Workers at Fukushima splashed by toxic water

AFP-JIJI, AP, Kyodo

Six workers at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant were doused Wednesday with radioactive water from a desalination system, Tepco said.

The fluid splashed onto the men when they accidentally removed a pipe connected to the system, officials from Tokyo Electric Power Co. said.

The highly toxic water spilled out in the incident, covering the desalination facility’s entire floor, Tepco said.

About 10 tons of water may have leaked, the utility said, noting the pipe in a reading in August contained some 37 million becquerels per liter of radioactive substances that emit beta rays such as strontium-90, against the legal limit of 30 becquerels for strontium-90.

The mishap is the latest in a spate of leaks and problems caused by human error that have added to public criticism of Tepco’s handling of the crisis.

“The water did not come into contact with their faces so there is little possibility that the workers ingested” any of the water, a Tepco spokeswoman said, adding there were five other workers present at the time.

The pipe was reconnected and the leak stopped within an hour of the initial incident, the utility said in a statement.

The system is designed to desalinate contaminated water once it has been treated to reduce its cesium content. It is then stored in tanks on the site.

Wednesday’s incident will do little to improve the commonly held view that Tepco is making a mess of handling the crisis.

Earlier this week it was revealed a worker had accidentally switched off power to pumps keeping broken reactors at a steady temperature.

Tepco workers have been pouring thousands of tons of water onto the reactors to keep them cool.

The radioactive water is being stored in around 1,000 tanks, which have recently been the source of leaks.

Tepco has so far revealed no clear plan for the water stored on the site, but experts have said that ultimately it will have to be dumped in the Pacific once it has been scoured of the worst of its radioactive load. But this suggestion faces opposition from fishermen, environmental groups and neighboring countries.

  • Starviking

    “contained some 37 million becquerels per liter of radioactive substances that emit beta rays such as strontium-90, against the legal limit of 30 becquerels for strontium-90.”
    More scaremongering. There are a whole host of radioisotopes which emit beta radiation, including Caesium-134, 137, and Tritium. Tritium in particular is present in large amounts in waste water at the plant.

  • Digger

    “Accidently removed a pipe”. Yet another example of Japan’s nuclear power industry getting it wrong.

  • disqus_Gvs3G32z1K

    “Wednesday’s incident will do little to improve the commonly held view that Tepco is making a mess of handling the crisis.”

    Little? More like nothing.

    • Sik

      Depends, do you consider negative numbers to be little? They’re less than a small amount, after all.

  • Starviking

    Japanese society is also getting it wrong too. If there was any desire to improving the situation at Dai-ichi then there’d be cries for more workers there with better pay and conditions…but no. TEPCO as an organisation, and the people it employs have to be shamed – that is what counts. The same factors that caused the Amagasaki Train Crash in 2005 are in play. No wonder workers are messing-up, they’re being told:

    Get it right first time, make no mistakes, and do it under difficult conditions, under stress, with insufficient rest, and with no sympathy from society. Not conducive to a good safety culture.

  • Mike Wyckoff

    “Incompetence at its best”, TEPCO’s new motto.

    At least they’re doing their best.