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The Story

-- Don Wegner (donfmwyo@earthlink.net), September 30, 1999


The BBC story is more informative IMHO - I mean these guys can't even get the headline right!
Japanese nuclear plant suffers major uranium lead

-- Y2KGardener (gardens@bigisland.net), September 30, 1999.

more info here

-- Don Wegner (donfmwyo@earthlink.net), September 30, 1999.

I think this points to a very important idea that gets overlooked when discussing remediation of nuclear power plants. There are so many other points in the process where things could go wrong. There are all those people who want to shut down the power plants over the rollover, (which ain't gonna happen) but there's been no focus on these other kinds of facilities. I wouldn't be surprised if these types of places are MORE likely to encounter Y2K problems than the power plants - they're probably not as strictly regulated, (?) but obviously, they are as potentially dangerous...

-- pshannon (pshannon@inch.com), September 30, 1999.

Embedded system malfunctioned, sent two doses of Radionucleotide into a chemical reactor thereby making a critical mass.

Danger now is it's TOO HOT (15,000x background) to add Boron "poison" to stop the reaction. If memory serves me correctly the reaction is temporarily halted due to a short lived daughter radionucleotide. When that happens, the reactor will erupt again.

Ya gotta love those embedded systems!

-- K. Stevens (kstevens@ It's ALL going away in January.com), September 30, 1999.

Radiation worse than first thought Nuclear accident 'unprecedented' for Japan; 2 workers critical

MSNBC staff and wire reports TOKYO, Oct. 1  Japanese officials dramatically increased their estimate of radiation exposure after a nuclear accident at a uranium processing plant, saying the level was 15,000 times normal more than a mile from the site. And Japan's top government spokesman said the accident might have triggered "abnormal reactions" that could be continuing at the plant. Japan has 51 commercial nuclear power reactors that provide one- third of the countrys electricity.

THE ACCIDENT can't lead to a Chernobyl-style meltdown, but it did leave two workers in critical condition and prompted warnings to 310,000 people to stay inside.

"As of late Thursday 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," a local government official said.

Earlier, other officials had said the levels were between 4,000 and 10,000 times above normal.

And Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiromu Nonaka told an emergency news conference that "There is a strong possibility that abnormal reactions are continuing within the facility. We believe that it is a severe situation, and there are concerns about radiation in the surrounding areas."

Three workers were hospitalized and at least 11 others were exposed in the accident at a major Japanese nuclear power complex at Tokai, 90 miles northeast of Tokyo.

MSNBC's Maggie Tucker, reporting from Tokyo, noted that officials were monitoring radiation levels overnight to see if a mandatory evacuation was necessary.


The Japanese government set up a task force of top ministers to investigate the accident  the first time such a step has been taken in Japan for a nuclear accident. It also sent specialists to the area to monitor the radioactivity.

The accident is "unprecedented" for Japan, Nonaka added, and officials said no previous Japanese accident had left workers so seriously injured.

Nonaka said Japan's Ground Self-Defense Force's chemical warfare unit was being sent to the accident site but that it lacked relevant experience. Government sources later said Japan might ask the U.S. military for technical help.

Asked about his remarks earlier in the day that the situation appeared to be under control, Nonaka said the measurements of radioactivity had been low but started to rise.

Nonaka added that there might have been a "criticality incident" at the plant. Criticality is the point at which a nuclear chain reaction becomes self-sustaining, similar to what occurs inside a nuclear reactor.

'Criticality': A fatal nuclear scenario

Bob Ebel, a nuclear specialist with the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, said that while serious, the accident could not be compared to the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.

A spokesman for the Washington-based Nuclear Energy Institute, which represents the U.S. nuclear power industry, echoed that view.

"Criticality is a flash event," Steve Kerekes said of the accident, "as compared to a whole kind of reaction that Chernobyl was."


A nuclear reaction apparently occurred when the workers added too much uranium to a tank for processing into fuel for nuclear power plants, said Makoto Ujihara, head of the Tokyo office of JCO Co., the private company that operates the plant.

Tucker reported it still was not clear why the workers were trying to process seven times the allowed level of uranium.

Company officials said they thought that while radioactivity was released into the atmosphere, the radioactive material itself remained contained.

Ujihara said the workers had seen a blue flash  said by experts to be a sign of a "criticality incident"  and then began to feel ill shortly after the accident around 10:35 a.m. local time.

Officials at Tokaimura immediately advised some 50 households living within 1,150 feet of the plant to evacuate and others were advised in radio broadcasts to stay home. Schools were told to keep children inside and windows closed.

Three workers who had been handling the uranium were taken to a specialized hospital. The two in critical condition were in a state of shock with fever and diarrhea. All three had an unusually high white blood cell count.

"Judging from the symptoms," a doctor later told reporters, "they appeared to have received quite a substantial amount of radiation and we will need to keep a close eye on their conditions."

Hair samples from the 11 workers exposed to radiation, showed traces of radioactivity, he said. The level of their exposure wasn't immediately known.

JCO President Koji Kitani, bowing deeply at a news conference in Tokyo, said "a major accident resulting in a radioactive leak has happened. We apologize from the bottom of our hearts."

TOWN HOUSES NUCLEAR COMPLEX Tokai, with a population of around 33,802 people, is home to 15 nuclear-related facilities and was the scene of Japan's worst nuclear plant accident in which 35 workers suffered radiation contamination in 1997.

In that accident at a nuclear reprocessing plant, a fire that caused radiation to escape was not extinguished properly and caused an explosion hours later.

Some radiation leaked from the plant but at levels far below that which would pose a hazard to the public, officials said at the time.

More recently, cooling water with a radiation level of 11,500 times the maximum permissible limit leaked from a commercial nuclear reactor on the Sea of Japan coast in July this year. Nobody was injured in that incident.


Japan has 51 commercial nuclear power reactors that provide one-third of the country's electricity. That relatively high level of nuclear use has made Japan a magnet for anti-nuclear activists.

Paul Leventhal, head of the Nuclear Control Institute in Washington, claimed that Japan has had problems with its uranium and plutonium processing programs because of a focus on breeder reactors, which breed more plutonium than they consume.

The worst case scenario for a breeder reactor, he added, would be a small nuclear explosion.

Greenpeace, for its part, said Thursday's accident "confirms our fears. The entire safety culture within Japan is in crisis."

And Chihiro Kamisawa, of the Tokyo-based Citizen's Nuclear Information Center, noted that preventing a "criticality incident" was a top priority for nuclear safety.

As a result, he said, Thursday's accident casts doubt on Japan's entire nuclear program and could force a postponement of plans to restart the nuclear reprocessing plant in Tokai as well as affect Japan's MOX fuel program.

MSNBC's Kari Huus reports on Japan's controversy over MOX nuclear fuel

The first shipment of MOX nuclear fuel  a mix of uranium and plutonium recycled from spent nuclear fuel  docked in Japan Monday and a second shipment is destined for unloading at another location soon.

Greenpeace has warned that the shipments could have been converted into 60 nuclear bombs if the two ships had been hijacked at sea.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

-- (just@helping.out), September 30, 1999.

Awww Mr Wegner

You know it can't be a embeded system at fault! Fact Finder, Flint, even the honorable Y2K Pro have all assured us that there are no date function problems in the PLC's and subset systems! Of course, I did ask on a post below for Fact Finder to state his qualifications to make "expert" statements on embeded systems. And received the "golden Scilence " treatment for my troubles. I still just KNOW that his is the definitive expertise concerning any questions of embeded systems___NOT!!


-- Shkey (in_a_bunker@forty.feet), September 30, 1999.

"...one of the workers said he used about 16kg of uranium - nearly eight times the normal amount - during the process just before the accident."

Becoming nauseated immediately after being that close to a "criticality incident", almost certainly signifies a lethal dose of radiation was absorbed.

Only way to work on the fissioning material now is by remote control robots. Unless somebody volunteers to go in, which is effectively committing timed-release suicide.

-- Tom Carey (tomcarey@mindspring.com), September 30, 1999.

I'm willing to blame a human error for this one...but how many Y2K related nuclear accidents will we have?

-- Mad Monk (madmonk@hawaiian.net), September 30, 1999.

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