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Nyt om atomkraftulykken i Japan
den 30. september 99.

E-mail afsendt fra Japan 30. september (de nyeste mails ligger først i rækkefølgen)
Thu Sep 30 14:35:37 1999
Date: Thu, 30 Sep 1999 20:36:50 (lokal tid) +0900
From: hosokawk@cc.saga-u.ac.jp (Hosokawk)
Subject: MagpieNews #990930e (accident-5th report)

Magpie Country Nukes Headliner
nuclear issues news brief from Japan

Fifth Report ---

Criticality accident at Tokai uranium processing plant
120 residents evacuated; Radiation counts still high on site

30 September 1999

Most likely cause of the accident is a failure of control of the amount of uranium input. According to a JCO engineer, the worker seems to have put more than 16kg of uranium nitrate solution into a tank at once, ignoring the criticality control limit of 2.4kg. (This was stated in the second press conference at STA headquarter at 6pm).

The rain that started in late afternoon is continuing; TVs and radios are warning the local people not to get wet. Atmospheric radiation count has not decreased around the site.

Mayor of Tokai Village held a press conference at 5:30pm. He confirmed that the village administration had issued a request asking the 39 households (some 150 people) around the JCO plant to evacuate. Nine large buses were sent to pick up the evacuees.

So far, around 140 people have taken refuge at Funaishikawa Community Centre, which is 1km south of the accident site, still within the Tokai village boundary. There they have been screened for radioactive contamination. So far no case of contamination has been detected.

The Mayor said that the radiation level remained high on the JCO premises.

"They came to our house and measured the radiation. The figure was several times higher than the background indoors, so I felt the evacuation order was a bit late", told a young male evacuee to the NHK TV interviewer on air.

Some of the school children who had been kept waiting at the school buildings were allowed to go home on condition that parents should come to pick them up. Children from the downwind areas are told to remain at the school, however.

Medical staff of the STA's National Institute of Radiological Sciences (NIRS) held a press conference at 7pm, stating that two of the three injured workers were under treatment in a germ-free unit in NIRS. Dr Tsujii of the NIRS told the press that they had little external contamination, but the two were suffering from damage to digestive organs, lowered blood pressures, increase of white blood corpuscles and decrease of lymphocytes. The doctor suggested they must have undergone considerably high doses of radiation. The patients are half-conscious.

The Government's Emergency Responce Headquarter, chaired by the Science & Education Minister, Dr Arima, says they will keep vigil on the radiation levels and are yet to see how long the evacuation should last. Ministries of Labor and Health are also taking much interest in the event and have respectively sent their expert staff to Tokai for investigation.

It's been revealed that it took as long as 58 minutes for JCO to notify the Tokai village administration of the accident, despite the Safety Agreement which lays a rule that the notification should be immediate regardless of the level or extent of accident.

Reportedly, the plant's structure is intact. Radiation counts on site seem to remain over 3,000 times background.

The news dominated NHK's 7pm news broadcast statewide.

The first 28 minute of the 60-minute nightly news were dedicated to the report and analysis of the accident. News of the Cabinet reshuffling followed, but it took less than 3 minutes.

Thu Sep 30 11:56:58 1999
Date: Thu, 30 Sep 1999 17:56:21 (lokal tid) +0900
From: hosokawk@cc.saga-u.ac.jp (Hosokawk)
Subject: MagpieNews #990930d (accident-4th report)

Magpie Country Nukes Headliner
nuclear issues news brief from Japan

Fourth Report ---

Criticality accident at Tokai uranium processing plant

30 September 1999

In a press conference, the Chief Cabinet Secretary, Mr Nonaka, confirmed the following:

- The Government has set up an emergency response headquarter (ERHQ) to deal with the Tokai accident.

- The Cabinet understands that no more damage to the public is unlikely.

- It took nearly 2 hours for the Cabinet to be informed that the accident had happened at the JCO plant.

This is the first time, apart from drill, in nuclear accidents history in Japan that a Governmental ERHQ was established.

This is also the first time that the radiation injured have been brought to the STA-administered National Institute of Radiological Sciences (NIRS) for emergency treatment.

NHK (the national radio-TV network) is repeatedly reporting that the atmospheric radiation levels around the JCO premises remain considerably high, at around 0.7 millisievert/hour (mSv/h), or 3600 times background.

Police keep the main roads closed at 3km points from the accident site. Evacuating residents say they are receiving confused and sometimes contradictory orders how to do or where to go.

The hospital staff told the press that two of the injured workers had been barely conscious.

The uranium which seems to have gone critical was imported from France in the form of fluoride (UF6 gas).

It is not yet confirmed at the moment (5:40pm), but it is almost certain that a criticality accident occurred, making the nitric solution boil instantly and rendering a highly pressurized impact that broke the pipes and/or containers, releasing the radioactive material into atmosphere.

The name of the company that manages the plant in which the accident occurred is JCO, Inc. ("JCO" is not an acronym, but the name itself, although it originally comes from an acronym for Japan Conversion something.) It was formerly known as the Japan Atomic Fuel Conversion Company.

Thu Sep 30 10:35:28 1999
Date: Thu, 30 Sep 1999 16:30:10 (lokal tid)+0900
From: hosokawk@cc.saga-u.ac.jp (Hosokawk)
Subject: MagpieNews #990930c (accident-3rd report)

Magpie Country Nukes Headliner
nuclear issues news brief from Japan

Third Report ---

Criticality accident in Tokai uranium processing plant

30 September 1999

JCO Tokyo manager had a press conference at 3:15pm (Japan Time) at Science and Technology Agency (which is the Japanese Government office in charge of nuclear development).

He admitted that a criticality accident is very likely to have occurred.

At 3pm, Tokai-mura administration (i.e. local village government) issued an evacuation request (i.e. commendation, not an order) for the resident in the area inside the 350m radius of the plant. Outside this radius, all the village residents are asked to stay indoors. School children are ordered not to go home, but remain indoors at each school. Schools are told to prepare in case for more refugees.

The exposed workers are being treated in the National Institute of Radiological Sciences (NIRS) in Chiba City, east of Tokyo. They seems to have inhaled high concentration uranium gas. One reportedly suffers from nausea and diarrhea.

The accident happened, according to the JCO Tokyo manager's explanation at the press conference, while the workers were handling normal (dilute?) nitric acid to resolve enriched and reconverted U308 (***not UO2 as reported in the previous MagpieNews), which process gives uranium nitrate solution further to be processed into UO2 powder for pellet sintering.

This is a part of fabrication of MOX fuel for JOYO mark II, i.e. experimental FBR (fast breeder reactor) in Tokai. However, it seems (*** it is not yet confirmed though***) that no plutonium is involved in the accident.

The process normaly deals with uranium concentraion at19% or lower.

The hospitalized workers reportedly said that they had seen a blue flash and then started to feel ill.

If this is really a criticality accident, then it is the very first case in Japan that such kind of nuclear accident occurred, and probably also the first case in which a criticality accident took place in a civilian plant in developed countries.

JCO revealed that one of the monitor reading at the border of the facility premises was 0.78mSv/h past mid-day at 100m from the building in which the accident took place.

Readings at monitoring points in Tokai village, well away from the plant, included 840 and 760 microSv, respectively.

A dose meter held by a TV reporter standing some 300m or so from the building showed 27 microSv at around 3:30pm while on air.

At this stage, though, we do not have exact information about the dose and, therefore, should be careful about evaluating these figures.

There has been NO report so far that the atmospheric radiation around the site is increasing.

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Sidst opdateret 12. oktober 1999