Unbelievable -
'Illegal Manual' Used In
Tokai Nuclear Accident
By Roger Whymant in Tokyo and Nigel Hawkes
Nearly 200 Japanese police yesterday raided the offices of the company operating a uranium processing plant where the country's worst nuclear accident exposed more than 50 people to radiation last week. Police investigations suggest that slipshod safety management, disregard for regulations and poor worker training may all have contributed to the accident.
They have discovered that workers used an "illegal operations manual" in preference to the proper manual, the specialist news agency NucNet News reported yesterday.
Citing the Japan Atomic Industrial Forum as its source, NucNet News said that one of the workers exposed to radiation told police that even the unofficial manual had been ignored at the time of the accident.
It appears that the workers did not even understand what the world "criticality" meant. The accident occurred when three workers poured uranyl nitrate solution into a sedimentation tank. Even the unauthorised manual required them to pour it first into an intermediary tank to prevent a critical mass of uranium being put together.
One worker told police: "We talked, and decided to finish the work quicker."
An official from JCO, the company which operated the plant, confirmed that the workers were not educated about the dangers of criticality, had never before worked with uranium as highly-enriched as the fissile isotope uranium-235 (18.8 per cent) and that none of the three was wearing a film badge to record radiation exposure.
The Science and Technology Agency has decided to revoke JCO's operating licence because of the seriousness of the accident, according to Japanese media reports.