not taking the potassium iodide pills as scheduled and not wearing masks – what disregard for safety!

When the management blames workers, the management is hiding something bigger and more serious, I’ve been told.

No newspaper or TV station pursued the news after June 3, until TEPCO announced the result of its investigation of the incident on June 17.

As I had suspected, it had nothing to do with the workers’ errors.

They wore dust masks as instructed, and even those they had to take off to eat food, and there was a gap between the mask and the eyeglasses for one of the workers that cannot be closed due to the design. As to potassium iodide pills, they didn’t take them initially because there was none where they were (the central control room for the Reactors 3 and 4), when they mattered most (March 11 and 12 and 13).

They were working, eating, sleeping in the central control room for the Reactors 3 and 4 until 4PM on March 13, with dust masks and no potassium iodide.

Here’s some information about the incident from the 25-page report attached to the TEPCO’s press release on June 17 (available in Japanese only):

1. The 2 workers worked mostly in the central control room for the Reactors 3 and 4.

2. About masks:

  • On March 12, long before the Reactor 1 building blew off (3:36PM), the radiation level started to go up as indicated by the exhaust pipe monitoring at the central control room, around 5:04AM.
  • The manager in charge of the shift at that time instructed the workers to wear dust masks inside the control room, and charcoal masks when going outside.
  • The 2 workers followed the instruction and were wearing dust masks. Dust masks cannot filter out radioactive iodine, and charcoal filters may have become less effective as they were used for extended period of time until the fresh supply could be delivered.
  • At that time, there were 15 charcoal masks, 50 pairs of charcoal filters, and 300 masks [without filters attached?面体] for the Reactors 3 and 4 workers.
  • One of the workers wore eyeglasses, and that left a gap between the full-face mask and the face. There is no way to seal the gap, according to TEPCO.

    [It is extremely hard for me to believe there is no mask for people wearing eyeglasses.]

  • The 2 workers had to eat and sleep in the central control room until 4:00PM on March 13. While eating emergency food in the central control room, they had to take off the masks. The door to the central control room got warped by the impact of the Reactor 1 bldg explosion, and didn’t properly close.
  • When the Reactor 1 building blew up on March 12, there were workers outside working without any mask.

3. About potassium iodide pills:

  • TEPCO had 30,000 pills stored in the building off the Reactor 1 (where the plant headquarters are; many workers still live there) prior to the accident. They were not stocked at the central control rooms.
  • The company instructed on March 13 [AFTER the Reactor 1 building blew up on March 12] that the workers less than 40 years of age take potassium iodide pills. For the workers 40 years of age and above, the pills would be given if they requested.
  • The 2 workers couldn’t start on the pills until they moved to the building where they could get potassium iodide until 4:00PM on March 13.

This is borderline criminal, particularly about potassium iodide. From the detailed reports that TEPCO suddenly disclosed in mid May, the company knew from the beginning of the accident (evening of March 11) that the reactors may have been breached; they were measuring a very high air radiation at the plant on March 11, which they correctly attributed to a breached Reactor Pressure Vessel. They also knew the venting of the Reactor 1, which was scheduled on March 12, would release a large amount of radioactive materials in the air. And they waited until March 13 to instruct workers to take potassium iodide?

And the company had a gall to blame its own workers at first. Now that it has turned out that the company was to blame, the incident is due to the unfortunate confusion in the early days of the accident.

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Posted in: indie, JAPAN