TOKYO, March 25 (Xinhua) — Japan’s Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Banri Kaieda on Friday slammed work management and safety protocols at the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant following two workers being hospitalized after being exposed to radiation 10,000 times the normal level.
According to Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), the beleaguered operator of the radiation-leaking power station in northeast Japan, the two workers were exposed to massive amounts of radiation Thursday after being soaked in knee-high contaminated water without the protection of proper boots or waterproof hazmat suits.
Kaieda said someone should have been constantly checking the radiation levels in the area where the workers were conducting restoration activities and told TEPCO and Kandenko Co., employer of the two hospitalized men, that the firms’ negligence was “a very big and basic oversight.”
Kandenko legitimized Kaieda’s remarks by claiming that their workers were not required to put on boots as its safety manuals made no reference to a situation where workers might find themselves working whilst soaked in radioactive water.
This is despite the fact that TEPCO’s Fukushima nuclear power plants are situated on the eastern pacific coast in northern Japan — the world’s most earthquake prone and thus tsunami prone country.
The nuclear safety agency, which belongs to the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, ordered TEPCO on Friday to review its radiation management protocols to prevent a recurrence of such injuries caused by such blatant ineptitude.
The two workers in their 20s and 30s who were laying power cables with their feet submerged in the water of the turbine room at the troubled No. 3 reactor at the plant, sustained injures including skin burns caused by beta rays. This suggests the reactor or its spent nuclear fuel pool is damaged.
The young engineers following hospitalization were sent to the National Institute of Radiological Sciences in Chiba City for further examination and are likely to be there four at least four days.
A total of 17 workers have been exposed to radiation exceeding 100 millisieverts since the March 11 magnitude 9.0 earthquake and ensuing tsunami struck the region and caused the failure of critical cooling functions as power was knocked out at the six reactor Fukushima nuclear complex.
Radioactive leaks were detected after a series of explosions and fires at four of the plant’s six reactors and the government on Friday suggested residents living within a 20 to 30 kilometer distance of the stricken plant voluntarily evacuate the area.
The radiation leak from the plant has contaminated sea water, food produce, milk and water supplies in regions as far away as Tokyo, 240 kilometers southwest of the plant.
Trace elements of radiation from the facility have even been detected in Iceland.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano hinted earlier this week that once the plant goes through a cold shutdown, it will be decommissioned.
TEPCO’s Fukushima nuclear facilities have been the center of controversy, scandal and debate for the past 20-years.
The 40-year old reactors at the plant are among some of the oldest in the world.