Nuclear Workers Rushed To Hospital

In Asia, Earthquakes & Tsunamis, News Headlines

Two workers at Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant were rushed to hospital after being exposed to high levels of radiation as they worked to restore power to a stricken reactor.

Three workers were exposed to radiation levels between 170 to 180 millisieverts as they tried to restore power to reactor No. 3, the country’s nuclear safety agency said.

The men were working to lay cables in the basement of the reactor’s turbine building.

“Two were sent to hospital after they found themselves in a puddle of water,” Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) spokesman Hideyuki Nishiyama said.

“Although they wore protective clothing, the contaminated water seeped in and their legs were exposed to radiation.”

An exposure of 100 millisieverts per year is considered the lowest level at which any increase in cancer risk is evident.

“Direct exposure to radiation usually leads to inflammation and so that’s why they were sent to the hospital to be treated,” Mr Nishiyama added.

All three were workers with subsidiaries of Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) which operates the crippled plant situated roughly 250 kilometres north-east of Tokyo.

The March 11 quake and tsunami cut electricity to the plant and knocked out backup systems, causing the cooling systems to fail.

This left the fuel rods inside to heat up and evaporate water, threatening a full meltdown.

The plant has been hit by explosions and fires and has emitted high levels of radiation, prompting the evacuation of tens of thousands of people.

Fire and army crews have hosed down the reactors to cool them and topped up spent fuel rod pools in desperate measures intended to stop a major disaster, but also creating radioactive steam.

The government has declared an exclusion zone with a radius of 20 kilometres around the power station, while telling those within 20 to 30 kilometres to stay indoors.

The government has also assured residents of Tokyo that the city’s contaminated tap water poses no threat to adults, and radiation levels have now dropped back to levels considered safe for very young children.

But people are still very nervous and the government hotline has been flooded with calls with people asking if it is safe to take a bath or to breastfeed babies.

Speaking through an interpreter, chief cabinet secretary Yukio Edano said there was no threat to adults, but the government is still distributing hundreds of thousands of bottles of water.

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