Friday, June 29, 2012

Workers Inhaled High Doses of Radioactive Tritium in Indian Nuke Plant During Regular Maintenance

Clearly, the workers were unaware that they were inhaling it as they cleaned out

India is to have 6 fast breeder reactors in the next 15 years, and India is not a signatory to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. India, Pakistan, and Israel are the three states who have not signed the treaty.

The article below also says at another nuclear power plant in India in 2009, workers fell ill after drinking tritium-laced water from a water cooler.

From The Indian Express (6/29/2012; emphasis is mine):

Two suffer radioactive exposure at Rawatbhata nuclear plant

Two workers at the Rawatbhata Atomic Power Station in Rajasthan have suffered exposure to high doses of radioactive tritium and are under observation.

The incident took place on June 23 at Unit 5 of the plant during routine maintenance work.

"There was no abnormal release of radioactivity to the environment," Nalinish Nagaich, Executive Director, Nuclear Power Corporation of India Limited said from Mumbai.

He said there was localised increase in tritium concentration in the building of Reactor-5 due to the opening of the moderator cover gas line where the welding jobs were to be performed.

"All persons involved in the maintenance work were monitored and two were found to have four to five times higher uptake of tritium," Nagaich said. The exposure of other persons is below the annual exposure limit specified, he said.

The incident was reported to the Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) and was investigated by independent committees set up by the regulator and NPCIL.

Tritium is a mildly radioactive type of hydrogen that is formed in the operation of nuclear power plants.

The workers had inhaled it while carrying out maintenance activities in the reactor building and it will come out of the body on its own through urine.

The level of tritium in the body is expected to reduce appreciably within a week.

The NPCIL, in a report on its website, said that the incident occurred when a modification work for assuring a provision of alternate water addition to the moderator system in the Reactor-5 was being carried out.

"The uptake occurred due to inadvertent rise in tritium levels in a localized area of the containment building of the Reactor-5," it said.

In 2009, a large number of workers at Kaiga atomic plant had taken ill after consuming tritium-laced water from a water-cooler.


Anonymous said...

I would keep an eye on Fukushima Daiichi 5

Atomfritz said...

Media in India rarely covers nuclear topics, and if so, usually in favor.

Many Indian nuclear installations are in very bad shape, heavily contaminated internally. Much maintenance work is done by analphabetic peasants from the landside. These don't understand the grave risk they are into.

The Kaiga incident isn't the only one of this kind.
Didn't know of this incident before, really thank you for reporting!
In Tarapur (and possibly other Indian nuclear plants, too) similar poisonings from tritated drinking water happened.
The Indian nuclear industry blames sabotage.
Sabotaging seems to be easy (or even common?) in Indian nuclear plants... ( )

Thank you very much! Please keep reporting when you see news from India!

Anonymous said...

But, but, wait, wasn't it already decided that tritium releases don't pose a threat to human health?


Anonymous said...

From Atomfritz's link

"Preliminary inquiry does not reveal any violation of operating procedures or radioactivity releases or security breach".

Isn't the fact that they consider this an "inside" job conducted by a disgruntled employee a MAJOR security breach?

Atom fritz also brings up another troubling fact, the nuclear industry as a whole uses the local poor as temporary gypsy workers to do the dirty work around the plant so they can showcase the low exposure records of their salaried employees. The temp workers exposure rates and health history isn't tracked or recorded if they get sick they are fired and forgotten.

Anonymous said...

Bet the workers in Fukushima Diachi are from India and other countries where cheap human labor is a benefit, as well as the lack of health controls. They just work them almost to death..then send them home if they are still among the living. Anyone doing an expose on this? Hope so.

Anonymous said...

@ Anon 10:03

The Japanese have their own "sub-human" class of poor they are known as "Burakumin"

On May 11, the Asahi TV network’s Okinawa branch ran an expose about Okinawans in the atomic energy industry. This issue had first grabbed local attention in 2005 when an Okinawan worker in his 50s died from radiation exposure.

Higuchi Kenji, one of Japan’s leading anti-nuclear crusaders since the 1970s, whose photo essays have focused on the exposure of workers to radiation, comments that while workers were given devices to measure external radiation, the industry has never seriously addressed the issue of internal exposure of labourers.

Higuchi quotes the words of a mother whose 28 year-old son died from radiation related illness: “It’s unbelievable. How can the inside of nuclear plants be so contaminated [with radiation]. They said that it was ‘peaceful use’. They said it was safe.” Higuchi reports that documents are altered and stopgap repairs made to cover up irresponsible practices leading to illness or death. It might be thought that safety provisions have increased since the 1970s, the early years of nuclear power in Japan, but Higuchi argues the opposite – because of aging reactors and other equipment, the irradiation of Japan’s legions of nuclear laborers may be getting worse.

The Asahi news segment outlines the attractions of nuclear labour – it is short term work for decent pay that allows workers to return home for a sojourn before going back on another contract. Workers also report, however, that compared to similar jobs nuclear energy has a “clean” reputation. Companies do little to educate workers, telling them instead that doing things by the book will protect them from radiation. As Higuchi notes, however, there is little in the book about internal exposure, accidents, and ageing equipment. There is also the matter of corporate irresponsibility, as in the case of TEPCO’s now notorious more than a decade long cover up of cracks in reactor shrouds, which only ended after a whistleblower came forward in 2002.

Japan’s Burakumin: Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster cleanup done by ‘throwaway people’

Also see the documentary "Nuclear Ginza" it can be found on the internet.

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