TOKYO majirox news) -Japan’s nuclear safety agency warned TEPCO (Tokyo Electric Co.) to make crucial safety checks of the environment at Fukushima Dai-ichi plant before they send in workers.
TEPCO, the plant operator, repeatedly failed to make safety checks, the agency said at a press conference this morning. Radioactive gas and materials has been leaking out since the quake and the tsunami struck Japan on March 11.
On March 24 three workers were exposed to high-level radiation while laying cable at the turbine building next to reactor No. 3 at about 12:10 p.m., and two of them were hospitalized due to beta ray burns to their ankles, the nuclear safety agency and TEPCO, the plant operator, said.
TEPCO said the contaminated water, which was 5.9 inches deep, seeped through two of the workers’ boots, causing radioactive materials in the water to stick to their skin. TEPCO confirmed the water contained 390,000 becquerels of radioactive materials, which is 10,000 times the normal level.
“Make sure they are provided with appropriate suits and equipment and don’t ignore the warning alarms,” the nuclear safety agency said.
The warning alarms went off while the three were working in the turbine building. The workers ignored it. They had previously been told there was not any radiation activity in the turbine building. Normally, the room measured zero radiation activity.
With the latest exposure cases, the number of workers who have been exposed to radiation exceeding 100 millisieverts at the plant comes to 17, TEPCO said. In Japan the radiation level normally allowed is up to 50 millisieverts and in emergencies up to 100 millisieverts. The government increased the level to 250 millisieverts for workers at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant.
Japan’s safety agency said the high-level radiation leak detected at the No. 3 reactor pointed to possible damage to the reactor’s vessel, pipes or valves.
“At present, our monitoring data suggests the No.3 reactor retains certain containment functions, but there is a good chance that the reactor has been damaged,” said Hidehiko Nishiyama, a spokesman for the governmental nuclear regulatory body, at a press conference today.
Nishiyama said he believed the high-level radiation might have started from the reactor where overheating fuel rods could be partially damaged.
However, more research is needed to establish how the reactive water reached the turbine room. Huge amounts of water have been poured into the reactor and the pool in reactor No. 3 building. A hydrogen blast damaged the building on March 14.
Death toll and missing
The official death toll has exceeded 10,000 while about 20,000 are missing. About 240,000 people continue to seek shelter in approximately 1,900 shelters, according to the National Police Agency.
U.S. military ships will bring water
U.S. Navy barges carrying a large amount of fresh water will be delivered to Onahama port in Fukushima Prefecture from the U.S. Yokosuka base in Kanagawa Prefecture, said Defense Minister Toshimi Kitazawa at a news conference today. The water will be used to cool reactors and spent nuclear fuel pools at Fukushima Daichi-ichi nuclear plant.
The U.S. suggested that fresh water be used early in place of seawater because salt in seawater causes corrosion of equipment at the nuclear plant.
The barges will reach the port, about 60 kilometers away from the plant, in about three days. Each of the barges can carry up to 1,000 tons of water. A pipeline will be used to bring the water to the plant