For an index of images regarding the accident, go here.
Accident chronology -- September 30 - October 1, 1999
Week of October 3 - 9
Week of October 10 - 16
Week of October 17 - 23
Week of October 24 - 30
Week of October 31 - November 6
Week of November 7 - 13
Week of November 14 - 20
Week of November 21 - 27
Week of November 28 - December 4
Week of December 5 - 11
Week of December 12 - 18
Week of December 19 - 25
Week of December 26, 1999 - January 1, 2000
note: all times reported in Japanese Standard Time, or 13 hours ahead of Eastern Daylight Time, except where noted
Various media sources report that a radiation leak was detected, its cause not immediately known. Police denied reports that a fire had broken out.
A Kyodo News Chronology (released on October 1) reports that the Japanese Science and Technology Agency received the first report on the accident from JCO.
The Kyodo News Chronology reports that the accident was reported to the Ibaraki Prefecture.
Monitoring for Gamma Rays begins.
The Kyodo News Chronology reports that police blocked roads near the plant and banned entry within a radius of 200 meters around the plant.
The Kyodo News Chronology reports that Tokaimura village authorities issued an evacuation advisory to 50 families living within a 350 meter radius of the plant.
Asahi Shimbun"Poor Preparation Delays Neutron Testing"
. The Japan Atomic Energy Research Institute begins monitoring neutron levels at 14 locations around the facility, six hours after the accident.
IAEA Press Release. "Accident at the Tokaimura Fuel Conversion Plant."
IAEA learned of the accident. The IAEA Emergency Response Unit immediately made contact with Japanese authorities in order to closely follow the situation.
Japan Times. "Tokai Nuclear Accident Goes
Critical; Remains out of Control."
Prefectural authorities in the adjacent town of Naka said the radiation level was rapidly increasing, based on observations of monitoring posts inside the town.
The Associated Press, "Radiation levels remain high after nuclear accident."
According to the Japan Atomic Energy Research Institute, 2-4 millisievert of radiation per hour or 10,000 to 20,000 times the normal level-was detected inside the processing facility as of 5 pm. The government's Nuclear Safety Commission said there might have been a continuing "criticality," as there continued to be high levels of radiation seven hours after the accident.
Sodium 24, a radioactive substance, was detected in the vomit of three of the victims.
The government decided to set up a task force headed by Science and Technology Agency chief Akito Arima to deal with the accident.
Citizen's Nuclear Information Center, a Japanese nongovernmental organization, reports that initially, an atmospheric radiation count of 0.84 mSv/hour (10,000 times of the annual dose limit) was monitored, but the local government has announced that the radiation count is back to normal. The Science and Technology Agency announced that it was a criticality accident.
Citizen's Nuclear Information Center reports that the head of Tokai villages stressed the following at a press conference: the atmospheric radiation count has not decreased around the site; there is a possibility that nuclear fission is still occurring at the moment; and the plant's structure is intact.
Citizen's Nuclear Information Center reports that the Tokaimura municipal officials said up to 4.5 millisievert of neutrons per hour was detected near the circumference of the plant shortly after 7:00 pm. Village officials also said Cesium-138 was detected near the plant.
The Kyodo News Chronology reports that the central government set up a crisis management task force headed by Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi.
IAEA Press Release. "Radiation Accident in
While the cause of the accident remains under investigation, it is known that it occurred when workers were transporting a mixture of liquid nitric acid containing 19 percent enriched uranium to a precipitation container. A "flash criticality" occurred.
At its highest point, the dose rate at the facility boundary was measured to be around 4 millisievert/hour.
The three seriously irradiated workers received a dose of more than 8 Sv.
Citizen's Nuclear Information Center reports that the facility where the accident occurred is a commercial plant where enriched UF6 gas is converted to UO2 powder for further processing. The pellet fabrication is done in another plant nearby.
The Kyodo News Chronology reports that Ibaraki Governor Masaru Hashimoto issued an evacuation advisory to about 200,000 residents living within a 10 kilometer radius of the plant.
Citizen's Nuclear Information Center reports that:
The Associated Press, "Nuke Accident serious, may be continuing, Nonaka says."
Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiromu Nonaka said, "There are concerns that the situation is continuing and is affecting a larger area than was believed earlier in the day."
OCTOBER 1, 1999
The Associated Press. "Firms near accident close, ask workers to stay home."
Hitachi Ltd. and other major electronic manufacturers decided to shut down their factories near the site of the accident and asked their employees to stay home. They shut down a total of 12 plants and told more than 10,000 workers to stay home in the cities of Hitachinaka and Hitachi.
The Associated Press, "Local authorities told to
prepare for evacuations."
The Fire Defense Agency instructed local authorities to be prepared for emergency transportation of residents in the region of a nuclear accident in Tokaimura, Ibaraki Prefecture. The agency's emergency headquarters issued an instruction to the Ibaraki prefectural government to dispatch ambulances for possible transportation of residents who may be exposed to radiation. Tokaimura has only two ambulances.
Reuters, "Japan to seek U.S. military aid on
Japan is considering seeking help from the U.S. military after the accident at a nuclear fuel processing plant. Kyodo news agency quoted officials as saying Japan lacked experience in dealing with this kind of accident and that the U.S. forces may have the necessary know-how.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiromu Nonaka said Japan's Ground Self-Defense Force's chemical warfare unit was ready to be deployed at the accident site but that it lacked relevant experience.
The Associated Press, "2 in critical condition
after exposure to radiation."
Two of the three workers exposed to radiation are in extremely critical condition. The number of leukocytes of the three rose by two to four times the normal level. The ratio of lymphocytes in white blood corpuscles, which averages 40 percent among ordinary people also dropped below 10 percent and the figure for Ouchi and Shinohara is as low as 2 percent. The radiation dose for the two in critical condition number 8 to 10 sievert judging from their lymphocytes and overall condition. Judging from their skin, the two were exposed to radiation, which includes not only gamma rays but also alpha rays.
The Associated Press, "IAEA to dispatch
inspector to Japan's nuke plant."
The IAEA decided to dispatch inspectors to a uranium processing plant in Japan's Ibaraki Prefecture, where the accident occurred. IAEA said the danger from the incident is "clearly above 2" on an IAEA scale ranging from zero to 7.
The Kyodo News Chronology reports that a senior JCO official admitted the company bypassed a required procedure.
The Associated Press, "Japan-Nuclear Accident."
A nuclear reaction apparently occurred while the workers there were processing the uranium into fuel for nuclear power plants. Radiation levels around the plant were 10,000 times higher than normal at one point, and about 10 times normal 1 1/4 miles from the accident.
Company officials said the accident was set off when the workers accidentally mixed too much uranium in a tank.
More than 310,000 people were ordered not to leave their homes and officials shut down schools and train service in the region.
The government asked US military forces in Japan for help, but were told that the US forces there were not equipped to handle such accidents.
The government task force composed of top ministers sent specialists to the area to monitor the radioactivity.
Reuters, "Japan nuclear accident now exposes
At least 19 people were exposed to radiation in an accident at a Japanese uranium processing plant, national broadcaster NHK said. The accident involved 16 kg (35 lbs.) of uranium, NHK quoted a plant worker as saying. Five of the injured were believed to be non-workers.
Mainichi Daily News, "3 Workers exposed to
radiation in Tokai; residents evacuated."
Officials said that radiation levels had returned to normal by 12:30pm, almost exactly two hours after the fire that caused the leak broke out.
Makoto Ujihara, head of JCO's Tokyo office, told a news conference that it was very likely that the accident had been the nation's first critical nuclear mishap. Panel members on the task force blamed the cause of the accident on a number of factors. One member blamed the mishap on a blunder by workers. Other panel members called the accident a result of fundamental error.
JCO reported that the fire broke out in a container of "raw uranium." Suggestions that the accident had been critical arose because the fire had a blue flame.
Soon after the blaze erupted, inordinately high levels of radiation were detected and an alarm sounded.
Police said that the three injured workers who fell sick had been transferring a "raw uranium" solution into a container when the fire broke out and they suddenly collapsed.
The Associated Press. "Obuchi admits government
slow in acting on nuke accident."
Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi acknowledged that the government was slow in reacting to the accident. "We must pursue to the cause of the accident and go over it. But more than that right now, we must take all possible measures" to deal with the accident, the premier said.
The Associated Press. "Top MITI official sees
need to review nuclear policy."
Japan's top industry ministry official said that the government will be forced to reconsider its nuclear power policy following the radiation leak. The government will also have to consider establishing stricter requirements for safety standards in nuclear-related operations and conditions in giving licenses to fuel processing businesses. The top official added he will put priority on halting the nuclear fission reaction in the plant and reestablishing safety in the region.
The Associated Press. "Japan experiences worst
nuclear accident ever."
According to the Japan Atomic Energy Research Institute (JAERI), 2-4 millisievert of neutrons per hour-equivalent to 10,000 to 20,000 times the normal level of radiation-was detected on the plant's premises the evening of September 30.
JAERI said results of simple tests on the residents who have evacuated showed several of them might have been exposed to radiation. They are conducting further tests.
At the time of the accident, JCO officials said the workers were carrying out the procedure of dissolving solid uranium oxide in nitrate and transferring the solution to a precipitation tank to allow impurities to settle. Worker normally use up to 2.3 kg of uranium in each procedure to prevent a criticality accident. The amount to be put into the dissolver is controlled manually and by observing the concentration of uranium as the solution is prepared.
CNN, "Japanese nuclear accident injures
Emergency crews were hampered in their efforts to stop the reaction because radiation levels in the area were too high.
Residents were warned to wash themselves thoroughly if they were touched by a light rain that officials said was carrying radiation from the air.
Japan Times. "Tokai Nuclear Accident Goes Critical; Remains out of Control."
The accident remains out of control.
According to Ibaraki police, the workers became ill while they were mixing a uranium compound with a nitric acid solution to produce fuel.
Tokai Municipal Government said that cesium 138, a chemical agent created by nuclear fission, was detected from the ground near the accident site.
By late afternoon on September 30, readings near the plant had climbed as high as 0.87 sievert an hour-about 4000 times the normal .0002 sievert.
CNN, "Thousands told to stay indoors after Japan nuclear accident."
Residents were warned to stay indoors as government officials feared a nuclear reaction was continuing at a damaged uranium reprocessing plant.
"We are now making every effort to stop the reaction," said Toru Nakahara of the Japanese Science and Technology Agency.
Fourteen workers and five residents were treated for radiation exposure.
The reaction was set off when workers mixed too much uranium with nitric acid in a tank, officials from JCO said. The officials said 16 kg (35 lbs) instead of 2.4 kg (5 lbs) were used.
Officials said radiation levels were too high (4000 times higher than normal) to allow operators to get inside the plant.
Nakahara said that when workers are able to get inside the plant, they will attempt to drain water from the tank in the hope of stopping the nuclear reaction. Water, he explained, magnifies the radiation, making the nuclear reaction possible.
More than 300,000 people have been affected by the order to stay indoors.
US officials are working closely with the government of Japan on the response to the accident.
The Associated Press. "TEPCO vehicles with
fission controller leave Fukus."
Vehicles left a Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) plant in Fukushima Prefecture carrying 400 kg of the metalloid element boron from its nuclear plant in Okuma and Futaba in Fukushima to the accident site about 100 km away. (Boron, used in control rods in nuclear reactors, can control and restrain a chain nuclear fission reaction.)
The Associated Press. "Japan experiences worst
nuclear accident ever."
Five people working at a nearby construction site were confirmed to have been exposed and underwent tests.
The Associated Press. "Nuclear Power Policy to
be maintained, agency chief"
The head of Japan's Agency for Natural Resources and Energy said that the agency will continue its policy on promoting nuclear power plants despite the accident. Hirofumi Kawano, director general of the Agency, said there is "no change in the importance of nuclear power plants insecuring stable energy supply and preserving the environment." Kawano said the Agency will make "all-out efforts" to bring the situation at Tokaimura under full control.
2:35 - 4:16 AM
Asahi Shimbun. "16 JCO workers toiled for hours to halt fission."
Efforts begin to remove the coolant water from pipes at the plant. 16 workers were involved in the operation. Two of the workers first went to the accident scene at 2:35 AM and took photographs of the valve for three minutes. The second group arrived at 3:01 AM and spent three minutes there to confirm that cooling pumps were working. The third group finally succeeded in opening the valve, but was not able to confirm that the water could be removed. The fourth group destroyed the valve at 4:16 AM but the water did not flow out of the pipe. The workers injected about 30 liters of boron chemicals, usually used on control rods in nuclear reactors, into the facility in an attempt to control and restrain the chain nuclear reaction.
Reuters. "Japan can handle nuclear accident-IAEA."
The IAEA said it was not involved in assessing the accident at the Japanese nuclear plant, saying that Japan was fully capable of handling the incident.
Hans Meyer, a spokesman for IAEA, said, "We have not been asked to send any safety mission to help them in connection (with this incident). Safety is a national responsibility. We only act on request and we have not been asked to come. Japan is a highly industrial country and they can manage this themselves." Meyer dismissed a report that the danger from the accident was "clearly above 2" on the IAEA scale, saying they have not rated the incident.
Reuters. "Japan army sends chemical unit to
A chemical warfare unit of Japan's Ground Self-Defense Force (GSDF) has been sent to the accident site. More than a dozen GSDF personnel including unit members, senior officials and two chemical-proof vehicles, were dispatched at around midnight.
Kyodo News Agency reports that "As the criticality is continuing, it is impossible to approach the accident site. Under the current conditions, activities are limited."
Reuters. "Japan N-plant has 15,000 times normal radiation."
An Ibaraki Prefecture official stated, "As of late Thursday (30 September) night, 3.1 millisievert of neutrons per hour, or about 15,000 times the normal level of radiation, was detected two kilometers from the accident site."
The Kyodo News Chronology reports that workers released the coolant water by destroying the coolant water pipes when the drainage valves malfunctioned.
Reuters. "U.S., Russia offer nuclear experts to help Japan."
U.S. Energy Secretary Bill Richardson announced that the United States and Russia have formed a team of nuclear experts to help Japan deal with the accident. Richardson said, "The Russians and the United States are ready to send a joint team."
The Associated Press. "Japan-Nuclear
The Tokyo Electric Power Company rushed 880 pounds of sodium borate to the site, but authorities were trying to figure out how to get close enough to dump the powder on the radioactive holding tank and snuff the fission.
Two of the injured workers remained in critical condition and at least 34 other workers may have been contaminated. Five residents were also exposed to radiation.
State officials said they believe a gas containing alpha, beta and gamma radiation leaked from the plant.
IAEA Emergency Response Unit Memo to IAEA Directors. "Tokaimura bulletin no. 6"
The criticality reaction appears to have ceased after around 5:30 AM. Dose rate monitoring points located outside of the site, in the downwind direction, were several times higher than normal. However, no confirmation can be given at this stage of any off-site release.
National Public Radio reports that a fire or explosion may have occurred at the site, which may have blown off the roof of the facility.
NPR also reports that workers are now removing the cooling water from the plant in order to prevent further critical incidents.
The Associated Press. "Number of people exposed
to radiation rise to 24."
The number of people exposed to radioactivity at the uranium processing plant rose to 24 said the Science and Technology Agency.
The victims include three firefighters who were involved in the rescue of the three workers who were hospitalized.
The Associated Press. "Workers risk lives to stop chain reaction."
Thee ninth pair finally succeeded in blowing away the water with gas and some 10 minutes later, the radiation levels in the area started to decrease.
Of the 16 workers, six were exposed to more than 50 millisieverts-the maximum amount a worker engaged in radiation related jobs is permitted to receive in a year. Of the six, one was exposed to 91 millisieverts.
The Kyodo News Chronology reports that the neutron monitor at the plant site showed zero, signifying that a chain reaction had been halted.
The Associated Press. "Japan-Nuclear Accident."
At least 34 workers other than the injured were being examined for possible contamination.
Although no official government reading was released, Ibaraki state officials said radiation levels were about 10 times above normal 1 1/4 miles from the scene.
US Energy Secretary Richardson said the United States and Russia were prepared to send a joint team, but that he was awaiting a formal request for help from Japan.
IAEA Emergency Response Unit Memo to IAEA Directors. "Tokaimura bulletin no. 5"
Gamma and neutron dose rates at the boundary of the facility were reported to be close to background levels. This was the result of the mitigation measure of draining the cooling water from the jacket around the container. In view of the now negligible neutron dose rates, it is being assumed by the regulatory body that the criticality event has been terminated.
The Kyodo News Chronology reports that workers began injecting boron chemicals into the facility to ensure that the nuclear chain reaction had been halted.
The Kyodo News Chronology reports that the government's Nuclear Safety Commission said the nuclear chain reaction had been halted by the release of water coolant from pipes in the plant.
Japan declined an offer by the IAEA to immediately send experts to the accident site. The Japanese notified the agency of its decision saying the dispatch of IAEA experts is unneeded for now.
Reuters. "FOCUS-Japan nuclear reaction halted, govt. ashamed."
Late evening on September 30, officials told local residents that clothes worn during evening rain showers in the area should be washed and locally grown vegetables should not be harvested.
Reuters. "Japan seeks foreign assistance after nuke accident."
Japan has asked several foreign countries, including the United States and Russia, for information on how to deal with nuclear disasters. The Japanese Ministry has also asked Belgium, Britain, France, Germany and Sweden for relevant data in requests made through Japanese embassies in those countries.
IAEA Press ReleaseAccident at the Tokiamura Fuel Conversion Plant
The accident now appears more serious than originally thought. The number of workers at the plant exposed to radiation is now 39. The degree of exposure to the other workers and ten members of the public are being assessed.
Officials have learned that the criticality continued off and on for approximately 17 hours. A provisional rating for the accident using IAEA's International Nuclear Event Scale, which runs from 0 to 7, rates at level 4.
The order to shelter the population residing within 10 km of the site has been lifted. In the meantime, Japanese authorities continue to measure the level of radioactivity in the vicinity of the site.
If requested by Japan, IAEA has offered to send an expert team immediately to the site and stands ready to provide assistance.
Reuters. "Russia considers nuclear cleanup kits for Japan."
Russia was considering a request for nuclear cleanup gear from Japan to help deal with the after-effects of the accident. The issue is being discussed at the Atomic Energy Ministry.
The Associated Press. "Nuclear Power industry frets over loss of trust."
Hiroji Ota, head of the Federation of Electric Power Companies, said, "Only one incident of negligence would help destroy all at once the confidence in the safety of nuclear plants that took a long time and great efforts of our workers to build." He argued for the necessity of maintaining and newly building nuclear power plants, despite the accident.
Ota criticized the risk-management standards of the JCO Company and said the local publicity of the accident was too late and insufficient.
Reuters. "Japan nuclear mishap rating could be upgraded-IAEA."
IAEA spokesman said the "level four" rating assigned by the Japanese government to the accident was provisional and could only be confirmed once the off-site impact had been examined closely.
Reuters. "Japan experts say no danger of
Experts at Japan's Kyoto University said the impact of the accident on the environment would be minimal.
Japanese officials warn nearby residents that well water could be contaminated by radiation, but said tap water from the central public water supply systems was safe to drink. The government also told local farmers not to ship vegetables to markets while experts were taking samples of soil and farm products to check for contamination.
Reuters. "FOCUS-Nuclear watchdog says deaths likely in Japan."
IAEA said of the three workers exposed to the high doses of radiation, "two of the three were so badly irradiated that their changes are very slim and the third is also in bad condition." At least 55 people were exposed to radiation, including 45 workers, three firemen and seven people working at a nearby golf course.
The Associated Press. "Japan-Nuclear
Top government spokesman Hiromu Nonaka announced the lifting of an advisory for residents within six miles (10 km) of the plant to stay indoors, saying the radiation level in the area was back to normal. A 380-yard radius around the plant was still declared off-limits.
A testing center has been established at the center and people are asked to bring the clothing they were wearing at the time of the accident for inspection. Approximately 200 people who have been tested for radiation exposure at the center have come out clean, according to officials from the Japan Nuclear Cycle Development Institute, who conducted the examination. Authorities said the 80 or so people staying in the community center were unlikely to go home before Saturday morning, when they would be given health checks again.
Papers of Record
New York Times. "Japanese Fuel Plant Spews
Radiation After Accident."
A1 Hans Meyer, a spokesman for the IAEA said that the uranium involved was from ore and was being cleaned in a chemical process.
Some American experts said that if, as reported, the tank was filled with uranium in the form of uranyl nitrate, this implied that the uranium had comes not from ore but from uranium being reprocessed after a prior use.
Washington Times. "Nuclear reaction controlled
after radioactive spill."
A spokesman for the JCO Company acknowledged fault and said the accident was a "clear violation of in-house safety rules." Police are investigating whether negligence was involved.
Asahi Shimbun. "Leakage deals blow to nuclear
JCO and its parent company, Sumitomo Metal Mining Co., admit the plant was not prepared to handle a critical mass accident. It also lacked mechanisms to automatically control the flow of nuclear fuel. The plant, which normally uses low concentrations of uranium of around 3-5 percent, failed to adopt safety measures to handle a critical mass accident triggered by the use of high concentration uranium. The concentration level at the time of the accident was about 18.8 percent.
IAEA."Technical Briefing on the Radiation Accident in Japan."
According to the IAEA:
Reuters. "UK dismisses chance of Japan-style nuclear accident."
A spokesman for the British Nuclear Industry Forum, in discussing the difference between nuclear processing in Japan and in Britain, said that the Tokaimura facility was producing "the nuclear fuel component for a fast breeder reactor" and Britain doesn't have one of those.
CNN."Japan Takes Stock After Tokaimura Nuclear Accident"
Japanese government admitted that it did not hold its first emergency meeting until 10 hours after the incident occurred. A Japanese Foreign Ministry spokesman blamed the delay on poor communication between the plant operators and the government.
Plant officials said that the plant was reprocessing uranium for use as fuel in an experimental breeder reactor.
Media sources report that the Japanese government lifts evacuation order for the residents living within a 350-meter radius of the plant. According to Kyodo News, Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiromu Nonaka, confirmed safety in the area and said it was safe to consume farm produce in Ibaraki Prefecture.
Papers of RecordNew York Times. "Nuclear Peril is Over but Japanese Anger Isn't."
Japanese Minister of International Trade and Industry is worried the accident will cause psychological damage to the public. He stated, "I am worried that the unthinkable critical accident may throw cold water on the public trust in nuclear facilities."
Nucnet. "Radiation levels at Nuclear Complex 'Back to Normal'"
Western European and U.S. nuclear fuel companies have said a comparable accident would not be possible in their fuel fabrication facilities. A spokesman for Foratom, the European atomic forum based in Brussels, added "European plants producing uranium fuel, irrespective of the enrichment level used (normally not exceeding 5%), are designed in such a way that they are criticality-proof." A similar statement was issued on behalf of US nuclear fuel companies by the Nuclear Energy Institute.
Papers of Record
Asahi Shimbun. "Police Task force is set up to investigate allegations of negligence at the plant in Tokaimura, Ibaraki."
Ibaraki Prefectural police set up a task force to probe the accident. They intend to lay criminal charges against JCO Co. Ltd. and the company's executives. They are focusing on the possibility of seeking criminal charges of professional negligence resulting in bodily injuries, violation of the law regulating nuclear reactors and related facilities.
Since work crews entered the building October 1st to remove the coolant water from pipes at the plant, radiation levels are still high, preventing workers from returning to the building. Some experts say it may be years before the radiation within the building drops to a safe level. Government officials said they may consider using robots to try to remove contaminated equipment.
New York Times. "Question for Japan: Why Was There So Little Planning For a Potential Nuclear Accident."
In a 'News Analysis,' the New York Times compiled a string of questions:
The Tokaimura uranium refining plant did not have any markings identifying the site as dangerous, its staff lacked proper protective shields, it had no alarm system, and it had never been equipped with a safety manual.
According to the New York Times, the Yomirui Daily reported that regulatory papers filed for the plant during construction did not include contingency plans or a discussion of the possible dangers of a fission reaction.return to table of contents
The Associated Press. "6 exposed to radiation above annual limit."
Six of the eighteen workers who suffered radiation exposure while trying to remove coolant water from the plant's pipes were exposed to a level above the annual limit set by law. According to internal documents of JCO, the worker who suffered the most radiation exposure among the 18 was exposed to about 91 millisieverts in three minutes. The five others who suffered radiation exposure above the limit were exposed to about 56 to 73 millisieverts each, while four others were exposed to more than 40 millisievert.
Normally, in accidents at nuclear power plants, it is possible to control the situation from a remote place, but the processing facility at JCO lacked a structure for handling such a criticality situation.
The Science and Technology Agency has said 67 people were exposed to radiation in the accident.
Japan Times. "JCO Chief Admits Workers were Poorly Trained."
The head of JCO Co.'s uranium processing plant, Kenzo Koshijima, admitted that the firm had never educated its workers regarding criticality or its effects and that portions of the procedures in a manual were skipped "for the sake of efficiency."
Koshijima explained that his workers used stainless steel buckets to melt highly enriched uranium because using the melting tower--required by standard procedure--left residue that in turn raised questions as to the purity of the end product. He added, "It was also true that doing things manually was more effective in getting the job done at times."
The Science and Technology Agency began carrying out emergency inspections on 20 nuclear fuel processing facilities nationwide. In conjunction with inspections of JCO's offices, the agency will visit other facilities that process unsealed plutonium, spent nuclear fuel or uranium of 1 ton or more. Officials will check that operation manuals and records match actual procedures. They will also determine whether facilities are equipped with devices that prevent volatile substances from collecting in single location and if workers are educated on safety procedures in the event of a radiation release.
Over the next two weeks, the agency will visit four other uranium-processing plants, two spent nuclear fuel processing plants and 12 other facilities. Based on these visits, the agency will study whether further guidelines for building processing plants are necessary.
Trade chief Kaoru Yosano pledged that the Ministry of Trade and Industry would do its best to support local small and medium-sized enterprises that suffered from the radiation release through disaster relief loans.
Asahi Shimbun. "Nuclear worker wanted to finish early."
The supervisor at the plant in Tokaimura instructed two other workers to pour uranium exceeding the normal limit to speed up the process.
Police continue to investigate the manual's procedural rules and are trying to establish whether superiors instructed the workers to conduct the dangerous work.
New York Times. "Atom Plant Cut Corners on Safety, Japan is Told."
One of the injured workers said he routinely used procedural shortcuts to speed up production.
Officials at JCO said the accident was a result of the "lack of sufficient expertise" of workers and have denied the allegation they told workers to employ production shortcuts to increase output. However, they have acknowledged that the plant has recently faced intense foreign competition.
BBC. "World: Asia-Pacific Nuclear Accident plant broke rules."
Hideki Motoki, operator of the JCO Company, admitted using illegal standards for uranium processing for the past four years. Among several known violations, the firm changed its procedures manual without government approval in order to speed up processing and allowed workers to transport uranium in stainless steel containers similar to buckets instead of relying on high-tech equipment. It has also been reported that the workers never received proper training.
Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi has heavily criticized the company highlighting the carelessness and poor training of workers, and the lack of proper emergency procedures.
Two of the workers most seriously injured are still awaiting bone marrow transplants.
return to table of contents
Science and Technology chief Akito Arima said authorities should tighten control over the nation's nuclear facilities. In the meantime, he announced the government would "work on measures to prevent similar accidents from occurring in the future and incorporate them into Japan's long-term nuclear program."
Many Japanese residents expressed relief at being able to return home, but said they still feared the invisible threat of radiation and hoped those responsible would be punished.
New York Times. "Urgent Inspections Ordered For Japan's Nuclear Plants."
Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi ordered emergency inspections at all of Japan's nuclear-fuel treatment plants and reactors.
Reuters. "Obuchi to visit Tokaimura on Wednesday."
Prime Minister Obuchi will tour Tokaimura and visit the offices of JCO Company on October 6th in order to hear a full account of the cause of the accident from those in charge. The premier is also expected to explain to local government authorities and residents living near the plant the government's efforts to investigate the accident and how it is dealing with the issue of compensation.
Reuters. "FOCUS-Japan to push nuke plans despite disaster."
Japan's new government announced it would press ahead with the nation's nuclear energy program despite the accident. The government still plans to build another 20 reactors by 2010.
JCO's parent company, Sumitomo Metal Mining Co., said it was unaware of the day-to-day operations at the plant, but nonetheless acknowledged it bore a "social and moral responsibility" for the disaster.
The Associated Press. "Agency inspects 5 nuclear-related facilities."
The Science and Technology Agency continued on-the-spot inspections at seven nuclear power-related facilities. The survey centers on checking operation manuals for the prevention of criticality accidents, records of equipment and the nature of safety training for employees. Inspections are set to cover a total of 20 facilities nationwide.
The Associated Press. "Japan-Nuclear Accident."
Sumitomo Metal Mining Co. announced it would pay damages for the accident. Although it is too early to tell how much compensation claims would amount to, Kyodo News reveals that JCO was insured for up to $9.43 million under a nuclear accident insurance plan.
The Associated Press. "New Science Chief Seeks Review of Nuke Power Regulations."
Newly appointed director general of the Science and Technology Agency, Hirofumi Nakasone, announced the newly expanded coalition government would review existing nuclear power regulations. Nakasone said the Government will check for loopholes in the laws pertinent to the nation's nuclear power industry, in addition to fully probing the causes of the Tokaimura accident.
Mainichi Daily News. "Tokai residents demand nuke compensation."
More than 20 lawyers and officials from JCO and Sumitomo Metal Mining Co. assembled at an office near JR Tokai Station, which opened recently to deal with complaints and queries from residents. According to JCO officials, they received nearly 80 claims within two hours of the office's opening.
One day earlier, the Japan Atomic Energy Insurance Pool (JAEIP), a nuclear-energy underwriter organized by 43 insurance companies, decided to pay up to 1 billion yen to cover damages by the accident. If the amount of damage exceeds 1 billion yen, the company would be responsible to pay the rest, but the government could also cover the cost of compensation pending Diet approval.
Mainichi Daily News. "Majority say scrap nuclear energy."
In a Mainichi telephone poll conducted over the weekend, 70 percent of the public is against nuclear power. Only one in five said they favor the development of nuclear energy. Thirty-one percent called on the government to suspend the development of nuclear energy and to take effective safety measures.
Yomiuri Shimbun. "System to monitor radiation went unused."
The state-run system for predicting the spread of radioactive particles in the environment after a nuclear accident was not used. The System for Prediction of Environmental Emergency Dose Information (SPEEDI), developed by the Japan Atomic Energy Research Institute, was not used because "for budgetary reasons, the facility was not included among the facilities being monitored."
According to the Science and Technology Agency, under the current system, SPEEDI only has topographical data on nuclear plants and nuclear fuel reprocessing plants, which are required to have disaster-prevention measures. In any event, the agency did not ask for SPEEDI data in order to predict dispersal patterns after the nuclear accident.
MSNBC. "Missteps focus of Japan nuke probe."
Firefighters called in to help injured workers say they were never warned of a potential release of radioactivity and went into a dangerous area without protective gear. Firefighters were among those exposed to radiation.
Asahi Shimbun. "Resumption of nuke plant refused."
The Ibaraki Prefecture has decided not to give the Japan Nuclear Cycle Development Institute the go ahead to resume operations at a nuclear fuel reprocessing plant in the same village.
JNC's predecessor, Power Reactor and Nuclear Fuel Development Corp. (Donen) suspended operations of its nuclear fuel reprocessing plant in Tokaimura in March 1997, after a fire and explosion occurred. After installing stricter safety measures, Donen hoped to resume operations after approval from local governments. The vote was scheduled for 3 PM September 30, but was canceled due to the accident. Now, Tokaimura Mayor Tatsuya Murakami said: "The feelings of the people had been moving toward the acceptance of the resumption. But their ideas have changed 180 degrees. I canceled the safety declaration and have no intention to approve the resumption."
Asahi Shimbun. "Police Search JCO office, plant."
A full-scale search for evidence that the JCO Company illegally altered uranium processing procedures began at 8:30 AM at the JCO head office in Tokyo.
At the Tokai plant, investigators searched office facilities wearing radiation monitors and protective suits in case there were still dangerous levels of radiation in the plant.
Mainichi Daily News. "Fate of Tokai plant being mulled."
Resident demands forced the Ibaraki Prefectural Government to shut down the plant operated by JCO Company. The Prefectural Government stated it is up to JCO to clean up the contaminated site, but a company spokesman said there's nothing that JCO can do until it learns the extent of the damage.
The Tokai Municipal Government and local assembly members agree that JCO Co. should be held responsible and clean up the site in a timely manner.
In the meantime, JCO has covered the contaminated area with bags containing a chemical that prevents radiation from escaping. It also checks to make sure that no holes or gaps appear in the sheet.
Reuters. "Japan Nuke Village Wants Action, Not Just Words"
Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi renewed his pledge to tighten Japan's nuclear energy safeguards during a visit to the Tokaimura plant. He tried to soothe residents fears about radiation exposure to the town's local produce by eating a meal of locally grown vegetables and drinking local well water.
The Science and Technology Agency has decided to revoke the business license of JCO Co. due to the "seriousness of the accident," Kyodo News reported.
Japan Times. "Police raid Tokai plant; agency revokes license."
The Science and Technology Agency decided to revoke JCO's business license after confirming that the processing plant bypassed government procedures. The action will be the nation's first revocation of a nuclear plant's business license. The measure will take place after radioactive substances are removed from the facility and the plant has been safety secured.
Yomiuri Shimbun, "Agency to up N-accident rating to 5"
The Science and Technology Agency plans to raise the rating of the nuclear accident that occurred in the Tokaimura uranium-processing plant to level 5 on the International Nuclear Event Scale (INES) of seven. The agency had provisionally rated the accident at level 4, which implies limited risk of radiological contamination outside the facility.
However, after the agency discovered that JCO used an illegal manual for processing nuclear fuel and that workers were not following the manual, as well as finding that the operator had repeatedly neglected safety procedures, they decided to review the rating. A rating of level 5 on the INES implies considerable risk to areas outside the facility.
STA will consult with outside experts to review the provisional rating before making an official decision, and then report to the IAEA.
Yomiuri Shimbun, "Research lab detects high neutron levels"
Shortly after the Tokaimura criticality incident, neutron levels 10 to 100 times the normal level were detected at a JAERI laboratory about 2 km from the facility where the incident took place.
According to the officials, at 10:37 a.m. on Sept. 30, two minutes after the incident, the neutron level detected by one of the two radiation monitors in the institute's compound was registering 0.26 microsieverts per hour, well above normal levels, but it soon returned to normal.
Officials said the lab initially ignored the unusual abnormal readings since the monitors occasionally detect abnormally high levels of radiation from other sources, such as electricity poles or strong sunlight. A study later confirmed that the neutrons were created by nuclear fission of uranium.
The officials said that the neutron levels were too low to pose a health risk, and that topography could be the reason that the other monitor in the compound did not detect any neutrons. The institute is analyzing the data and studying how far the neutrons traveled, to determine the scope of the criticality incident, the officials said.
Reuters,"Japan Underestimated Nuke Exposure - Greenpeace"
People living within 500 meters of the JCO uranium plant where the criticality event were exposed to radiation, according to Greenpeace.
"We believe that the number of victims radiated from the incident is probably much higher than the official figure released by the government .. we believe up to several hundred" said one Greenpeace spokesman.
Greenpeace also said that it had found evidence of radioactive fallout and high radiation levels on October 3 - 24 hours after the government had given the all clear - on a public road near the plant where the accident occurred.
Yomiuri Shimbun, "Panel to test residents for radiation"
The Science and Technology Agency has decided to establish a committee of experts to examine the extent to which residents living near the accident site were exposed to radiation. The committee will include experts from the agency's National Institute of Radiological Sciences and the Japan Atomic Energy Research Institute.
The agency has previously revealed that 49 people, including JCO employees, were exposed to radiation in the accident. However, it plans to conduct a full-scale survey to examine the extent of the exposure and analyze its possible effects, as it is highly likely that more residents were exposed.
The activities of residents who live in the vicinity of the facility immediately after the accident are not known, the officials said, adding that they "cannot deny the possibility of exposure to more people."
Officials said that the committee will: locate other possible victims of the accident; examine the types and amount of radiation and materials generated, by studying nuclear fission reaction records from the time of the accident; calculate how far radioactive materials were dispersed using wind direction data and other meteorological information from the time of the accident; and check the effects of radiation exposure on the health of those exposed.
Asahi Shimbun,"JCO officials admit lack of training"
JCO Co. officials admitted that their employees had not been given any training on recognizing or dealing with radioactive material at critical mass. While JCO its employees to avoid causing a critical mass, it did not tell them what critical mass is or what happens when it is reached. One JCO executive said that when the three employees saw the "pale glow" that signifies criticality, they may not have been aware that critical mass had been achieved. Moreover, the JCO executives acknowledged that they had not been taught to identify the symptoms of people exposed to radiation.
The plant continued to use "hidden" manuals on the uranium handling procedures for 10 years, even though supervisors knew the procedures described were illegal. The JCO plant has no system to warn of critical mass. Employees at the plant also were found to have been slow to seek safety. One of the three employees involved in the procedures that led to criticality told police he had no idea the work was so dangerous, police have said.
Asahi Shimbun also determined that in the course of work from September 29 through September 30, the amount of uranium being handled reached the point of critical mass on September 29, although it did not reach the criticality condition on that day.
On September 29, the three workers poured four buckets of the uranium solution into a precipitation tank. At that time, 9.2 kilograms of uranium compound was involved, or 1.2 kilograms above the amount considered sufficient to result in criticality, although a criticality did not happen at the time. Criticality resulted on September 30, as the workers were pouring in the remaining three buckets of uranium compound.
Japan Times, "Police raid Tokai plant; agency revokes license"
Police on Wednesday raided the headquarters of JCO Co. in Tokyo and its nuclear fuel processing plant in Tokai, Ibaraki Prefecture.
Police are investigating the plant on suspicion of professional negligence and for evidence that the unit of Sumitomo Metal Mining Co. violated nuclear power plant regulations. It was the first raid on a firm suspected of professional negligence leading to a nuclear accident.
The Science and Technology Agency the same day decided to revoke JCO's business license after confirming that the processing plant bypassed government procedures. The action -- the heaviest administrative penalty that can be taken -- will be the nation's first revocation of a nuclear plant's business license. The measure will take place after radioactive substances are removed from the facility and the plant has been safely secured.
Yomiuri Shimbun, "JCO set to lose license"
The Science and Technology Agency obtained facility operating records and copies of the unauthorized operations manual in an on-the-spot inspection. Documents showed that the JCO knowingly followed illegal procedures, according to the agency.
The agency plans to inspect the contaminated building where the accident occurred, which has been closed since the accident, as early as next week. Inspectors will also assess damage done to the nuclear fuel-processing equipment, measure the amount of uranium solution left in the sedimentation tank and analyze nuclear-fission compounds. The agency also will check whether any radioactive substances could leak out of the facility.
Yomiuri Shimbun, "Police search JCO plant, office over N-accident"
About 150 investigators entered the plant and the head office in Minato Ward, Tokyo, shortly after 8:30 AM to search for evidence in connection with allegations that the company violated a law regulating nuclear reactors and related facilities. The firm is also suspected of professional negligence resulting in injury. The investigators seized about 1,000 items, including the log detailing operations carried out at the building where the accident occurred.
A JCO executive was quoted as telling police, "We approved the revision to the [operating] manual without [government] authorization. According to work records, staff had used the buckets illegally for seven or eight years."
As a result, police search warrants named JCO and JCO President Hiroharu Kitani as suspects in the violation of the law regulating nuclear reactors and related facilities. However, police did not name individuals suspected of professional negligence resulting in injury, since the extent to which the three plant workers were responsible for the accident has yet to be established.
Asahi Shimbun, "Nuke safety faces review"
The Nuclear Safety Commission will review safety standards for uranium processing facilities and introduce measures to deal with any critical reaction accident at nuclear facilities. Among the new steps being considered are the installation of early-warning mechanisms and an automatic system to shut down critical reactions.
Under current standards, facilities deemed unlikely to cause nuclear accidents are not required to adopt procedures to stop critical reactions. No mechanisms were in place to stop the critical reaction at the JCO facility last week where a chain reaction continued for about 20 hours.
Plants that handle uranium in concentrations exceeding 5 percent are not required to have in place procedures for dealing with nuclear accidents as long as three conditions are in place: individual equipment is designed to avoid a state of criticality; the combined equipment structure is also designed to avoid a critical state; and measures are in place to prevent a critical state from being reached even if errors in procedures occur. The JCO plant was judged to have met the three conditions, and therefore did not have any equipment in place to stop the nuclear accident.
Yomiuri Shimbun, "Obuchi eager to see new law enacted"
Kyodo News reports that Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi said on October 6 that he would seek to enact new legislation to deal with nuclear disasters during the upcoming extraordinary Diet session.
"We will consider further legal arrangements, including enacting a special law on nuclear disaster prevention," Obuchi was quoted as saying. The prime minister said the government would also reconsider the existing Disaster Measures Basic Law so as to enable it to fully cope with accidents at nuclear-related facilities, government officials said.
Obuchi told reporters that he instructed the heads of the International Trade and Industry Ministry and the Science and Technology Agency to submit a bill on nuclear-related disasters to the Diet during the extraordinary session expected to convene in early November. Upon Obuchi's instruction, the agency later in the day set up a nuclear safety and disaster prevention task force within the agency with the cooperation of MITI to study new legislation.
Japan Times. "Cabinet Interview: Trust in nuclear energy Nakasone's goal."
New Science and Technology Agency chief Hirofumi Nakasone says his first job is to regain the Japanese public's trust in nuclear power. Nakasone said the nation's nuclear industry must strictly educate plant workers about the potential dangers and importance of their jobs.
Nakasone announced Government plans to establish a new law on nuclear disaster prevention and revise the existing law on nuclear regulations to improve safety standards at nuclear facilities. They agency will require nuclear fuel plants to undergo regular safety inspections and submit reports on their operations to the government. Such facilities will also be required to have a neutron-absorbing device installed to stop a nuclear fission chain reaction, as well as being highly airtight to prevent radiation from leaking outside.
Japan Times. "Agency reports Tokai damage but revelations continue."
The Science and Technology Agency informed the IAEA that the exterior of the roof of the uranium-processing plant is not damaged. The Agency said, "While there may be some cracks, since we have not been able to enter the site, the plant does not appear to be destroyed from the outside." It added that it was not sure how much radiation may have escaped from the building.
PRNewswire. "U.S. Nuclear Energy Industry Has Initiated Review."
The Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI) is coordinating an U.S. industry review to examine the causes of and responses to the Tokaimura accident and to apply lessons learned from the review to U.S. facilities. The industry wide review will complement evaluations that U.S. nuclear fuel facilities typically perform in response to an event, such as occurred in Japan.
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Kyodo News. "U.S. expert arrives to help treat nuke accident victims"
Dr. Robert Gale, an expert on the treatment of victims of radiation sickness, arrived in Japan to cooperate with Japanese doctors in the treatment of the three seriously injured workers from the accident. Gale is a professor at the University of California, Los Angeles.
Asahi Shimbun. "Greenpeace urges more health checks."
Greenpeace International officials conducted soil, plant and salt sample tests near the Tokaimura plant three days after the accident and found high levels of neutron radiation. Greenpeace also detected high levels of iodine 131 and iodine 133 around the plant, indicating that there had been radioactive fallout in the form of gas, rather than radioactive particles.
Washington Post. "Nuclear Spill May be Worse than Reported."
The Japanese Government has decided to expand its examination of people who may have been exposed to radiation near the plant. To date, 63 people have been identified as having been exposed.
The Associated Press. "Sumitomo Metal Mining to pull out of nuke fuel business."
Kyodo News reports that Sumitomo Metal Mining Company is considering pulling out of the nuclear fuel business following Japan's nuclear accident. The move reflects the likelihood that the Science and Technology Agency will revoke JCO's license to process nuclear fuel.
CNN. "Japan may upgrade nuclear accident after probe."
Science and Technology Agency Chief Hiromu Nakasone said Japan would accept the IAEA's offer to help probe the cause of the accident in a bid to secure "transparency" and international trust in Japan's nuclear program.
Kyodo News reports that IAEA will send three experts early next week to visit the plant and question officials from the municipal government and JCO Company. The IAEA team also plans to hear from the National Institute of Radiological Science in Chiba.
The Associated Press. "Nuclear accident site was shut down"
The Science and Technology Agency revealed it had not inspected the plant for about five and a half years until April last year. Since April, an agency inspector inspected the plant about once a month, although only twice inside the building where the accident occurred. Both times the building was not in operation.
The 26-member Nuclear Safety Commission investigative committee aims to compile a proposal to prevent the recurrence of a similar accident by the end of this year.
JCO Company announced that coolant water removed from the building during the hours after the accident had drained into the soil. The leak was caused by a broken outdoor pipe. JCO is currently analyzing soil samples to check for possible contamination.
The Associated Press. "Processing plant closed for 14 months before accident."
The three workers most seriously injured in the criticality accident had not worked in the processing plant where the accident occurred for more than year because it was closed. The building was not in operation from June last year through to early September this year, during which time the three workers were tasked with the disposal of waste in a different building.
The Associated Press. "Japan-Nuclear Accident"
Toshiki Takagi, president of the Metal Mining Agency and Moriki Aoyagi, president of Sumitomo Metal Mining Company, have both resigned. Takagi served as president of JCO Company from June 1995 until June this year, Kyodo News reported. Takagi quit his job explaining he feels a "strong moral responsibility" as former president of JCO. Aoyagi reportedly said he wants to concentrate on dealing with the aftermath of the nuclear accident.
The Associated Press. "U.S. to send nuclear experts to Tokaimura."
U.S. Secretary of Energy Richardson said his department will send three nuclear experts to Japan later this month to learn firsthand about the nuclear accident. The three experts, whose specialties are in nuclear criticality, process chemistry and safety management, will travel to Tokaimura and exchange views with officials of Japan's Science and Technology Agency.
The Associated Press. "Fans discharged air from Tokaimura plant for 12 days."
Ventilators at the plant expelled irradiated air for 12 straight days until Monday, October 11. JCO Co. officials detected iodine 131 emissions with a concentration higher than that allowed by law coming from the affected building from Thursday to Saturday. They turned off the building's ventilators Monday afternoon and sealed all its doors and windows.
A company official said JCO found no need to turn off the ventilators immediately after the accident because soil and air samples from around the building contained only low levels of radiation.
Defense News. "Japanese to Beef up NBC Defense After Tokai Fiasco."
In its October 18 - 23 issue, published on October 11, Defense News reports that the Japanese Defense Agency (JCA) has decided to dramatically upgrade the Army's nuclear, biological and chemical defenses. According to Army officials, the concern is that the military is unprepared to handle any deliberate nuclear accident or contamination caused by terrorists or enemy attack.
This upgrade stems from the inability of defense forces to adequately deal with the September 30 accident. The Army's NBC warfare unit discovered their protective gear and special vehicles were insufficient to protect against some radiation byproducts, including neutrons and gamma rays. Military leaders were then forced to prohibit the soldiers from deploying to the contaminated plant site itself.
Defense Minister Hosei Norota told reporters the JDA intends to research and study radioactive protective gear in the event of a nuclear attack. JDA boosted its 2000 budget request for NBC equipment fivefold from this year.
Reuters. "China inspects nuclear plants after Japan leak."
China has ordered its four nuclear plants to inspect equipment, operations and employees. The China Daily quoted Cong Huiling, director of the China National Nuclear Corporation as saying, "Improving management techniques is the key lesson China should learn from the Japan accident."
IAEA Press Release. "Fact-Finding Team of Experts from the IAEA leaves Today for Japan."
A team of three nuclear safety specialists from IAEA left for Japan to ascertain the facts relating to the criticality accident. Between October 13-15 the team will visit both Tokyo and Tokaimura. The specialists will prepare an internal report on their findings once they return to Vienna. Consultations are underway on the separate question of a possible review, within the framework of the IAEA, at a later stage of the outcome of the overall investigation of the accident and the lessons to be learned.
The Associated Press. "Official denies 'amakudari' resulted in failed checks."
Director General of the Science and Technology Agency's (STA) Nuclear Safety Bureau, Kaoru Mamiya, dismissed claims that regulators failed to uncover illegal procedures at Tokaimura because they had ties with the plant operator. In a news conference, Mamiya reiterated that "amakudari" the practice of retired bureaucrats taking posts in firms they used to regulate was not a factor behind the failure of inspectors to unearth irregularities.
The Associated Press. "No residents suffer from radiation damage in Tokai."
The Ibaraki prefectural government declared that no one living or working near the site during the September 30 accident suffered from radiation-related injuries. This announcement follows the local government's order that approximately 1,800 people living or working in a 500-meter radius from the plant undergo blood examinations.
The Associated Press. "Japan-Nuclear Accident."
Kaoru Mamiya, Director General of the Science and Technology Agency's nuclear safety bureau, said private companies running nuclear facilities bear responsibility for preventing accidents. Mamiya also said that nuclear operators have "a duty to follow government operating guidelines and it's not the government's fault when companies fail to meet those guidelines."
Mamiya said the root cause of the accident was JCO's failure to follow the rules and added a review of the legal framework of nuclear regulation might be in order.
A full report analyzing the causes of the accident will be prepared by the commission for nuclear safety and is expected by the end of the year.
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The Associated Press. "Prompt criticality may have set off Tokaimura accident."
Experts say the accident might have been triggered by a phenomenon called "prompt criticality," a rapid nuclear fission reaction often found in nuclear explosions. Prompt criticality occurs when nuclear fission energy is released in one 1,000th of a second and is believed impossible to control. The Associated Press reports that significant proof demonstrating the possible occurrence of prompt criticality is neutron radiation data gathered by a monitoring station in the immediate surroundings of the plant. The levels rose dozens of times above normal levels. Experts claim that because the uranium that triggered the accident was in the form of a solution, the state of prompt criticality passed into delayed criticality with an expansion in the solution shortly after nuclear fission.
The Associated Press. "3 IAEA experts arrive in Japan to inspect Tokaimura."
3 officials from the IAEA arrived in Japan in order to begin their investigation of the accident. Their itinerary is as follows. October 14, the experts plan to question local government officials in Ibaraki Prefecture about how they tried to prevent people from being exposed to radiation. On October 15, they will visit the accident site and question company workers on how the self-sustaining nuclear reaction began. October 16, the three will question medics at the University of Tokyo and at the National Institute of Radiological Sciences in Chiba, where the three most critical JCO workers were hospitalized.
The Associated Press. "Hurried work may have caused worst nuclear accident."
According to JCO, the radiation levels in the air outside the observation area surrounding the Tokaimura complex have declined since the conversion building's ventilators were turned off. The concentration of iodine 131 has fallen to 1.2 times the limit.
The new law would place more responsibility with the central government by creating a central government-led joint task force and the formation of an emergency-response unit consisting of nuclear experts. A plan to introduce coordinated disaster drills between the state, local governments, and operators of nuclear facilities is also on the bill.
The Associated Press. "3 US nuclear experts to visit Japan next week."
Three nuclear experts from the US Department of Energy (DOE) will visit Japan October 18 and 19 to probe the nuclear accident at Tokaimura. The team will be led by Frank McCoy, the deputy manager of DOE's Savannah River Operations Office and an expert on integrated safety management. The other two are Leroy Lewis, a chemist at the department's lab in Idaho, and Thomas McLaughlin, a specialist in criticality at Los Alamos laboratory.
Kyodo News. "No training given for criticality accident: official."
The plant operator at Tokaimura confirmed the company had not been given any training for possible criticality accidents involving self-sustained nuclear chain reactions. He stated, "We had been led to believe that criticality would never happen."
Asahi Shimbun. "Sloppy nuke procedure repeated."
JCO Co. workers at Tokaimura plant used buckets to pour uranium solution directly into a settling tank on at least one other occasion before the September 30 accident. JCO officials also admitted they failed to use a containing tower, a narrow structure to prevent uranium from reaching criticality, in order to speed up production.
The JCO deputy manager, who was attending the fuel production the day of the accident, told police the tank was equipped with a mixer so the process would finish faster. Investigations found that the refining process was already completed 10 days ahead of schedule. The morning of the accident, the deputy manager had reported to colleagues that a product sample would be ready for inspection that afternoon. Police sources said authorities suspect the deputy manager might have sped up the procedure in an attempt to produce the fuel sample on schedule. Apparently, workers aimed to complete the work, which takes about three hours under normal procedures, within 30 minutes.
Kyodo News. "Japan-US venture to import nuke fuel after JCO."
Japan Nuclear Fuel Co. (JNF), a Japanese-US nuclear fuel manufacturing joint venture, will terminate its purchases of uranium dioxide from JCO Co. and make up for them with imports. JNF, set up by Toshiba Corp., Hitachi Ltd. and General Electric Co. of the United States, up to now has purchased about half of its uranium dioxide needs from JCO and the remainder from a JNF-GE joint venture. Since JCO has stopped supplying uranium dioxide, JNF will now increase its purchases from the JNF-GE joint venture while looking for other suppliers abroad.
Experts said dose estimates in Sieverts (rems) are inappropriate for the Tokai workers, since Sieverts express dose equivalents. Grays, which express absorbed dose, are used to measure high doses that produce immediate effects. Experts at France's Institute of Protection and Nuclear Safety (IPSN) said the top dose was probably closer to 6 Grays.
In a provisional analysis, IPSN experts calculated that the dose from the "cloud" of short-lived fission products that escaped from the Tokai facility was in a range of 0.8-4.8 millisievert, higher than that from direct irradiation. IPSN management has cautioned, however that the estimates are based on incomplete information.
Nucleonics Week. "Competition, Regulatory Neglect Viewed as Possible Tokai Causes."
Multiple probes are underway at several levels of the Japanese government. Initial findings are placing blame on competition-induced cutbacks and regulatory neglect. According to sources close to the criminal investigation, JCO workers have told police that layoffs to meet overseas competition in uranium conversion are responsible for their colleagues' decision to skip vital safety procedures. JCO workers decided it was more "efficient" to mix the uranium in the precipitation tank directly, rather than directing it first through the special containers where U mass would be measured and limited. Workers have also reportedly told investigators that the cutbacks forced everyone to take on more responsibilities and meet tighter schedules.
In other investigations at central government levels, a senior Japanese nuclear safety expert said the Tokai accident is casting a harsh spotlight on STA's regulatory sight failures. Unlike the Ministry of International Trade and Industry, which regulates nuclear power facilities, STA has habitually paid little or no attention to nuclear fuel cycle facilities once operating licenses have been issued. In addition, Kyodo News reports STA has kept no resident inspectors at fuel cycle plants, has not required periodic safety reviews, has not established a system for qualifying shift supervisors, and has prepared no severe accident management guidelines or guidance for probabilistic safety analyses.
JCO's criticality prevention measures were based only on geometry of containers and limitation of the uranyl nitrate flow.
Nucleonics Week. "IAEA Team at Tokai This Week to Probe Criticality Accident"
The IAEA will return to Vienna over the weekend to prepare an internal report and separate "consultations" are under way on the possibility of a later review of the overall accident investigation and lessons to be learned.
STA has not revised the provisional Level 4 rating of the accident. An IAEA source said that if STA upgrades the Tokai event to Level 5, it won't be because of its off-site impact, but rather because of the "aggravating factor of JCO's appalling lack of safety culture."
IPSN experts say the fission products released from the vat of uranyl nitrate were all short-lived isotopes, so the area does not have the problem of long-term contamination.
Nucleonics Week. "Prefectures Begin to Weigh in Aftermath of Tokai Accident"
The Japanese judiciary is now weighting whether to prosecute the management of JCO Co., Ltd.
Japanese utilities, including Chubu Electric Power Co., Japan's third-biggest generator, are now scrambling to line up conversion services from vendors in the US and elsewhere. According to Japanese officials, when the accident occurred JCO had 40%-45% of the conversion market in Japan.
While top utility management has attempted to play down the impact of the Tokai accident, sources maintain that Kyushu Electric Power Co. is bracing for an interruption to its plans to load mixed-oxide fuel (MOX) at Genkai-3, which is among the next Japanese LWRs scheduled to introduce plutonium fuels. Likewise, political leaders in central Japan said they want at least a one-year delay in introducing MOX at Tepco's Kashiwazaki-Kariws BWRs as a result of the accident.
Prospects of restart of the reprocessing plant at Tokaimura are remote. Officials said that, unless another campaign of reprocessing Japanese LWR spent fuel gets under way at Tokai, spent fuel from the Fugen thermal reactor cannot be stored in spent fuel ponds at Tokai. It is now anticipated that Fugen may have to be shut down in early 2000.return to table of contents
Reuters. "FOCUS-IAEA at Japan nuke site, victim count raised."
Science and Technology Agency (STA) denies Japan was slow to accept overseas offers of help to probe the accident. Kaoru Mamiya, Director-General of STA nuclear safety bureau said, "We welcome missions from various countries but the site was confused, the actual building was dangerous and the relevant officials were occupied with investigating."
Kyodo News. "Gov't Report raises radiation victim total to 69"
According to a Science and Technology report, twenty more people were found to have been exposed to radiation in the accident, bringing the total to 69. The 20 new readings came from badges the workers were to monitor radiation levels, the report said. Investigators only belatedly checked the badges. At the time of the accident, 32 employees were working in some of the restricted areas at the plant. Eight were not wearing their portable radiation gauges.
JCO President Hiroharu Kitani admits he had been recently pressed to cut running costs because of decreasing orders.
The Associated Press. "Japan-Nuclear Accident"
JCO Co. said that a small amount of radiation was still leaking from the plant, although it does not pose a health risk to nearby residents.
The Associated Press (Kyodo). "Committee on Tokaimura accident inspects plant."
A Nuclear Safety Commission investigative committee inspected the Tokaimura plant for the first time since the September 30 accident. Hiroyuki Yoshikawa, head of the investigative committee, along with 16 other committee members and two Nuclear Safety Commission officials inspected the grounds of the plant. Yoshikawa stated, "We want to determine the cause by looking at the situations surrounding the accident from various perspectives. The purpose is to prevent a reoccurrence."
Reuters. "Japan nuclear victim's blood near normal."
The white blood cell count of one of the Japanese workers most critically injured has approached normal levels, says U.S. doctor Robert Gale, although it is still too early to make predictions on his survival. A number of difficulties still remain including radiation burns to his skin and lung damage.
The Associated Press. "Nuclear accident costs Tokaimura firms 300 million yen."
The estimated damage to businesses in Tokaimura, Ibaraki Prefecture, stands at approximately 300 million yen, according to a survey released by a local Japanese business group. The figure represents estimated losses incurred by 251 out of 740 member firms of the Tokaimura Society of Commerce and Industry in a 13-day period beginning the day of the accident. The group said it plans to ask its member firms to give one-month estimates of losses so that it can seek compensation from JCO Co.
The Associated Press. "Agency may remove uranium solution from JCO plant."
A Science and Technology Agency task force assigned to investigate the accident plans to extract uranium solution from a precipitation tank in a conversion building at the facility. Officials will conduct the procedure Wednesday, October 20. The solution will be analyzed by the Japan Atomic Energy Research Institute in order to find out more about its effects on human health and the environment, and how best to dispose of it. The removal is part of a series of on-the-spot inspections being undertaken by the agency.
Kyodo News reports officials will use a pipe to extract the solution from the top part of the tank. The uranium solution will then be mixed to make the contents more uniform before 50 cubic centimeters of it are extracted using a pump.
Mainichi Daily News. "Radiation may have spread further than expected."
In a recent survey conducted by the Japan Atomic Energy Research Institute, data shows that there had been high levels of radiation recorded in an area about 400 meters away from the JCO Co. plant, some 50 meters further than the area from which residents were evacuated in the wake of the accident. Union officials fear that the radiation, which they believe was carried by neutron waves, may have given residents (those who were not evacuated) a dose of radiation exceeding accepted safe annual levels.
The union measured radiation levels at 13 points located from 80 meters to 540 meters from the plant where the accident occurred. The measurements were conducted for roughly 18 hours that the plant was emitting radioactive materials. The union measured neutron and gamma ray levels. However, since the union did not initially intend to measure neutron levels and did not have the proper equipment, they had to estimate how much was being emitted for the first eight hours. Officials are worried that even though the 400-meter mark was theoretically safe in terms of gamma radiation, the union estimates that neutron ray levels may have been higher.
NuclearFuel. "Burden of Plutonium Use in Japan Now to be Shouldered by LWR Owners."
In the wake of the September 30 accident, it is now expected that plutonium use in Japan will be halted for some time, except for pending initial loadings of a small amount of mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel at two reactors which gained licenses and local approval before the accident.
Unless the Joyo pilot fast breeder reactor (FBR) obtains conversion services and fabricated fuel from alternative sources, Japanese officials said, the burden of working off Japan's plutonium inventory will for several years at least shift onto utilities. The closure of Fugen will be an indirect consequence of the accident at Tokai. Without Fugen on line, Japan might need between 100-200 kg less plutonium in the coming year that had been originally planned.
Before the accident, the Japan Nuclear Cycle Development Institute had planned to restart Tokai and reprocess LWR fuel. In total, about 90 metric tons of heavy metal in spent fuel was to be reprocessed at Tokai over the next 18 months.return to table of contents
The Japan Times. "JCO President apologizes to lawmakers."
Hiroharu Kitani, President of JCO Co., appeared before Diet members and repeatedly apologized for the nuclear accident, saying "I am terribly sorry for causing such a serious accident. It should never have happened. I am sorry that the incident has adversely affected the nation's efforts to further promote the use of nuclear energy." He also conceded that management was at fault for allowing such unauthorized procedures to take place.
At the meeting, government-level responsibility for the accident was also discussed. STA will set up a committee to settle disputes concerning damage claims related to nuclear power. About 400 farming families in Tokai and a local farm products company have called on JCO to pay 686 million yen in compensation. Most of them grow sweet potatoes to make hoshi-imo, one of the region's specialty foods. Tokaimura farmers annually produce about 900 million yen worth of hoshi-imo, but after the accident, they began receiving order cancellations from consumers who feared the vegetables were contaminated with radiation.
The Associated Press. The Japanese Diet will convene an extra session on Oct. 29 for a 48-day run. During the session, the government will seek to enact a law to improve nuclear safety in the wake of the accident at Tokaimura.
The Associated Press. "Drafting of illegal manual reported to JCO head."
The head of a facility which JCO Co. was operating in Tokaimura received a report on the completion of an illegal uranium-handling manual, police said. The report was given orally by a 60-year-old official in charge of the processing division of the uranium processing plant. Police investigators believe the work to draft the manual, which described procedures deviating from government-authorized processing methods, was approved by the plant chief at the time and that such neglect contributed to the September 30 accident.
In 1996, JCO drafted the illegal manual that allowed the abbreviation of uranium-processing procedures through the use of the buckets. Police say the processing division chief has admitted knowing about the risks involved in the use of the stainless steel containers, particularly the possibility of exceeding the maximum amount of uranium allowed to be processed at one time. The JCO plant chief had then already resigned from the company. He was asked by his new employers to resign after the details of the accident became known.
Mainichi Daily News. "Tokai leak killing tourism in Ibaraki."
Many ports famous for the anglerfish delicacy have been hard-hit by deteriorating tourism in the fallout from the accident. Hirakata and another town in the Ibaraki Prefecture, which attracts some 20,000 tourists from other prefectures between March and November each year, have so far suffered a more than 70% decline in visitors.
The Associated Press. "Insurance payment for 3 irradiated workers requested."
Three workers who were irradiated in the accident last month applied for workers' accident compensation insurance. Under the Labor Standards Law, the insurance can be paid if applicants were exposed to more than 0.25 sievert of radiation, enough to cause acute radiation poisoning. The exposed dose of the three is estimated to be well beyond that level, ranging from 3 to 17 Svs, according to the STA's National Institute of Radiological Sciences in Chiba. A JCO official apologized to the three for their injuries and said the company made the application because it recognizes its responsibility for the injuries.
The Associated Press. "Uranium solution collected from Tokaimura plant."
Uranium solution samples collected from the nuclear fuel processing plant in Tokaimura were sent to a research center of the Japan Atomic Energy Research Institute. 15 employees of JCO and its parent company, Sumitomo Metal Mining, Co., collected 50 milliliters of the solution in a glass bottle house in a lead box. JCO workers rehearsed the operation in advance using a special mock tank in an effort to perform the procedure in the radiation-contaminated plant as quickly as possible.
The Yomiuri Shimbun. "JCO gave authorities inadequate documents."
According to sources, in November 1983 JCO failed to mention in documents submitted to STA for safety approval the final procedure in the production of nitric acid solution containing uranium. The agency and the Nuclear Safety Commission plan to question JCO on this revelation, since neither were apparently aware that JCO did not submit complete documents.
The agency and commission later studied the company's safety approval application, in accordance with the law regulating nuclear reactors and facilities. Despite the fact the company had submitted incomplete documents, however, the two bodies concluded that adequate steps were being taken to prevent criticality accidents. An official of the agency's Nuclear Materials Regulation Division said, "The criticality accident might have been prevented if (the agency and commission) had pointed out that the documents made no mention of the final procedure of producing the uranium solution."
Asahi Shimbun. "Uranium shortcuts had OK"
Since the accident investigators have been questioning workers at the plant. As a result, it has been established that five JCO workers, rotating in three-man shifts, had since September 10 been preparing to process uranium solution to be used as fuel at the Joyo FBR. A deputy chief in the processing division told police that a superior had approved the uranium processing shortcuts.
The Associated Press. "Accident to hike Japan's N. fuel processing abroad."
Japan will double its dependency on the processing of nuclear fuel abroad to more than 70% in the wake of the accident. The rise will occur after the operating license for JCO Co. is revoked, as is widely expected. This will effectively reverse the current ratio of nearly 70% of nuclear fuel processing being done domestically in line with government policy.
With JCO's termination, Japanese electric power companies that run nuclear power plants are likely to consign the task of processing to foreign plants, as Japan will be left with only one nuclear processing firm-Mitsubishi Nuclear Fuel Co. The amount of uranium fuel used annually at nuclear power plants in Japan is nearly 900 tons. Mitsubishi Nuclear Fuel processes more than 200 tons of fuel per year for use in pressurized water nuclear power reactors, while the remaining 300 tons have been processed at plants in the US, Germany and other countries.return to table of contents
Kyodo News. "Main Points set for Nuclear Disaster Prevention law."
The Science and Technology Agency (STA) and the Ministry of International Trade and Industry (MITI) agreed on the main points for new legislation aimed at strengthening measures to deal with and prevent nuclear disasters. STA and MITI decided on having a crisis management headquarters, led by the prime minister, established immediately after a nuclear accident occurs. In addition, an "off-site center" will be set up to coordinate between the central government and local headquarters set up by pertinent regional governments. The bill is expected to be drafted shortly and submitted for approval to the upcoming Diet session on 29 October.
As a lesson learned from the delayed government reaction to the Tokaimura accident, the new law will require nuclear facility operators to immediately report accidents and will authorize the central government to issue advisories and warnings. Other revisions will mean that periodic inspections will have to carried out not only at nuclear power plants but also at nuclear fuel facilities and oblige the management at all nuclear-related facilities to train and educate their employees on nuclear safety. In addition, people living near nuclear facilities will take part in regular nuclear disaster drills.
Yomiuri Shimbun. "Firms Seek Compensation from JCO"
The Ibaraki Prefectural Federation of processed marine products cooperative submitted a claim for 583 million yen in compensation from JCO Co. for loss of sales caused by the accident. Meanwhile, three major companies that suffered damages from the criticality event (Jusco Co., East Japan Railway Co., and Hitachi, Ltd.) have also decided to demand compensation.
New York Times. "Experts Say Lapses Led to Japan's A-Plant Failure"
After touring the plant early this week, Energy Department experts said the Japanese accident occurred largely because managers counted on workers to follow the rules but never explained why the rules were important. Experts said the managers should have concentrated on providing equipment designed to make such accidents impossible.
The technicians were trying to carry out a task with incorrect equipment. The workers should have stored the material in a tall column-shaped cylinder, a shape that would have prevented a critical mass from forming. But, the workers wanted to fill a taller container so they put the dissolved uranium in a second vessel, intended for another purpose entirely, the experts said. This second vessel had a circular shape and a spigot that was easier to use, but encouraged the chain reaction. Worse still, it was surrounded by a shell filled with cooling water. The water functioned as a reflector, bouncing neutrons from the uranium back into the tank, improving the conditions for a reaction. The workers apparently did not understand the reasoning behind the rules that limit the sizes of batches and containers.
Kyodo News. "Japan needs user-friendly nuclear system"
US experts from the DOE who recently visited Tokaimura said Japan needs to make its nuclear power facilities more user-friendly to avoid a recurrence of the Tokaimura accident. Safety requirements at Japanese nuclear facilities are set on the assumption that workers operate systems properly, but people are not infallible. The operating staff at JCO had not received adequate training and according to one expert, they lacked "a fundamental understanding of what they were protecting against."
The Los Alamos scientists examined 21 so-called criticality accidents, and found they had a number of things in common, from human involvement to the fact that significant radiation exposure invariably was confined to the facility. The scientists said that the criticality accident at the Japanese plant appeared to follow a similar pattern, with human error, poor training and lax supervision involved. The researchers found that 20 of the 21 accidents, as well as the one in Japan, occurred when the fissionable material was in liquid form.return to table of contents
Yomiuri Shimbun. "Police to quiz JCO employee over negligence in N-accident."
Police plan to question an employee of JCO Co. in connection with alleged professional negligence resulting in injury. JCO officials told a press conference that when the most senior of the three workers exposed to radiation in the accident, asked whether it was safe to pour a solution of uranium into a sedimentation tank all at once, another employee more qualified to lead workers handling nuclear fuel, gave him the go-ahead. The employee who signed off on this step was not the three workers' immediate boss, but belonged to a planning group in the manufacturing department for the production of nuclear fuel. The man concerned was responsible for drawing up instructions detailing the final stages of the process of fuel production in which the three were involved.
The Associated Press. "JCO starts walling off nuke accident site."
At the request of the Ibaraki prefectural government and the village of Tokaimura, JCO started building concrete walls to surround the conversion building at Tokaimura. The building is currently surrounded by sandbags. JCO plans to build walls 30 centimeters thick and 2-3 meters tall surrounding the conversion building, stretching for a total of 56 meters on the north and west sides. The work is to be completed around November 6, JCO said.
Meanwhile, STA officials and employees of JCO entered the conversion building to make an on-the-spot inspection of the accident site and to check buckets and beakers, which workers used to put uranium in the tank for processing the day of the accident.
Asahi Shimbun. "Authorities rush through redress for JCO workers."
Authorities approved worker compensation payments for the three employees exposed to radiation during the accident. The office approved the applications on the grounds that the three men sustained acute radiation poisoning while working at the processing plant. According to the Labor Ministry, the three workers are the first in Japan to be granted compensation for acute radiation poisoning.
The Associated Press. "Inquiries, complaints over Tokaimura accident top 5000."
The number of inquiries and complaints received by public office about the accident at Tokaimura topped 5,000, nearly one month since the radiation leak occurred. The Ibaraki Prefectural office tallied 5,073 inquiries and complaints, most of them from local residents worried about the effects of radiation. The prefecture received 3,970 inquiries or complaints in the first five days following the accident.
The Associated Press. "Police want 53,000 radiation protection suits."
The National Policy Agency (NPA) unveiled a second supplementary budget request totaling 46.6 billion yen, part of it to cover the cost of acquiring some 53,000 radiation protection outfits. The outfits will be distributed to 16 prefectural police headquarters in prefectures with nuclear power plants and other nuclear power-related facilities. The National Police Agency is also seeking 2.1 billion yen for measures against nuclear accidents. In addition to the protective suits, the agency plans to acquire protective masks, gloves, devices to measure radiation including neutron levels, and remote control notice boards for traffic restrictions in contaminated areas. In total, NPA plans to purchase 7,600 pocket-sized dosimeters, which measure doses of radiation, and 10 devices to measure neutrons in the air.
The Associated Press. "Ministry to upgrade radiation treatment process."
The Health and Welfare Ministry will make emergency revisions to the medical treatment system for massive radiation exposure in the 16 prefectures that host nuclear-related facilities. The plans include designating a medical institution in each prefecture to be in charge of accepting patients exposed to heavy doses of radiation in the event of nuclear accidents. Those institutions will be equipped with aseptic rooms to protect patients from infections and high-precision radiation measurement devices.
The three workers were originally rushed to Mito, a state-run hospital, but had to be moved to a better-equipped facility, as the Mito hospital did not have a germ free room. The 16 prefectures concerned are Hokkaido, Aomori, Miyagi, Fukushima, Ibaraki, Kanagawa, Niigata, Ishikawa, Fukui, Shizuoka, Osaka, Shimane, Okayama, Ehime, Saga and Kagoshima.
The Associated Press. "Japan-Nuclear Promotion"
Government officials said they will step up efforts to win support for the nation's nuclear power program. Beginning in November, the ministry plans to hold seminars around the country to explain the virtues of nuclear energy to the public, said Yasuo Baba, an official at the Ministry of International Trade and Industry. "We need to increase public understanding of nuclear energy, as it is the government's firm position to continue using nuclear power as a principle source of energy," Baba said.
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The Associated Press. "Half local govt's lack manuals for nuke accident."
According to a Kyodo News survey, more than half of the 42 local governments that host nuclear-related facilities have not prepared manuals for treating irradiated residents should a nuclear accident occur. About 80 percent of the 16 prefectures and 26 municipalities intend to revise their disaster prevention plans. Local governments are considering revising their disaster prevention plans to take in to account the self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction that occurred at Tokaimura.
The Nihon Keizai Shimbun. "Tokaimura Accident Delays Plans for New Nuclear Plant."
The Electric Power Development Coordination Council, an advisory body to the prime minister, is expected to decide at a mid-November meeting to shelve expansion plans for nuclear plants in Shimane Prefecture and Hokkaido after failing to win approval from local municipalities, forcing a review of long-term nuclear plant strategies.
Since the accident, several projects at nuclear fuel recycling facilities and others under the program for extracting plutonium from spent fuel for reuse have already been postponed. In Fukui Prefecture where nuclear facilities are concentrated, the delay of plutonium-thermal projects will lead to the postponement of other nuclear plans, such as the expansion of Japan Atomic Power Co.'s facilities in Tsuruga and the safety examination by authorities for the Japan Nuclear Cycle Development Institute's Monju fast-breeder reactor.return to table of contents
The Associated Press. "Evacuation Area in Tokaimura was too small: experts say"
Experts revealed that the evacuation area surrounding Tokaimura was too small, as those who remained within a 500-meter radius may have been exposed to the annual radiation limit for an ordinary person.
Yoshinobu Koizumi of Tokyo's Radioisotope Center and Masuchika Kono from Kyoto University's Faculty of Engineering, calculated the level of radiation left on 5 yen coins taken from about two dozen houses within a 600-meter radius of the accident site. Kono and Koizumi said that people who remained within a 500-meter radius of the plant may have been exposed to 1 millisievert of radiation, the annual limit even when staying indoors. They calculated the level of radiation by measuring the level of zinc-65 that is released after the zinc in the coins is bombarded by neutron radiation.
Based on their analysis, if people living 100 meters from the facility had stayed indoors for the 17 hours that the self-sustaining nuclear fission chain reaction continued, they would have been exposed to at least 100 millisieverts of radiation. People living 350 meters away from the facility would have been exposed to about 3 millisieverts.return to table of contents
Japan Times. "Obuchi vows redress for Tokai accident victims."
Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi said in the Diet that compensation will be paid to local residents that prove to be victims of the criticality accident. Obuchi told a plenary session of the House of Councillors, "They (residents) will receive compensation if a cause and effect relation is established."
The Associated Press. "Radiation hit 75 msv within 80 meters of plant."
Radiation emitted from the processing plant for 25 minutes following the criticality accident reached an estimated 75 millisieverts within a 80 meter radius, 75 times the average annual exposure in Japan, a survey by the Science and Technology Agency showed. The estimated amount of radiation within 80 meters of the conversion building in the plant also exceeded the annual exposure limit of 50 millisieverts of nuclear workers.
The Nuclear Safety Commission has decided to form a panel of experts to check the physical condition of residents exposed to radiation.
The Nihon Keizai Shimbun. "LDP Plans Greater Authority for Nuclear Safety Commission."
The Liberal Democratic Party panel in charge of administrative reform decided to substantially increase the authority of the Nuclear Safety Commission. The panel favors giving the commission authority to carry out spot inspections of nuclear facilities or to take punitive action without seeking the approval or cooperation of other government bodies. Members of the panel also called for removing the commission from under the umbrella of the Science and Technology Agency, so that it has the independence it needs to ensure nuclear facilities operate safely.
The Associated Press. "Police to question irradiated JCO plant worker."
Police decided to get a statement from Masato Shinohara, a JCO worker irradiated in the accident. Police deemed him able to give a statement after doctors confirmed that his white blood count was increasing after having received umbilical cord blood transfusions last month. Although Shinohara is believed to have been directly involved in the accident, police questioned him as a witness on a voluntary basis in the case against plant operator JCO.
Yomiuri Shimbun. "Experts Analyze Extent of JCO plant accident."
The Science and Technology Agency said nuclear fission occurred 2.5 quintillion times during the criticality accident, and about half of those times were apparently during the first 25 minutes of the event. To reveal the full scale of the criticality event, the agency analyzed uranium solution left in the plant's sedimentation tank. The results of their analysis showed that the uranium solution began a critical chain reaction at 10:35 AM. It emitted a huge amount of neutron radiation during the first two minutes, before another surge peaked about three minutes later. The "initial burst" of the reaction, during which neutron radiation emission builds rapidly, was estimated to have continued for about 25 minutes. About 1.2 quintillion, or 48 percent, of the nuclear fission occurrences were during that period. After 25 minutes, the reaction gradually subsided and had come to an end by 6:30 AM the following morning, about 20 hours after it began.
Yomiuri Shimbun. "JCO used electric stove to process nuclear fuel."
Employees at JCO uranium reconversion plant in Tokaimura directly heated steel buckets containing nitric acid and powdered uranium using a portable electric cooking stove. The illegal manual employees had followed recommended using the cooking stove to speed up the dissolution of the uranium. The government had not approved the use of the buckets or the cooking stove in the processing of nuclear fuel. The illegal manual compiled by JCO in 1996 instructed workers to add "an amount of nitric acid (to powdered uranium) and heat it up until it dissolves completely."
The Nihon Keizai Shimbun. Radiation within 350 meters of JCO Plant Exceeded Limit."
People who stayed within a 350-meter radius of the site during the criticality accident for five and half hours could have been exposed to radiation totaling as much as 1.4 millisieverts, more than the annual 1 millisievert limit, according to a STA report. STA estimates that radiation exposure in the first 25 minutes of the accident totaled .99 millisieverts within the 350 meter area. By 4:00 PM, in the midst of the evacuation, radiation exposure could have accumulated to 1.4 millisieverts.
Mainichi Daily News. "Cancer fears heat up for Tokai residents."
Mainichi learned that exposure to extreme doses of radiation may have increased the cancer risks for residents of Tokai.
The Associated Press. "Science Agency blamed for nuke accident: report."
The Nuclear Safety Commission's investigative committee submitted an interim report on the accident to Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi and STA chief Hirofumi Nakasone. The report squarely places blame on the Science and Technology Agency for failing to uncover illegal procedures at the uranium processing plant run by JCO, while also criticizing its risk management system for nuclear facilities as inadequate. It also confirmed that the direct cause of the accident was the negligence of proper operation procedures for uranium processing by JCO employees.
The report made emergency recommendations to the Prime Minister and the agency which included securing the safety of the accident site and taking measures to ensure the physical and psychological well-being of the residents in the region. The committee plans to prepare a final report on the accident by the end of the year.
The Associated Press. "Tokaimura residents query experts about their health."
Residents voiced health concerns to experts from the National Institute of Radiological Science stationed at the Tokaimura village. The village office received some 90 inquiries from residents following an announcement that the amount of radiation emitted during the accident was 160 times the normal level. On the whole, most were told they were in no danger provided they were far enough away from the plant at the time of the accident.
The Sankei Shimbun. "Prime Minister Decides to Include SDF's Involvement in Nuclear Emergency."
The Japanese government decided to involve the Japanese Self Defense Forces in nuclear emergencies such as the one that occurred at Tokaimura. The Defense Forces actual moves in such an emergency would be determined officially by the Prime Minister's "nuclear emergency declaration."
The Associated Press. "Substance showing DNA damage detected in 8 people."
Higher than average amounts of a substance that indicates DNA damage have been detected in the urine of eight people who were within a 350-meter radius of the uranium processing plant at Tokaimura, Ibaraki Prefecture. The substance is called urinary 8-hydroxil 2-deoxyguanosine. In the eight people's urine, levels of it exceeding 21.1 nanograms, the upper limit of the normal amount found in human urine, was detected. The largest detected level was 29.1 nanograms in one of the people. The prefectural government officials refused to conduct further tests because they were not sure whether they would be trustworthy. Furthermore, they did not give the test results to the people, saying it may cause anxiety among the residents.
The Associated Press. "25 cases of safety law violations at nuke facilities."
The Labor Ministry has uncovered 25 cases of violations of the Industrial Safety and Health Law at nine nuclear-related facilities. The ministry found the violations during inspections conducted from October 1-22, at 17 facilities across the country using nuclear fuel substances, excluding nuclear power plants.
According to the Ministry, 19 of the 25 violations were for the lack of health and safety control systems such as the composition of health commissions not meeting legal requirements and regular inspections by industrial doctors not being carried out.
The Associated Press. "Tokaimura victims to have chromosomes examined."
The Science and Technology Agency is conducted examinations to check the chromosome of people exposed to high levels of radiation in the accident. Doctors have taken peripheral blood samples from most of the 66 people irradiated in the accident. The testing is to check for abnormalities in the people's chromosomes in lymph cells. The tests to determine the percentage of abnormal chromosomes in the people are being conducted at five research facilities nationwide.
The Kihon Keizai Shimbun. "Niigata Govt. Wants 1-YR Delay in Nuclear Fuel Project."
Niigata Prefectural Governor Ikuo Hirayama said he will call on the central government and Tokyo Electric Power Co. to postpone by one year, until 2001, a plutonium-thermal project at the nuclear plant operated by Tepco. Niigata is the first prefectural government to officially delay acceptance of such a project under the nuclear fuel reprocessing program.
The Mainichi Daily News. "Radiation Scare."
An estimate of just how much radiation residents were exposed to at Tokaimura has been compiled by the Science and Technology Agency and submitted to the Nuclear Safety Commission. STA reports that residents living 80 meters from the plant were exposed to 75 millisieverts of radioactivity in the first 25 minutes, 75 times the level considered tolerable for human adults over a year.
An evacuation order was issued for those living within a 350-meter radius of the plant, but many people outside this ring are also believed to have been exposed to high radiation levels. While the agency maintains that exposure can be mitigated by staying indoors, the Tokai figures show that this is not always the case. The agency also claims that people in the immediate vicinity of the plant are unlikely to see their health deteriorate right away.
The Mainichi Daily News. "Tokai officials pay first visit to nuke facility."
Officials of the Ibaraki prefectural and the Tokai municipal governments inspected the uranium-processing plant at Tokaimura. It was the first time that local government officials had entered the facility run by JCO Co. since the critical accident. The officials examined stainless buckets and an electric cooker that workers illegally used to process uranium. They also examined the manual on the amount of uranium and nitric acid that workers were allowed to use.
NSC raised three more points: to secure the safety of the JCO conversion building where some uranium solvent remains; to assure medical and, particularly, psychological care of nearby residents; and to push the industry as a whole to become more safety-minded, including mandatory requirements to obtain ISO-9000 engineering certifications.
For the first time, NSC made public that there were an estimated 25 x 1018 fission reactions taking place over 20 hours, of which 12 x 1018 occurred during a 25-minute period of bursting after the first criticality was reached 10:35 AM on September 30. Then, the chain reaction moved into a relatively flat plateau phase until it stopped at 6:30 AM on October 1.
Nucleonics Week. "Blood Cell Transplants Seen as Promising Irradiation Therapy."
Japan has established blood cell transplants as a potentially promising therapy for severe irradiation since the therapy has been successful so far in treating the three workers irradiated at JCO. Nevertheless, the doctors said, the prognosis for the most severely irradiated worker at Tokaimura remains "very guarded," while the second most affected workers has about a 60 percent chance of survival but risks various complications, mainly connected with severe local radiation burns. Even the third victim, a foreman who received a much lower dose, runs an increased risk of developed acute leukemia within five to ten years, and may well need a cataract operation because neutron radiation concentrates in the body's outer most layers.
Japanese doctors say the Tokai accident presents an opportunity to monitor the evolution of complex pathologies in severely irradiated patients. The umbilical cord blood transplants that were used represents a promising technique because the risk of host rejection is much lower and because umbilical cords can be stored in a bank that is immediately available in case of need.return to table of contents
The Associated Press. "Tokaimura residents doubt government explanations."
Residents of Tokaimura voiced suspicion when a STA government official informed them that no one's health was endangered as a result of the criticality accident. The official, Kenkichi Hirose, chief of the agency's Nuclear Safety Division, explained the details of the accident to approximately 350 village residents. He added, "While the agency plans to conduct a survey on residents in the future, it's hard to believe the accident could have affect your health." Several demanded the agency stop offering explanations and simply acknowledge responsibility.
The Associated Press. "Tokaimura plant worker remains in critical condition."
Hisashi Ouchi, one of three workers irradiated in the criticality accident, still remains in critical condition. In the last few days, Ouchi has developed a condition in which water accumulates in his chest and stomach and his body fluids ooze out of his skin. The hospital said it will continue giving him artificial respiration and carry out treatment to deal with infections.
Reuters. "No Enduring Impact in Japan Nuclear Accident-IAEA"
In "Report on the preliminary fact finding mission following the accident at the nuclear fuel processing facility in Tokaimura, Japan," IAEA said the accident should have no lasting effect on the surrounding environment or health of the local population. The report specified, "the accident was essentially an irradiation accident; it was not a contamination accident as it did not result in a radiologically significant release of radioactive materials." IAEA declared the accident resulted from human error and serious breaches of safety principles and standards in combination with shortcoming in design.
The report said an extensive investigation into all circumstances regarding the accident will be necessary, covering the criticality event itself and the JCO facility, including safety-related design aspects, managerial provisions and operational matters. It also said regulatory control, including licensing and inspection, and the medical care of the three severely overexposed workers should be considered in the investigation.return to table of contents
The Associated Press. "Government to interview people near Tokaimura plant."
STA, the National Institute of Radiological Sciences and the Ibaraki prefectural government plan to interview people who live and work within a 350-meter radius of the conversion building to determine radiation levels they may have been exposed to during and following the accident.
A total of nine groups-each comprising two experts from the institute and a public health nurse from the prefecture-will visit the homes of the people involved for the interviews. The interviewees will be questioned about their activities while the self-sustaining nuclear fission chain reaction was occurring and whether they were outdoors or indoors at the time. Those who remained indoors during the reaction will be asked whether the buildings they were in were made of wood or concrete, and whether the windows facing the JCO plant were open.return to table of contents
The Nihon Keizai Shimbun. "Tepco to Postpone Niigata Pluthermal project Until '01."
Mainichi Daily News. "TEPCO postpones 'pluthermal' project."
Tokyo Electric Power Co. announced they will postpone the introduction of the so-called "pluthermal" project at its plant in Niigata Prefecture by one year to 2001, citing local residents' rising concern over nuclear safety in the wake of the accident at Tokaimura. It was the first time in the nation that the enforcement of a plan involving a nuclear power plant had been postponed since the nuclear accident in Tokai. The announcement came in response to requests made on October 8 by the heads of the Kashiwazaki and Kariwa municipal governments, as well as the governor of Niigata Prefecture, that TEPCO postpone the project.
TEPCO had originally planned to introduce the project, in which plutonium-uranium mixed-oxide fuel (MOX) will be burnt in existing light-water reactors, at the No. 3 reactor of the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power Plant in spring next year. TEPCO now plans to start a pluthermal project at its Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant in February. Japan's five other electric power companies, including Chubu Electric Power Co. and Kyushu Electric Power Co. planned to start project at a total of nine plants in 2000-2005, industry sources said.
The Associated Press. "Tokaimura seeks early compensation from JCO."
Tatsuya Murakami, the head of Tokaimura asked STA chief Hirofumi Nakasone to have JCO Co. and its parent company pay compensation for damage caused by the accident at JCO's uranium processing facility. Murakami and representatives of business, industry and agricultural bodies from the village filed the request asking for 1.27 billion yen in damages. Of that amount, about 690 million yen would be for 404 cases of damage to agriculture, and 580 million yen for 363 cases in business and industry. They told Nakasone some companies are in danger of bankruptcy because the accident caused sales of their projects to fall.
The Associated Press. "Regulator urges safeguards to avoid Tokaimura repeat."
The U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission said it has issued a notice to nuclear fuel plant operators it regulates reminding them to implement controls to avoid a nuclear criticality accident similar to the mishap at Tokaimura. The commission said the atomic chain-reaction accident in Japan reinforces the need for stringent requirements and provides an opportunity for an in-depth safety review of nuclear plants in the United States. The commission advised nuclear plant operators to ensure that their workers receive proper training and education on criticality safety rules.
Uranium Institute Information Service, NucNet News.
Urgent government action is needed to address 'faults' in nuclear industry regulation following the Tokaimura accident, the Nuclear Safety Commission's accident study committee has concluded. The committee's recommendations include a review of the national safety regulation system, tougher inspection procedures, information-sharing, and better handling of health, safety, and site maintenance issues.
A STA task force has finished its assessment of radiation doses around Tokai, based on the analysis of samples from the tank where the criticality occurred and estimating 'worst case' theoretical exposures of 160 mSv at 80 meters from the site and 0.011 mSv 1km away.return to table of contents
The Associated Press. "Japan-Nuclear Accident"
Tokaimura mayor said that even though the town had been declared safe, it was economically and psychologically scarred. Residents are asking the town's name be changed because nothing that says 'Tokaimura' will sell anymore. In a speech, the mayor urged Japan to seek other forms of energy and said, "Nuclear power should not be the only choice. Japan should not take the position that nuclear energy is everything."
The Associated Press. "Tokaimura plant's conversion building inspected"
Members from the Nuclear Safety Commission's investigative committee inspected the JCO Co. uranium fuel processing plant. The committee had judged the time was right for the inspection as radiation has fallen to sufficiently low levels. On November 9 the radiation level was 55 millisieverts, by November 22 the level had dropped to 25 millisieverts per hour.
Uranium Institute Information Service, FreshFUEL.
MOX fuel loading will go ahead at Tepco's Fukushima plant in February 2000, but the utility is reportedly planning to postpone loading at Kashiwazaki for a year in response to public concerns following the accident at Tokaimura.
The Daily Yomiuri. "JCO N-Accident Damage estimated at 15.3 billion yen"
According to an Ibaraki prefecture government survey, damage to industry and lost tax revenues resulting from the Tokaimura accident amounted to more than 15.3 billion yen as of the end of October. The report said that the survey found that damage to commerce and industry was nearly 9.6 billion yen, damage to agriculture totaled 2.5 billion yen, damage to tourism was 1.47 billion yen and that tax revenues for the Ibaraki Prefecture have dipped by 769 million yen.
The Associated Press. "Hotel to go bankrupt due to Tokaimura nuclear accident."
A hotel management firm in Ibaraki Prefecture will shortly file for bankruptcy due to losses incurred following the accident in Tokaimura. The Seaside Hotel Mannenya in Hitachinaka is the first company to declare bankruptcy due to the criticality accident. A group of hotels and inns in Ibaraki Prefecture has asked the government for 500 billion yen in preferential loans to help them recover from 270 million yen in business lost in October alone due to bad publicity, but the government has not extended the assistance. The hotel group said it will press the government to allow their members to borrow funds to avert more bankruptcies.
Reuters. "Japanese nuclear victim takes turn for worse."
Hisashi Ouchi, the worker most heavily exposed to radiation in the accident suffered temporary heart failure and was in a very critical condition.
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"Safety is the bottom line if we are to live in harmony with nuclear energy. There is talk of fresh legislation to prevent nuclear disasters. I myself wonder whether safety can be guaranteed under the existing Nuclear Energy Safety Commission, given that it is so understaffed."
"I hear that JCO will be liable to pay up to 1 billion yen under nuclear accident liability insurance. Crop damage in Tokaimura is already running at nearly 700 million yen, while damage to commercial interests is estimated at 300 million yen. I don't think JCO will be able to pay all that."
NuclearFuel. "NRC issues own Tokai Checklist."
The NRC has released a list of "operation controls to guard against inadvertent nuclear criticality." The precautions, included in Information Notice 99-31, focus on employee training, management oversight, and segregation of materials. According to the notice, NRC plans to conduct an in-depth review of the details surrounding the Tokai event to determine whether further improvements in the NRC regulatory program would be prudent. Information Notice items are suggestions, not requirements, but the NRC suggests certain steps will minimize the chance of a criticality accident in the United States.
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The Daily Yomiuri. "Tokaimura accident sets back N-power plants."
The Electric Power Development Coordination Council, an advisory body to the Prime Minister, has not met since the criticality accident occurred on September 30. The panel usually meets every November. The accident has set back power companies' efforts to promote nuclear energy. Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) has postponed the redevelopment of a nuclear power plant located in Niigata Prefecture until 2001. Hokkaido Electric Power Co. (HEPCO) and Chugoku Electric Power co. (CEPCO) have also postponed plans to build more nuclear power plants.
HEPCO and CEPCO were scheduled to discuss a bill at the council meeting that would allow the construction of nuclear power plants in Tomarimura, Hokkaido, and in Shimane Prefecture. However, residents near the proposed sites opposed the plans following the Tokaimura accident, and persuaded prefectural governors to withhold consent for the plants to be built. The lack of gubernatorial consent, a prerequisite for construction talks by the council, means power companies are expected to delay their plants.
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The Associated Press. "JCO to transfer uranium solution for processing."
The Nuclear Safety Commission on Thursday approved of a JCO Co. plan to move the remaining uranium solution at its processing plant in Tokaimura to a safety container for future processing. According to STA, some 37 liters of solution remain in the settling tank and the buckets, and boric acid solution remain in a hose, which was used to prevent a criticality incident, will be poured into more than a dozen stainless steel containers by the end of this month. The solutions will be stored in the plant's storage room for the time being. JCO will then wash the settling tank and remove radioactive contaminants at the site. The solutions will be transferred to a nuclear fuel processing facility next year, most likely the Japan Nuclear Cycle Development Institute.
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The Associated Press. "JCO begins monitoring radiation level at accident."
JCO workers began monitoring radiation levels at the accident site before collecting the remaining uranium solution there. They will continue monitoring levels of gamma rays and neutron radiation at the building to prevent workers from being exposed to high levels of radiation while collected the solution. JCO workers will first conduct drills in solution collection with stainless steel containers, which will hold the liquid. They plan to recover the uranium solution in the hose around Dec. 13, and an estimated 37 liters in the tank around Dec. 20. Work will be completed at the end of December after removing radioactive contaminants and disposing of nuclear waste at the site.
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The Associated Press. "Nuke plants must set aside more money for compensation."
STA is planning a 12-fold hike to 12 billion yen in the amount of funds certain nuclear power facilities are required to set aside to compensate victims in the event of accidents. Under the plan, facilities handling highly concentrated uranium will be required to have the money in reserve to cover damages caused by accidents at their compounds.
Sources said the proposal will be submitted to the cabinet for approval shortly, and a related government ordinance is expected to go into effect in January. The agency has been debating possible increases in the compensation following a revision in May of a law on nuclear-related damage. The amendment, effective January, will double compensation money which nuclear power plants are required to set aside to 60 billion yen. The current required reserves are 30 billion yen at nuclear power plants or nuclear fuel reprocessing plants, 6 billion yen at facilities that handle plutonium, and 1 billion yen at facilities handling uranium, such as the Tokaimura plant.
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The Nihon Keizai Shimbun. "Govt to Raise Liability Limits for Nuclear Mishaps."
In January STA plans to raise the amount of damages that operators of nuclear facilities must pay in the event of accidents. Nuclear plant operators are required to carry liability insurance to pay compensation claims. The revised plan will also cover uranium-processing companies like JCO Co. Nuclear power and fuel-reprocessing plants will be responsible for up to 12 billion yen, double the current 6 billion yen. Facilities handling uranium, which are liable for a uniform 1 billion yen at present, will be distinguished by the enrichment level of the uranium.
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The Nihon Keizai Shimbun. "35 Nuclear Operators Set Up Safety Body."
Thirty-five Japanese companies and research institutions engaged in nuclear operations established a private organization, the Nuclear Safety Network, to monitor and increase safety standards among themselves. Noboru Makino, an advisor for Mitsubishi Research Institute Inc., was appointed chairman of the board. The organization will aim for a Japanese version of the World Association of Nuclear Operators, or WANO, an international nuclear power operators' body that checks each member's operations for safety.
To keep the information under control, the organization will adopt a mechanism called "peer review" where the members visit each other's nuclear-related facilities such as power reactors and uranium processing plants to inspect their operations for safety. The safety body will inspect 30 facilities at 21 companies over the next two years, and report the results of such inspections on its future website.
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The Nihon Keizai Shimbun. "Govt Lowers Estimate of Radiation Around Tokaimura Plant."
STA said it has reduced its estimate of the level of radiation to which some residents of Tokaimura were exposed during the September accident. The agency now says that residents living within 80 meters of the plant were exposed to 11 millisieverts of radiation for the first 25 minutes, not 75 millisieverts as earlier estimated. However, the reduced figure is still 11 times higher than the amount people can safely tolerate over an entire year. Now that its 80-meter-radius figure has been changed, the agency will measure once again the levels of radiation to which individual residents living within 350 meters of the plant were exposed.
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Mainichi Shimbun. "Diet gives PM reins in nuke accidents"
The Japanese Diet enacted two bills designed to empower the national government in dealing with nuclear accidents. One of the new laws stipulates that the prime minister becomes the head of a national headquarters to deal with situations when nuclear accidents of a serious nature take place. The law also authorizes the prime minister to give orders to local governments and to request the dispatch of Self-Defense Force members for rescue activities. Another law provides that nuclear-fuel facilities should be inspected periodically and training should be given to employees of those facilities.
In a related development, the government has also decided to increase the number of officials at the Nuclear Safety Commission from 19 to nearly 100.
Yomirui Shimbun. "Cleanup starts at Tokaimura N-fuel plant."
Workers at JCO Co.'s uranium reconversion plant in Tokaimura began cleaning up uranium solution at is reconversion test facility. Sixteen people entered the facility at 10 AM dressed in protective clothing and masks. The operation was supervised by three officials from STA and the prefectural government. The 16 workers used rollers to squeeze out uranium solution from fire-fighting hoses into a stainless steel container. The hoses were used to deliver a boric acid solution to prevent uranium reactions from reaching criticality. The solution collected from the hoses will be kept in the stainless steel container and stored in an earthquake-resistant storage area in the facility. JCO workers will start work on Thursday on recovering the uranium solution from a sedimentation tank at the facility.
The Associated Press. "Police to search JCO parent company offices Thurs."
Police are planning to search the offices of Sumitomo Metal Mining Co., the parent company of the JCO Co., whose workers caused the criticality accident. Police will search Sumitomo's headquarters in Tokyo and the office in Tokaimura. Company officials are suspected of professional negligence and violation of a law regulating nuclear facilities. Police apparently suspect that Sumitomo officials may have been aware that JCO workers were not abiding by legally established procedures. Investigators plan to confiscate operational reports from JCO and question its employees to determine the chain of command between the two companies.
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The Associated Press. "Tokaimura mayor asks gov't to help resolve compensation"
Tokaimura Mayor Tatsuya Murakami asked the central government to temporarily cover some of the compensation for victims of the accident. Murakami asked for the government's help in starting to settle some of the damages claims if JCO Co. cannot provide the money by the end of this year. The mayor and the business representatives called on the government to take effective measures to support farmers and business operators in Tokaimura who have incurred losses due to the negative image placed on their products and services. They also asked the government to use the media to try to eliminate the inclement image projected on Tokaimura.
JCO proposed it would pay compensation equal to one month's loss of profits to local companies located more than 10 kilometers from the accident site. It also offered to pay 50,000 yen per person to people living within 350 meters of the plant and 30,000 yen each to people living more than 350 meters from the plant.
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Reuters. "Sumitomo Metal Mining raided in Japan nuclear case."
Some 150 Japanese police officers raided Sumitomo Metal Mining Co. Ltd. Records of JCO's production procedures and labor management were seized from the offices. Investigators hope the documents will reveal the degree of the parent company's involvement in JCO's management, and whether it knew of JCO's insufficient safety measures and illegal operations. Sumitomo is suspected of professional negligence and violation of nuclear safety laws. Sumitomo released a brief statement saying they would cooperation fully with investigators. Police plan to conduct an on the spot inspection of the JCO plant as early as in January, police sources said.
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The Associated Press. "JCO recovers uranium solution at Tokaimura plant."
JCO announced they had finished collecting the uranium solution left in the tank since the accident. Workers pumped 37 liters of uranium solution into stainless steel containers. JCO said all radioactive substances should be removed from the site by the end of the week.
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Asahi Shimbun. "Officials try to ease fears about radiation impact."
Government officials tried to ease concerns among residents living near nuclear facilities in Ibaraki Prefecture, following the death of JCO employee Hisashi Ouchi. Makoto Akashi, executive of the National Institute of Radiological Sciences, said, "The residents will not suffer from acute troubles." However, officials acknowledged that people exposed to even small does of radiation from the accident could suffer from organ problems after several years. Possible problems occurring after several years or decades would likely involve leukemia or other cancers. According to the Health and Welfare Ministry, the possibility of people suffering from leukemia is an average of .66 percent.
Nucleonics Week, "Tokai Accident Laws Passed;
Most Exposed Worker Dies."
The Accident Investigation Committee of the Science and Technology Agency (STA), after 10 meetings supervised by an expert panel and the Nuclear Safety Commission (NSC), is to finish its final report by the year's end pinpointing the causes of the accident and what corrective measures should be taken, officials said. STA Nuclear Safety Bureau Director General Kaoru Mamiya said, "One is gross violation of law and legally regulated procedures. JCO was not using legally defined equipment and it was not following legally defined procedures. All the measures designed to keep criticality from taking place in that facility were totally violated."
Japanese Parliament unanimously passed a package of new nuclear laws on December 13. As details of the accident were revealed, the investigation committee came up with urgent recommendations for two sets of laws: one designed to prevent such an accident from taking place again, and the other to enable prompt and coordinated emergency countermeasures in any nuclear accident. Under the first set of recommendations, the existing Nuclear Reactor and Materials Law has been amended to cover fuel manufacturers as strictly as reactor operators. They are to be subject to on-the-spot, enforced inspections and interrogations. The second law, the Nuclear Disaster Countermeasures Special Act, integrates all such operations under direct command of the prime minister. Prefectural and municipal government, utilities, nuclear research labs, and other institutions are aligned under the command for quicker response. Mamiya said 130-billion yen has already been allocated for this purpose under the fiscal 1999 supplementary budget.return to table of contents
Japan Times, "Drop Nuclear Safety Myth, institute
precautions: NSC report."
The Nuclear Safety Commission task force released their report on the Tokai criticality accident today. According to the Commission, Japan should drop the long-held myth that nuclear power operations are "absolutely safe" and should take steps to prevent the recurrence of serious accidents. The commission attributed the accident to unsafe operations by JCO workers, however, the report also points out that inspections by regulatory authorities had not been effective. It urges officials at STA to make a self-assessment of their readiness to deal with such serious accidents. It suggests the commission be given greater power and autonomy in its operations. The report emphasizes that a system should be created to enable the central government to be apprised of the situation immediately after such a crisis takes place, and give relevant advice to local governments. The report adds that the health condition of the residents around the JCO facility must be monitored on a long-term basis.
The Associated Press, "Japan Nuke Accident Blamed
The NSC report said that the pursuit of efficiency at the expense of safety directly caused the disaster. The panel urged officials responsible for the nation's nuclear energy program to make efforts to rebuild international trust. The report called for creating a new system based on "self-responsibility" to ensure safety at nuclear facilities. The panel admitted that lax government monitoring may have been a factor in the accident, but reached no conclusion on why the government took more than 10 hours to set up its special disaster headquarters after the accident.
The Associated Press, "N-related gov't bodies
urged to conduct self-inspections."
The report handed into STA chief Hirofumi Nakasone by NSC's task force, appears to have left observers pondering its validity. The committee did not conduct its own research, instead basing its findings almost solely on reports it received from the agency. Local officials and resident also voiced concern that the report, released three days after plant worker Hisashi Ouchi became the first person to die as a result of the accident, was premature.
The report does not analyze the circumstances under which workers at the uranium processing plant had come to use procedures that deviated from government regulations. Nor does it include a final count of plant employees and residents near the facility who were irradiated in the accident. Some observers believe the report deliberately omitted the final count of accident victims to avoid the "bad timing" following Ouchi's death.return to table of contents
Japan Times. "Nuclear plant jobs lure unwitting
The death last week of Hisashi Ouchi reminded the nation of the health consequences of an atomic accident. According to Yuko Fujita, associated professor of physics at Keio University, accidents like the one at the JCO plant in Tokai, are not the sole danger to nuclear industry workers. Even without mishaps, workers are routinely exposed to radiation at the nation's atomic facilities, albeit at levels far lower than those that killed Ouchi. Those most at risk, he noted are often untrained temporary workers such as farmers moonlighting in the off-season or day laborers. Fujita has launched a campaign against the exploitation of day laborers working at nuclear facility and is giving advice to those who have fallen ill after exposure to radiation through such work.
According to Fujita, many workers are recruited every year by brokers commissioned from subcontractors far down in the industry's hierarchy. They do simple jobs such as wiping radioactive parts and equipment with cloth by hand at reactors during routine plant checkups. Poorly informed by the brokers about the risks entailed in such jobs, many workers readily go to the sites, where they received only perfunctory safety training, such as being told to exit the room when the alarm sounds.
The industry is now trying to use existing plants for longer periods because it has become difficult to find new locations to build reactors. With more equipment in nuclear facilities needing to be replaced, workers are being exposed to higher doses of radiation. Since the 1970s, 300,000 people have worked at nuclear plants and up to 800 of them are estimated to have been exposed to radiation levels that could eventually lead to death from cancer.
The Nihon Keizai Shimbun, "Japan to Beef up Nuke
Safety In Wake of Tokaimura Death."
The government will first increase the NSC staff to 92 from the current 21, and begin thorough safety checks of nuclear power facilities. Staff will be increased to 100 people by 2001. The NSC will make inspections when a nuclear power facility is first set up and carry out on-site inspections during the plant's operation. The Atomic Energy Commission is considering establishing an independent body similar to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission to monitor nuclear safety. The establishing of a new body may be incorporated into the long-term nuclear power plan to be drawn up by the AEC before the summer. An AEC council tasked with drawing up the new plan, headed by Tokyo Electric Power including international cooperation and nuclear fuel recycling.
Mainichi Shimbun. "JCO eyes rekindling operations at Tokai."
JCO Co. said it intends to resume operations at the nuclear fuel recycling plant. JCO President Hiroharu Kitani said, "I haven't given up the hope of resuming operations of the plant, provided that local people and the Science and Technology Agency give their approval." Kitani's statement angered Tokai residents, including Mayor Tatsuya Murakami who said, "It is totally inappropriate to say something like that while none of the problems caused by the accident have been resolved." Kitani said he hoped to resolve all compensation claims by the end of March 2000.
Mainichi Shimbun. "Police scour JCO Plant in search of evidence."
Police conducted inspections at the plant for evidence to lay charges on the managers of the plant. Police officials said they are trying to find evidence of criminal liability at the nuclear-processing plant by the end of March and will discuss with the Mito District Public Prosecutors Office whether to press criminal charges against JCO Co. managers for professional negligence resulting in death. As dozens of people, mostly JCO workers, were also exposed to radiation in the accident, the Ibaraki Prefectural Police will also discuss with prosecutors how many of them would be counted as victims of professional negligence.
The Associated Press. "Antinuclear activist elected to Tokaimura assembly."
For the first time, voters in Tokaimura elected an antinuclear activist to the village assembly. Kazumasa Aizawa, 58, an independent running on an antinuclear policy ticket has filed legal suits demanding the government retract plans to build more nuclear power plants in the town. Some one-third of all jobs in Tokaimura-at 13 plants and institutes-are nuclear related.
Mainichi Shimbun. "Tokai bid-rigging adds insults to injury."
The municipal government has handed out a large contract for disaster readiness alarms to Hitachi Electronics Services Co. The Tokai Government decided to upgrade the alarms it has placed in each of the roughly 10,000 households in the area from a wire-based to a wireless system.
Mainchi Shimbun. "JCO to compensate Tokai cooperative."
The operator of the uranium plant in Tokai has agreed to pay the local agricultural cooperative some 300 million yen in compensation. About half of the damages were paid last December. The plant operator admitted the causality between the radioactive leakage and damages to the sales of farm products in the area. Officials of the cooperative insisted that they suffered losses because of the public impression that local products might have been contaminated by radiation.
The Associated Press. "119 exposed to over 1 mSv of radiation in Tokaimura"
The Science and Technology Agency reported that a total of 119 residents were exposed to more than the 1-millisievert limit on annual permissible levels of radiation during the nuclear accident. Including workers inside the plant run by JCO Co., a total of 439 people were exposed to radiation. However, the agency said that except for the three JCO workers whose actions triggered the accident, none of the 439 were exposed to 50 millisieverts or more of radiation, ruling out the possibility of related health problems, such as cancer. Also exposed to radiation were 57 officials from the Japan Atomic Energy Research Institute. The agency said it plans to conduct voluntary annual health checkups of the 207 residents beginning this spring.
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Mainichi Shimbun. "JCO to lose business license"
The Science and Technology Agency said it had notified JCO of its intention to take away its operating license. The JCO is expected to have its license officially revoked after STA holds a hearing on March 13 with JCO. A STA official said, "We notified JCO today of our intention to give their officials an opportunity to answer questions on the issue of revoking their license." It will be the first time that the agency has revoked the business license of a nuclear facility operator under the Law Concerning Regulation of Nuclear Raw Materials, Nuclear Fuel Materials and Nuclear Reactors, agency officials said.
Yomiuri Shimbun. "Govt sets N-plant accident reporting standards."
The Nuclear Safety Commission's panel on disaster prevention at nuclear plants-related facilities has developed proposed standards under which nuclear facility operators would be required to report nuclear accidents to the government. The government intends to discuss the proposed standards with related organizations, including the STA and the International Trade and Industry Ministry to include the standards in regulations implementing the anti-nuclear disaster law. The law was passed by the Diet in December, and is scheduled to go into effect in June.
The panel's standards require nuclear facility operators to report to the national and municipal governments in cases of emergency. Emergencies include accidents where 0.5 millisieverts of radiation are recorded continuously for more than 10 minutes at one place, or a total of .5 millisieverts is recorded simultaneously at two or more places. The proposed standards also require operators to report to the national and municipal governments in situations that are not as serious as emergencies, including leaks of five microsieverts of radiation recorded continuously for 10 minutes.
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