Japan nuke plant workers likely exposed to radiation far beyond legal limit

16:19, May 30, 2011      

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Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) and the Japanese government officials said Monday that two of the utility firm's employees who have been working at the crippled Fukushima No.1 nuclear power plant in northeast Japan may have been exposed to radiation exceeding the legal limit of 250 millisieverts.

The two male workers in their 30s and 40s have been working at the radiation-leaking complex since the March 11 earthquake and tsunami triggered the worst nuclear crisis.

A spokesperson for TEPCO said that the two men had been exposed to increasing amounts of radiation since March 11, amassing several hundred millliseiverts.

To deal with the escalating crisis, the government raised the legal limit of radiation workers could be exposed to in an emergency situation from 100 millisieverts to 250 milliseiverts.

However, according to the power company and government officials, the two workers who had their thyroid glands tested on May 23 had absorbed 7,690 and 9,760 becquerels of radioactive iodine-131 -- a level 10 times that of other workers tested.

The two men had been assigned to work details at the Nos. 3 and 4 reactors, which involved being inside the reactors' control rooms as well as outside on the complex's grounds.

The embattled utility firm said it plans to test 150 more workers who have been assigned similar work duties.

The radioactive materials released during the Chernobyl disaster, a crisis which draws a number of parallels with the Fukushima disaster, continues to affect people in the region, with children being the most at risk

The World Health Organization said the Chernobyl nuclear disaster will cause 50,000 new cases of thyroid cancer among young people living in the areas most affected by the nuclear disaster.

The rate of thyroid cancer in adolescents aged 15 to 18, according to the WHO, is also now three times higher than it was before the 1986 disaster took place. The incidence of thyroid cancer in children rose 10-fold in children who lived in the plant 's vicinity.

Source: Xinhua
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