- TOKAIMURA, JAPAN -
Japanese police have raided the head offices of the company behind Japan's
worst nuclear accident, as new evidence leads investigators to believe
the company knowingly ignored safety procedures.
- Police raided the offices of the JCO company Sunday shortly
after the company admitted to a Japanese newspaper that it had been ignoring
safety procedures at its nuclear processing plant.
- The accident happened early Thursday when workers at
the plant in Tokaimura, 140 kilometres northeast of Tokyo, were mixing
uranium with nitric acid.
- They accidentally poured eight times too much uranium
into the mixing tank, setting off a nuclear chain reaction that caused
an explosion, sending radiation levels skyrocketing to 17,000 times above
- Investigators have learned that workers from JCO bypassed
a complicated system of feeder tanks that was designed to add the uranium
in a controlled way. Instead, workers were using their hands to pour the
potentially deadly material into the container.
- What officials must now determine is whether this was
standard practice at the plant or whether the men were acting on their
- The three men involved can not be questioned at this
time as they are still in hospital suffering from acute radiation sickness.
Two of them are in critical condition.
- Doctors say one of the men may not pull through after
being exposed to lethal doses of radiation. Within a few days, he will
undergo a bone marrow transplant. The donor is his younger sister.
- In all, 49 people were exposed to the radiation, although
only three were hospitalized.
- On Saturday, the Japanese government lifted the evacuation
order for people living near the plant.
- A government spokesman said radiation levels in the area
had returned to normal and that it was safe for people to return to their
- Schools, supermarkets and shops reopened, although some
residents still wonder if it's safe.
- People are still being checked for radiation as many
worry about the long-term implications of the accident.
- While officials said crops, marine products and livestock
in the area were safe to eat, many shoppers weren't buying much at local
- As more details are released about the accident, public
outrage has led to renewed calls for reform of the nuclear industry in
- Japan's president criticized the operators of the nuclear
plant. He said they'd been careless and that he doubted workers had been
trained properly or understood how to perform their duties safely.