KAMEDO Report No. 78
Nuclear Accident in Japan,1999
Siegfried Joussineau; Louis Riddez (ed)
KAMEDO = Swedish Disaster Medicine Study A break in safety locks resulted in the release of high quantities of gamma and
Organization neutron radiation directly exposed three workers and indirectly exposed as
These reports can be ordered from: many as 310,000 other persons. The two persons who received the highest
National Board of Health and Welfare doses ultimatley succumbed due to the latent effects of the radiation on the
Customer Service Webstore or skin and mucous membranes. Improved protection of workers and responders
National Board of Health and Welfare as well as dosimeters are needed in areas where such events may occur.
Customer Service Careful attention must be paid to providing accurate information to the
SE-120 88 Stockholm media and to the provision of competent psychosocial support.
Fax: +46 8 779 96 67
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Joussineau S, Riddez L: KAMEDO Report No. 78: Nuclear accident in Japan,
1999. Prehosp Disast Med 2006;21(2):117–118.
The Swedish Disaster Medicine study orga-
nization, KAMEDO, was described in PDM
1999;14(1):18–26, and three reports, Summary
Numbers 69–71, were published. In PDM On 30 September 1999, an accident involving nuclear technology occurred at
2000;15(3):113–118, two more reports a nuclear fuel plant at the JCO Company LTD in Tokaimura, Japan, about
(72–73) were published, in PDM 120 km northeast of Tokyo. The accident, which took place during the pro-
2001;16(1):50–52, Report No. 74 was pub- duction of enriched uranium, drew great international attention, and was fol-
lished, and in PDM 2005;20(4):258–264, lowed closely by the mass media. Apart from the problems involving rescue
Report No. 75–76 were published. Report and illness directly caused by the nuclear technology, misinformation provid-
No. 77–80; and 82–84 are published in this ed to the public by the mass media also created problems.
issue. The accident occurred when two workers poured a highly-enriched uranyl
nitrate solution from a vat directly into a precipitation vessel containing a
Information on purchase and ordering highly-enriched solution, which contradicted the defined safety provisions. A
Prices critical situation involving a nuclear fission reaction arose in the precipitation
Catalogue prices inclusive of VAT. Postage vessel. Gamma and neutron radiation were released, and the two workers
always additional. Price changes are possible and were exposed to high doses of radiation. A third worker in a nearby room also
items may be temporarily or permanently out of was exposed.
stock. All three workers first were transported to the local hospital, where they
received first aid. At the hospital, it was difficult to determine what kind of
Reduced VAT on publications accident had occurred and what doses of radiation to which they had been exposed.
Effective 01 January 2002, the VAT on our The injured workers soon were transferred to the National Institute of
publications was reduced to 6%. The reduction Radiological Sciences (NIRS) Hospital in Chiba. After complicated physical
applies to books, brochures, and booklets/print- and biological measurements of radiation doses released, it was possible to
outs of Web publications. The VAT on CDs, estimate the absorbed radiation doses for each of the patients. The measure-
video films, and diskettes is unaltered. ment for Patient A was 24.5 Gy, for Patient B, 8.3 Gy, and for Patient C was
Discount terms If a publication is ordered is on back order, Keywords: emergency plan; first responders;
We can give quantity discounts on orders for the customer is notified, and the order will Japan; media; preparedness; psychological
several copies of the same title: be processed. effect; radiation; radiation dose; radiation
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Always state where you are studying. Updated 04 June 2002.
March – April 2006 http://pdm.medicine.wisc.edu Prehospital and Disaster Medicine
118 KAMEDO Report No. 78
3.9 Gy. The injured received advanced, multidisciplinary 4. First responders to such incidents should have spe-
intensive medical care, which included the latest interna- cial training and protective clothing.
tional treatment principles within the respective specialist area. 5. For treatment and prognosis, it is important that the
Workers A and B who were exposed to the higher radi- radiation dose absorbed can be estimated at an early
ation doses rapidly experienced nausea and vomited. Soon, stage. This requires complex laboratory technology,
they showed signs of effects on their blood and blood- which should be available at selected hospitals in
forming organs, which possibly could have been treated which continued treatment also can be provided.
with bone-marrow transplants. However, it was not possi- 6. Early signs that one has been exposed to a high dose
ble to successfully treat the later complications from the of radiation are: loss of consciousness, feeling ill,
exposure that involved the skin and mucous membranes of vomiting, and diarrhea.
the stomach-intestinal tract and the airways. After long- 7. A high dose of radiation affects most organ systems.
term, intensive care, they both died of heart and lung failure. Some of these, such as changes in the blood morh-
Aside from the three workers directly involved, 229 pology can be treated. Despite advanced treatment
people within the factory area, emergency and nursing per- methods, changes in skin cells and mucous mem-
sonnel, and technical personnel were exposed to measur- branes, which currently occur later, cannot be treat-
able radiation doses (0.07–48 mSv). The 207 people that ed effectively following exposure.
lived within a radius of 350 meters of the factory also were 8. The slightest suspicion that someone has been
exposed to lower radiation doses (0.01–21 mSv). The acci- exposed to radiation should result in calculation of
dent led to immediate consequences for the population in the possible radiation dose absorbed and continued
the community of Tokaimura. The local authorities evacu- observation at the hospital.
ated the area within a radius of 350 meters of the factory. 9. The psychological effects on people affected by radi-
The regional authorities at the county level recommended ation and on the population living in the vicinity of
that the population within a radius of 10 kilometers stay a radioactive leak is great. Therefore, it is important
indoors. Schools and shops also were closed within this that psychosocial care be provided at an early stage.
area. Approximately 310,000 people were affected by the 10. In the case of accidents involving radioactive materi-
accident. It took an entire day after the accident to stop the al, it is extremely important that the public receives as
so-called critical reaction so that the production of the accurate information as possible, via the mass media.
radiation was halted. Those who provide the information should have spe-
The accident in Tokaimura also received much interna- cialized knowledge within the field of radiation.
tional attention. In the flow of information, there were some
misunderstandings, which are illustrated in an early press A note on Gy:
release from the National Institute of Radiation Protection. When ionizing radiation interacts with the human body, it
For example, there were some reports that there had been a gives its energy to the body tissues. The amount of energy
major radioactive leak from a nuclear reactor of the type absorbed per unit weight of the organ or tissue is called absorbed
that occurred at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in the dose and is expressed in units of gray (Gy). One gray dose is
former USSR. This underlines the importance of releasing equivalent to one joule radiation energy absorbed per kilogram
and promulgating accurate and adequate information. of organ or tissue weight. Rad is the old and still used unit of
absorbed dose. One gray is equivalent to 100 rads. 1 Gy = 100
1. Dosimeters should be located in risk areas in case of
2. It is absolutely vital to have well-developed and
rehearsed emergency plans for radiation accidents.
3. Personnel from companies handling radioactive
materials should be provided with protective cloth-
ing in order to be able to provide first aid and to
accompany any person damaged by radiation to a
hospital. Thus, these personnel also may provide
essential information about the accident and the
possible doses of absorbed radiation.
Prehospital and Disaster Medicine http://pdm.medicine.wisc.edu Vol. 21, No. 2