The fuel research building of the Japan Atomic Energy Agency's Oarai Research & Development Center, in Oarai, Ibaraki Prefecture Photo: Kyodo
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Worker at Ibaraki facility has up to 22,000 becquerels of plutonium in lungs

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In one of the worst accidents involving internal radiation exposure in Japan, up to 5,600 to 14,000 becquerels of plutonium 239 have been detected from the other three workers, the Japan Atomic Energy Agency said.

You mean there have been "worse"? I shudder to think about the effects that this radiation must be having on these people. It's sounds like a certain death sentence.

We shouldn't downplay the situation," said NRA Commissioner Nobuhiko Ban, a specialist in radiological protection.

You might not, but everyone around you is going to be circling the wagons and pointing fingers at the people who handled the materials and lay the blame at their feet and run away from taking responsibility for failed procedures.

And these folks are the one's supposed to over look the Fukushima cleanup too?

Damn......and people call nuclear energy "safe"

5 ( +13 / -8 )

Plutonium is known to emit alpha rays for a long period, damaging surrounding organs and tissues. If it is deposited into the lungs, it could increase the risk of developing cancer.

COULD?!?!?!?

8 ( +13 / -5 )

Poor guys are goners...they are not going to be able to remove the material from their lungs. Plutonium emits alpha radiation, a highly ionizing form of radiation, rather than beta or gamma radiation. External exposure to alpha particles isn't much of a health risk, because they have a low penetration depth and are usually stopped by skin. When alpha-emitters get inside cells, on the other hand, they are extremely hazardous. Alpha rays sent out from within cells cause somewhere between 10 and 1,000 times more chromosomal damage than beta or gamma rays.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, plutonium enters the bloodstream via the lungs, then moves throughout the body and into the bones, liver, and other organs. It generally stays in those places for decades, subjecting surrounding organs and tissues to a continual bombardment of alpha radiation and greatly increasing the risk of cancer, especially lung cancer, liver cancer and bone sarcoma.

There are documented cases of workers at nuclear weapons facilities dying within days of experiencing brief accidental exposure to plutonium, according to the Hazardous Substances Data Bank.

One isotope of plutonium, Pu-239, has a half-life of 24,100 years; that's the time it will take for half of the stuff to radioactively decay. Radioactive contaminants are dangerous for 10 to 20 times the length of their half-lives.

12 ( +14 / -2 )

That's gotta suck, knowing what's in your future like that. Let's hope he dodges that bullet.

10 ( +11 / -1 )

While none of the workers has complained of health problems so far, an official of the facility operator said it "cannot rule out the possibility of future health effects

So I guess if they don't break out in boils and their hair doesn't fall out straight away then its all good?? No of course not. These men need to be monitored and given all the help they can get both financial and medical courtesy of the plant they were working for.

Now here is what they were saying yesterday..

An official at the agency said it is hard to say the detected level is "extremely small," although it does not pose an immediate threat to their health.

Masato Kato, a senior official at the agency, said the workers were following "ordinary procedures" during their inspection work.

https://japantoday.com/category/national/5-workers-exposed-to-radioactive-materials-at-nuclear-facility

And yet still after all that and Fukushima, that IDIOT of a PM still wants to turn on the Nukes. Disgusting

2 ( +8 / -6 )

"Perhaps (the workers) have become too accustomed to plutonium. I urge careful handling."

That's right, blame the workers. They are expendable after all.

10 ( +14 / -4 )

The article concludes with lamenting that while they wore masks, the radioactive particles may have slipped in between the holes in the fabric.

Did these guys slip on masks and assume that they were now safe?

I don't like it when someone turns up to hang with me wheezing and coughing in a mask because I know they are still making me sick.

If the flimsy mask was the only barrier between plutonium in the lungs and a life after this incident, this VERY UNSAFE Nuclear Facility needs some new management.

8 ( +10 / -2 )

Why were they not wearing full body cover suits?

How can plutonium be placed in bags which tear?

So many unanswered questions....

11 ( +13 / -2 )

In one of the worst accidents involving internal radiation exposure in Japan, 

Japan have been too many "one of the worst" when it comes to accidents involving radiation exposure because those operators are not taking seriously nuclear waste, 22,000 disintegrations per second, plutonium in his lungs, we all know the outcome for those workers.

7 ( +9 / -2 )

More lies, responsibility side-stepping and deceit. Just another day in Japan.

5 ( +9 / -4 )

The series of understatements in this article is mind-numbing.

As ever 安全第一!!!

9 ( +10 / -1 )

It is quite funny that a modern country like Japan cannot seem to properly respect the potential dangers of nuclear energy and materials. Even before Fukushima, Japan had the worst record in the world for incidents like the one in the article above.

6 ( +9 / -3 )

Thank goodness they didn’t have to take bottles of nitroglycerine down ye olde slippery slope. But seriously, a container with nuclear material covered with a bag and workers wearing simple face masks for protection, it doesn’t sound very professional to me. Such carelessness reminds me of that stainless steel bucket incident at Tokaimura, leaving two dead.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Looking at that article and past events, one (not in nuclear village's payroll of course) would only conclude that Japan is certainly a 3rd world country when it comes to Nuclear, I am sure nobody will be surprised to imaging them working with a convenient store mask and handling plastic bags with plutonium contaminated materials in a daily basis.

https://phys.org/news/2013-03-japan-cleanup-lags-tsunami-nuke.html

5 ( +6 / -1 )

extremely small," although it does not pose an immediate threat to their health.

reminds me of the news yesterday about 7 more confirmed thyroid cancers in Fukushima children. the head of Fukushima prefecture health dept said that they were not likely caused by Fukushina Daiichi.

6 ( +8 / -2 )

Was this the same place where they had an incident involving "buckets"?

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Although this is bad, people should understand becquerel and sieverts are different things. Becquerel means one disintegration per second. A Sievert is the dose of absorbed radiation that has the same biological effect as a dose of 1 joule of gamma rays absorbed in 1 kilogram of tissue (1 becquerel = 0.0125 microsievert). This guy was exposed to the equivalent of ~0.3 millisieverts. For this number to be useful we need to consider the length of exposure too. Normal background radiation is around 1-3millisieverts/year (depending where you live) so his additional ~0.3 millisieverts/year is not as bad as people are suggesting. Of course any increase in radiation exposure is cumulative and something anyone should want to prevent, but to compare this to something tangible, food radiation (at least in the US) is permitted up 500 becquerel/Kg.

5 ( +7 / -2 )

That building looks very old, and as it contains plutonium I would have expected more security than a fence. Don't workers wear a HAZMAT type of suit, obviously not, can't weat a plastic helmet wearing one of those I guess.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

lomae Today  09:35 am JST

Although this is bad, people should understand becquerel and sieverts are different things....

Thank you for taking the time to support this story with actual information.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

There is an illustration of the worktop process here:

https://headlines.yahoo.co.jp/hl?a=20170608-00000012-asahi-soci.view-000

Just did some background reading. With the looming demise of Monju, they had decided to go back and check out all their old stock. The plutonium in powder and/or lump form was in a container, within two plastic bags, and finally inside another container. It had not been touched since 1991. Their job was to open the outer container, which one of them did, removing the nuts/bolts. As they lifted out the double-wrapped inner container, the bags burst. The airborne powder seems to have got round the edge of their masks, which were possibly not pulled tight enough? There is some question regarding whether the lab worktop should not have been the sealed type instead of this half-open window system.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

I just wrote and edited a substantial comment in response to Wanderlust. I thanked him for making us aware of Toxnet - Hazardous Substances Data Bank, but he apparently did not read much beyond the summary. There were no cases where people died within days of exposure to Plutonium. There were cases that involved Plutonium that inadvertently became critical and instantly emitted lethal gamma and neutron particle radiation. The first case of facial exposure and inhalation said that the man ended up having a cataract in one eye something like 24 years later. The next discussion was of a study over 50 years of Manhattan Project workers and said that none of them died any earlier than people who had not been such workers or exposed to Plutonium. I had all the references in the original comment and maybe it will appear.

Finally, if you look way way down on the extensive page, you get to Antidotes and treatment and there are ways to effectively treat Plutonium inhalation by lavaging the lungs and chelation therapy to removed the Plutonium from the blood. It also mentions that inhaled Plutonium seldom dissolves in the blood stream.

5 ( +6 / -1 )

Molten Salt Reactors are the answer until we can come up with a better solution. The path down the road of nuclear reactors was doomed before it even began but as always there were big industry players at the time who convinced (back door payments) easily swayed politicians (US) to go down that slippery slope. Molten reactor technology which actually produces plutonium-238 aswell as a whole range of other very useful elements as by products of the reaction. Its also incredibly safe. The fuel used for a MSR is thorium which is almost limitless and estimates are in the millions of years worth of energy production. MSR's were developed in the USA in the 50's at the Oak ridge Lab but died a swift death when the government pulled funding on research in favour of nuclear. China has since taken all that research (for free) and forged ahead with development and are now considered the leaders in the field. Japan has the Fuji Molten Salt Reactor using similar technology to that from the Oak Ridge Lab project with the US and Russia as partners. However....yup you guessed it, the project lacks funding! But our governments are prepared to continue gambling billions on the same losing horse, like an addicted gambler with the mantra "its gotta win this time".

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Pukey2, I read somewhere that they were exposed and tested first here at Japan Atomic Energy Agency's Oarai facility, then taken to Tokaimura I believe for further comprehensive testing. Same organization, JAEA, but different facility. (Someone correct me if this info is wrong).

3 ( +3 / -0 )

As a rule of thumb, if you get plutonium of the size of a pollen into your lung, you get with 100% probability lung cancer.

plutonium is also highly toxic.

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

Where's the pro-nuke crowd who said this was no big deal yesterday?

1 ( +8 / -7 )

Here is the Toxnet link and the relevant quotes I had initially found after some minutes reading

https://toxnet.nlm.nih.gov/cgi-bin/sis/search2/f?./temp/~wGMNGd:1

Human Toxicity Excerpts:

/CASE REPORTS/ /LUNG/ Twenty-five male subjects who worked with plutonium during World War II under extraordinarily crude working conditions have been followed medically for a period of 27 years. Within the past yr, 21 of these men have been examined at the Los Alamos Scientific Lab, and 3 more will be studied in 1973. /Physical exams were extensive, including routine hematological, chemical, urinary exams/. The bronchial cells of several of the subjects showed moderate to marked metaplastic change. Diseases and physical changes characteristic of a male population entering its sixth decade were observed. ... The bulk of these exposures were by inhalation, although ingestion may have occurred also. Roentgenograms were taken of the chest, pelvis, knee, and teeth. The chromosomes of lymphocytes from the peripheral blood and cells exfoliated from the pulmonary tract ... /were/ studied. Urine specimens assayed for plutonium gave a calculated current body burden (excluding the lung) ranging from 0.005 to 0.42 uCi, and low energy radiation emitted by internally deposited transuranic elements in the chest disclosed lung burdens probably of less than approx 0.01 uCi. To date, none of the medical findings in the group can be attributed definitely to internally deposited plutonium. ... It seems likely that the bulk of these exposures were by inhalation, although ingestion may have occurred also. /Plutonium, NOS/

[Stannard JN; Radioactivity and Health, A History p.1465 (1988)] PEER REVIEWED

/CASE REPORTS/ /EYE/ The case of a worker who had been potentially exposed to external beta- and gamma-radiation and had possibly ingested or inhaled plutonium and other radionuclides /was described/. In three known incidents, his face had been contaminated with plutonium, some of which must have reached the bloodstream. After 24 years of work, the man had developed impaired vision due to cataracts. The estimated radiation dose to the eye, measured by external dosimeters, was approximately 0.8 Sv, which is below the threshold for this effect derived for gamma-radiation in the atomic bomb survivors ... /Plutonium, NOS/

[IARC. Monographs on the Evaluation of the Carcinogenic Risk of Chemicals to Humans. Geneva: World Health Organization, International Agency for Research on Cancer, 1972-PRESENT. (Multivolume work). Available at: http://monographs.iarc.fr/ENG/Classification/index.php p. V78 394 (2001)] *PEER REVIEWED

Emergency Medical Treatment:

ANTIDOTES

1) DEFEROXAMINE a) USES: Iron, manganese, neptunium, and **plutonium**. 3) EDETATE CALCIUM DISODIUM a) USES: Cadmium, chromium, cobalt, copper, iridium, lead, manganese, mercury, nickel, **plutonium**, ruthenium, yttrium, zinc, zirconium. 4) DTPA, CALCIUM OR ZINC a) USES: **Plutonium**-239, Americium-241, Curium-244

Specific drugs and antidotes. Chelating agents or pharmacologic blocking drugs may be useful in some cases of ingestion or inhalation of certain biologically active radioactive materials, if they are given before or shortly after exposure. /From table/ Plutonium-239: DTPA: chelate iv over 30-60 min; wounds: irrigate with DTPA; EDTA may also be effective if DTPA is not immediately available. Aluminum-containing antacids may bind plutonium in GI tract. /Radiation (Ionizing)/

In some exposures, unusually aggressive steps may be needed (eg, lung lavage for significant inhalation of plutonium).

bronchoalveolar lavage a technique by which cells and fluid from bronchioles and lungalveoli are removed for diagnosis of disease or evaluation of treatment; a bronchoscope iswedged into a bronchus and sterile saline is pumped in and then removed along with thefluid and cells to be analyzed.

Use of a chelating agent should be considered immediately following an accidental intake of plutonium that exceeds the facility action levels ... . For maximum effectiveness, the chelating agent should be administered as soon as possible following the accidental intake of plutonium. Both the zinc or calcium salts of DTPA are approved for human use and are available under Investigational New Drug (IND) Permits for treating internal plutonium contamination

2 ( +4 / -2 )

These guys must have attended the Laurel and Hardy school of safety training. Why do these things need to be inspected anyway? If they thought the containment vessel might be compromised they should have been much more careful in their handling of it.

It's good to know there are treatments, but are they available in Japan? The article says they have been given some medication, without saying what it was.

0 ( +4 / -4 )

"Lavage" sounds scary. How do you wash out someone's lungs? With anaesthetic?  One lobe at a time?

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Tokaimura - plastic buckets.

Here - masks, the wearing of which is useless:

could have inhaled the radioactive materials from the small gaps between the masks and their faces.

Poor guys are goners. The two Tokaimura men were dead within months.

-5 ( +2 / -7 )

What was it they said yesterday?

An official at the agency said it is hard to say the detected level is "extremely small," although it does not pose an immediate threat to their health.

Horrific.

6 ( +7 / -1 )

Toasted Heretic: And yet despite this now being international news and it is known the levels were not only NOT "extremely small" but the largest on record, they are still saying, "Well... shucks... it seems he's surpassed his limit for the year. It's possible, even though it was yesterday and there is no harmful effects a few hours later, it may cause harm in the future..." and other such nonsense.

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

AND THEN THEY GET ON A TRAIN TO GO HOME TO THEIR FAMILIES! Are they getting checked to?

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

In his lungs were 22,000 Bq, but overall they now (8 June) reckon he actually ingested 360,000 Bq of plutonium and americium into his body.

https://headlines.yahoo.co.jp/hl?a=20170608-00000024-mai-soci

3 ( +4 / -1 )

(plutonium 239 and americium 241)

Further reading. Apparently their job was to check the contents of 21 of these containers; the first one ruptured upon opening the outer lid. A possible build-up of helium gas over the 26 years that it had remained closed, one expert thinks. They also say that the innermost plastic vessel had in retrospect probably not been suitable for long-term storage.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

wanderlust Today 06:55 am JST Poor guys are goners...they are not going to be able to remove the material from their lungs. Plutonium emits alpha radiation, a highly ionizing form of radiation, rather than beta or gamma radiation

What?!?! not necessarily. what you say is mostly just hype and not based on facts. For started, plutonium releases all three forms of radiation, not just alpha.

There are documented cases of workers at nuclear weapons facilities dying within days of experiencing brief accidental exposure to plutonium, according to the Hazardous Substances Data Bank.

this is simply not true:

In the 1940s some 26 workers at US nuclear weapons facilities became contaminated with plutonium. Intensive health checks of these people have revealed no serious consequence and no fatalities that could be attributed to the exposure. In the 1990s plutonium was injected into and inhaled by some volunteers, without adverse effects. 

There were about 25 workers from Los Alamos National Laboratory who inhaled a considerable amount of plutonium dust during 1940s; according to the hot-particle theory, each of them has a 99.5% chance of being dead from lung cancer by now, but there has not been a single lung cancer among them.

and:

The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that the lifetime cancer risk from inhaling 5,000 plutonium particles, each about 3 µm wide, to be 1% over the background U.S. average.[128] Ingestion or inhalation of large amounts may cause acute radiation poisoning and possibly death. However no human being is known to have died because of inhaling or ingesting plutonium, and many people have measurable amounts of plutonium in their bodies

so say whatever you like but the likelihood that these people will immediately die is not backed by scientific evidence. all you're doing is spreading unfounded rumors and fear.

1 ( +6 / -5 )

I shudder to think about the effects that this radiation must be having on these people. It's sounds like a certain death sentence.

Hardly, 26 workers during the Manhattan project were exposed to higher levels of plutonium and 40 years later only 4 of them had died and only one of those was from cancer.

One isotope of plutonium, Pu-239, has a half-life of 24,100 years; that's the time it will take for half of the stuff to radioactively decay. Radioactive contaminants are dangerous for 10 to 20 times the length of their half-lives.

And the longer its half-life the LESS of a health hazard it is. Because a longer half-life means it releases its energy much more slowly.

As a rule of thumb, if you get plutonium of the size of a pollen into your lung, you get with 100% probability lung cancer.

Nope. Might want to get a better thumb.

4 ( +9 / -5 )

I have to feel sorry for this poor guy that has got stuff in his lungs, a following comment was plutonium has a half live of 24.000 years, at some point this guy is not going to with us, traditional people in Japan are cremated, will he be able to be cremated? is the crematory going to meet legal emotions? is the crem going to spread radioactive waste into the air? and once the widow or the family gets his ashes back, are the ashes going to be radio active? IF this guy has to be buried will his coffin be marked as radio active?? and can this be applied to the clear up workers at the Fukashima NPP?

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Bags? BAGS???

1 ( +3 / -2 )

unfortunately, many of you are having a visceral reaction to this news and are anti-nuclear to start with. instead of shrieking at the top of your lungs about the dangers of plutonium, do a little research and educate yourselves. a little education goes a long way.  

"We are all born ignorant, but one must work hard to remain stupid."

Benjamin Franklin

1 ( +6 / -5 )

This is what happens when you give a kid a box of matches. You wouldn't expect such a simple mistake when dealing with plutonium. Nuclear power can be safe if it's not controlled by five-year-olds.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

Would those workers and their families now suffer discrimination?

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

The odds of these 5 dying from the effects of radiation in their lungs is close to 100%, I would think.

-3 ( +3 / -6 )

Its a wonder the company dont blame the workers from snorting the stuff and Fine them from pinching Radioactive material

2 ( +4 / -2 )

And the longer its half-life the LESS of a health hazard it is. Because a longer half-life means it releases its energy much more slowly.

Please read the article it does actually release at 22,000 times per second in his lungs, hardly slowly.

-3 ( +2 / -5 )

unfortunately, many of you are having a visceral reaction to this news

Must be only you who thinks it is not unfortunate to have 22,000 beq plutonium in your lungs.

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

the roughly 0.0169 g of potassium-40 present in a typical human body produces approximately 4,400 disintegrations per second or 4.4 kBq 

from Wikipedia's description of the Bequerel. This puts some perspective on the amounts reported here.
2 ( +4 / -2 )

Japan could just switch to renewable energy, and phase out nuclear power usage. Especially given that it's clearly more trouble than it's worth.

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

The odds of these 5 dying from the effects of radiation in their lungs is close to 100%, I would think.

And that thought would be wrong. As a number of previous comments have stated, past exposures to plutonium exceeeding the amounts present in this case have NOT resulted in 100% death from radiation to the lungs. IN fact it has been a lot less than 100%.

Please read the article it does actually release at 22,000 times per second in his lungs, hardly slowly.

I did read the article. Please don't be rude and make assumptions. The FACT is that for equal amounts of material one with a longer half-life will give off LESS radiation in a given period of time.

Japan could just switch to renewable energy

Which renewable energies do you suggest? And since almost all of them are intermittent, what are theysuppose to do when there isn't enough power?

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Over the ages, from times when background radiation levels were significantly higher than they are today, we have evolved survival mechanisms to counter damage by ionising radiation. This is not so with problems such as simple dietary deficiencies.

"...DNA double-strand breaks, the most serious DNA lesion caused by ionizing radiation, are also caused by several vitamin or mineral deficiencies, such as for folate..."

"...Radiation activated excision and DNA double-strand break repair genes and repressed mitochondrially encoded genes...".

"...Folate deficiency activated base and nucleotide excision repair genes and repressed folate-related genes. No DNA double-strand break repair gene was activated by folate deficiency..."

"...These findings suggest that a diet poor in folate may pose a risk of DNA damage comparable to that of a relatively high dose of radiation. Our results also suggest that research on biological effects of low-dose radiation should take into account the nutritional status of the subjects, because folate deficiency could confound the effects of low-dose radiation...":

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14597554

Dietary deficiencies should be of far greater concern to most people than low dose ionising radiation.

""...“Around 10 percent of the US population and half the poor were folic-acid deficient..,."":

http://www.the-scientist.com/?articles.view/articleNo/40054/title/Mutagens-and-Multivitamins/

0 ( +0 / -0 )

than low dose ionising radiation.

Exactly. Now some will say that 12 Sieverts in 50 years isn't low dose. Well, people have lived (and continue to live) in Ramsar, Iran. Due to radium, many people there receive up to 0.3 Sieverts per year. That would be 15 Sieverts in 50 years. And these people and their ancestors have been receiving these doses every year for generations. Studies on the residents show no higher cancer rate and no higher rate of genetic anomalies.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

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