Thursday, November 1, 2012

Worker Who Worked in Reactor 3 Turbine Building in March Last Year Has Filed a Complaint Against TEPCO's Subcontractor Kandenko

Remember an incident on March 24, 2011 at Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant, in which three workers got irradiated stepping into a highly contaminated "water puddle" in the Reactor 3 turbine building as they were laying power cables?

(Remember the water "puddle" in TEPCO's and now-defunct NISA's parlance turned out to be a flooded basement.)

One of the workers from the same group as these three has formally filed a complaint against the 1st-tier subcontractor who hired them (Kandenko) for violation of the Labor Safety and Health Law.

His beef: A group of TEPCO workers in the same work location withdrew, after measuring a very high radiation (400 millisieverts/hour on the water surface), but his contractor, TEPCO's major subcontractor Kandenko (whose share TEPCO holds), ordered his group to stay and do the work.

Now that's not what was reported in March last year.

According to Tokyo Shinbun (11/1/2012; part):

The 46-year-old man who worked for a subcontractor [of Kandenko] in Iwaki City was engaged in a work to lay power cables in the Reactor 3 turbine building on March 24, 2011, soon after the start of the nuclear accident.

According to the man, he had been told that the radiation levels were low enough not to endanger workers, but in reality there was a massive amount of highly contaminated water, and the radiation was high.

Another group of workers made of TEPCO employees measured 400 millisieverts/hour radiation in the Reactor 3 [turbine building] basement, and they withdrew. However, the group that this worker belonged to was ordered to continue the work.

Sensing danger, the worker refused the part of the work which would have him step into the contaminated water, but he still got exposed to over 11 millisieverts of radiation in 40 to 60 minutes. Of 6 workers in the group including this man, 3 workers stepped in the contaminated water, and their radiation exposures from this one-time work were 172 to 180 millisieverts. These are almost twice as high as the normal radiation exposure limit of "100 millisieverts in 5 years".

The attorneys of the man accuse Kandenko for violating the law by forcing the workers to continue to work when another group of workers in the same location withdrew to avoid the exposure to high radiation, and demand punishment.

I looked up my own posts from March last year (here, and here, and here) and other newspaper articles, and this is what I've gathered (again):

1. Before that particular work, TEPCO had said the radiation level was low, and there was NO PUDDLE.

Kyodo News on Thursday March 25, 2011 reported:

TEPCO said Wednesday there was no puddle at the site and the radiation level was just around a few millisieverts per hour.

However, on Wednesday March 24, 2011 when TEPCO was saying there was no puddle and radiation was low in Reactor 3 turbine building, Asahi reported:

Reactor No.3: Black smoke subsided by 4:30AM. TEPCO decided that it was safe to resume work, and has directing the workers to restore cooling pumps.

The period between March 20 and 23, 2011 is when there was an event, probably at Reactor 3, that released a significant amount of radioactive materials from the plant which spread to wide areas in Tohoku and Kanto.

2. The "puddle" was 1.5 meter deep, and the water had 3.9 million becquerels/cubic centimeter of radioactive materials (cesium).

One day later on March 25, 2011 Yomiuri reported that the "puddle" in Reactor 3 turbine building was actually 1.5 meters (4.92 feet) deep at the deepest end. The location where the workers worked supposedly only had water 15 centimeter deep.

Asahi reported "puddle" had 3.9 million becquerels of radioactive cesium per cubic centimeter (Asahi, 3/26/2012).

3. 400 millisieverts/hour at water surface, 200 millisieverts/hour in air.

The radiation level on the water surface was 400 millisieverts/hour, and the air radiation level was 200 millisieverts/hour, according to Kyodo News English.

4. Blame was placed on the workers for not measuring the radiation, not wearing the boots.

The same Kyodo News reported:

The workers did not measure the radiation amount before starting the cable-laying work on Thursday, it said.

5. Irradiated workers were young, wearing only Tyvek suits.

Workers who were exposed to 172 - 180 millisieverts of radiation were in their 20s and 30s. The workers were wearing Tyvek suits. We all know now that nonwoven Tyvek suits do not shield radiation at all, but at that time, we didn't know better, and many were led to believe Tyvek suits mean safety from radiation.

6. The workers who stepped in the water were exposed to 2 to 6 SIEVERTS of radiation on their feet. 

But it was deemed "no danger to life" because the exposure was only on feet, not the whole body.

To put the "400 millisieverts/hour" radiation in perspective, the radiation level on the water surface inside the Reactor 1 Containment Vessel, measured on October 10 this year, was 0.5 sievert/hour, or 500 millisieverts/hour.

The air radiation level of 200 millisieverts/hour can be found on the operation floor of Reactor 2, which released the largest amount of radioactive materials. Quince 2 mapped the radiation levels on June 13 this year, measuring between 40 to 880 millisieverts/hour. TEPCO concluded that they couldn't send human workers for any work, as the radiation levels were simply too high.

In the early days, that was clearly never a problem.


Tokyo Shinbun's original article, 11/1/2012 (as archive, as their articles disappear very quickly):










Anonymous said...

I'm not sure how it works in Japan but in the US generally you have to prove damages to win in court. I'm positive most of the first responders were grossly overexposed but their problem will be proving their injuries were due to their exposure levels. I remember many instances where one guy with a dosimeter was the only record made for an entire group of workers. This is why there was/is such poor effort to accurately track exposure levels the nuclear industry really need there to be no proof of immediate harm in future lawsuits.

Atomfritz said...

I am not sure what to think about the article linked at point #6. Particularly I don't understand how they come to assume 2-6 sieverts feet dose.

Standing about a quarter of a hour in water which is around 800-900 mSv is quite near the almost 200mSv "official" dose they received.
On the other hand, iirc some reports told that some Fuku workers had reddened skin at the feet. I doubt this effect can be from only 200mSv.

As feet and hands are less sensitive to radiation than the intestines, they can sustain higher radiation doses before becoming necrotic. There have been quite some radiation accidents where hands got doses of 10+ sieverts without dying off quickly, only suffering radiation burns (similiar to sun burns) in short term.

Long-term effects are not known well, but there is apparent that problems like ulcerous skin lesions and (pre)cancerous developments follow in the long term. Often irradiated hands of nuclear workers had to be amputated years later.

These guys should be medically followed up. I hope they'll be compensated when their feet have to be amputated in a few years, even if their "official" dose was "only" 200mSv.

Atomfritz said...

I don't think we can really compare the October 2012 0.5 sievert containment water surface with the situation in March 2011 when the reactor/containment hadn't yet been thoroughly leached by hundreds of thousands cubic meters of cooling water. I doubt that the radiation level there in March 2011 was less than 100 sieverts.

Also, we have to keep in mind that these water surface radiations measured back in March 2011 were only single spot measurements. There were also very different measurements, some way above 1 sievert.

Nobody can exclude the possibility that the workers stood on some highly-radioactive grit that was lying on the "puddle" bottom which exposed their feet to several sieverts.

Nobody knows for sure whether the radiation was dissolved evenly in the water or whether the water actually shielded the radiation of the grit lying 1.5 meters deep on the "puddle's" bottom, giving a less grave impression of the actual radiation situation.

So, seen from this perspective, it indeed could be realistic that the worker's feet were tanned by, say, 2-6 sieverts.

arevamirpal::laprimavera said...

Anon at the top, this is not a lawsuit but a complaint to the government agency in charge of labor safety.

Anonymous said...

I seem to be seeing a lot of people (eg. stating that Fukushima was grossly blown out of proportion because "nobody has died or become ill as a result of the disaster".

Isn't it more like, several people have died and become ill, but they're not drawing causative links?

Greyhawk said...

This is what happens when money becomes sacred and human life is expendable.

Anonymous said...

Fucking humans won't lift a finger unless hundreds of thousands of people die within a 5 second period.

By then, it's way too late.

Anonymous said...

Nuke pimps know that
a) it takes time for radiation damage to the body to develop and be detected
b) ionizing radiation causes cancer, leukemia etc. without leaving "proof" that it was the cause.

Therefore, nuke pimps virtually SING the words "nobody has died or become ill as a result of the disaster!" They sing it even though disease and death DID show up after Chernobyl. Nuke pimps feel they have gotten away with denying that Chernobyl exists or hurt ANYONE for so long, Fukushima should be no problem to deny. When observations and worries were stated about the Fukushima disaster, these nuke pimps ridiculed 'baseless' fears as if there isn't plenty of medical evidence suffering right now over in Belarus. Nuke pimps act like people are superstitious or stupid for believing valid scientific research (e.g., BEIR VI report and the medical studies and mortality rates following Chernobyl). Yes it's a good time to be a nuke pimp without any sort of conscience or humanity - they get to ridicule others who are capable of evaluating the scientific evidence while nuke pimps pretend to be 'highly qualified nuclear industry professionals who routinely can't tell the difference between bananas and radioactive cesium.

Anonymous said...

Hisashiburi, linking another article from the Japan Times. This deserves a separate post, perhaps? Thanks for all your hard work.

Ms J

Anonymous said...

Atomfritz do you really believe that man's foot will have to be amputed in a few years? It seems to me that random comments like that are the very definition of "baseless rumor". Wouldn't you expect that necrosis caused by acute radiation would have occurred already? Or are you postulating that some other type of pathology will manifest itself?

Anonymous said...

@9:38 would you expect all damage from radiation to occour within a few days? Is necrosis the only damage possibly stemming from massive irradiation? Do we know the current conditions of the affected workers -- or their names by that matter?

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