The workers that entered unit 3 on March 24th, 2011 had never been told of the radiation levels or that there was water in the building basement. Only some workers had rubber boots as they went in to lay cable. The workers wore cloth coveralls and waterproof suits that have proven many times to not really be waterproof.
Six workers all in their 20’s or 30’s went into unit 3’s turbine building that day, three of them went down into the basement full of hot ankle deep water. The two that had short boots suffered beta radiation burns to their legs. The three had exposure doses of about 180 mSv for the brief time they spent in unit 3. The emergency maximum dose was 250 mSv at that time. Shinichi, one of the workers now suing did not go in the basement and had a 20 mSv dose total for the 13 days he worked there.
The work was done by entering the building through a hole in the wall and seeing by head lamps. The water in the basement was hot, steaming and had a radiation level of 400 mSv/h, the air in the basement was 200 mSv/h. NISA said the water was “10,000 times more radioactive than levels normally found in water in or around a reactor“.
The lawsuit claims that the contractor the 6 worker team worked for sent them in without proper protection. TEPCO has admitted workers had not checked the radiation in the area before work was started. The area was declared off limits by TEPCO after the workers were burned in the basement. The leaking water could have been anticipated and workers were given no warnings before then entered the turbine building. The two injured workers were taken to a special unit at the National Institute of Radiological Sciences in Chiba for treatment.
By March 24th, 2011 more than 20 workers had been injured at the plant including 11 who were hurt when unit 3 exploded. There have been four deaths at Fukushima Daiichi since the disaster. TEPCO claims all are unrelated to the work at the plant or at least not related to radiation exposure. Questions remain about some of these deaths as long delays before workers were transported to the hospital existed and one case of “acute leukemia” in a plant worker appears to possibly be a case of radiation exposure. There have been many instances where workers have admitted ditching dosimeters or shielding them with lead in order to keep working and not record their actual doses.
To date 6 workers have recorded exposures over 250 mSv, 3 over 200 mSv and a total of 167 workers have doses over 101 mSv. These rates and worker numbers are likely worse as dose faking has been widely known at the plant.
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