Saturday, May 21, 2011

Fukushima Worker's Death, News, and the Lemming's Thoughts

'Mysterious Death At Atomic Power Plant!!!'

Actually, not all that mysterious. In the Lemming's opinion.

Someone working at the Fukushima nuclear power plant died, abruptly, while on the job. He seems to have had a heart attack.

Hats off to news services - the ones the Lemming's read, anyway - for not playing up the 'drama' in this story:

"Japanese Worker's Death Not Linked to Radiation"
Martin Fackler, Asia & Pacific, The New York Times (May 14, 2011)

"A worker at Japan's crippled nuclear plant died Saturday of causes that appeared to be unrelated to radiation, the plant's operator said.

"The operator, the Tokyo Electric Power Company, said the contract worker, who was in his 60s, died after carrying heavy equipment in a waste disposal building of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant. The company said that he was wearing radiation-protection clothing and a mask when he collapsed, and that his body did not show high levels of radioactive contamination.

"Japanese news media reports later quoted a doctor at the plant as saying the man had apparently suffered a heart attack. The death is the first by one of the workers struggling to bring the Fukushima Daiichi plant under control since it lost power and cooling functions after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami...."

If you think this wasn't the first death at the Fukushima power plant, by the way: you're right. Two workers died during the disaster. Looks like they got in the way of the tsunami that started the trouble with the reactors' cooling systems.

Millisieverts, Detail, and Common Sense

"Worker at Fukushima nuclear plant dies"
The Japan Times (May 14, 2011)

"A worker at the crippled Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant died Saturday after collapsing while carrying equipment at a waste disposal building, Tokyo Electric Power Co. said.

"The cause of death wasn't immediately known, but Tepco said no radioactive substances were detected on his body....

"...The death is the third at the plant since the crisis began. The bodies of two workers who disappeared March 11 were found floating in the basement of reactor 4 later that month, having died from injuries sustained on the day of the disaster.

"The man had started working at the plant Friday and was wearing protective gear, including a full face mask, at the time of his collapse, Tepco said.

"He was exposed to radiation totaling 0.17 millisievert - a level considered to have little effect on health - while no radioactive substances were detected on his body, the utility said...."

The Lemming's gone on - and on - about millisieverts and background radiation before. Bottom line, it looks like folks working at the TEPCO plant - the part where this man died, anyway - were taking reasonable precautions.

The Lemming's a bit surprised at two things in news from Japan's Fukushima power plant:
  • Reporting that's
    • Comparatively calm
    • Occasionally informative
  • A remarkable lack of immediate health problems
Under the circumstances, that last is really remarkable. In the Lemming's opinion.

Over the next years - decades - will we be reading about what 'really' is happening to folks living in that part of northeastern Japan? Likely enough. Some of it may be true; some may be true, but edited to enhance drama; some may have more to do with technophobia than the Fukushima reactors.

And that's another topic.

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