Fukushima. The Risk for Workers: “Levels of Radiation Could Increase Exponentially”
Lucas Whitefield Hixson
June 6, 2011
TEPCO Fights Humidity in No 2 Reactor – Workers Hospitalized
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TEPCO has now released to the media that more than 9 workers have suffered from heatstroke, and at least two workers were hospitalized for dehydration. The weather onsite is beginning to heat up for summer, and this will make it much more difficult to accomplish tasks on-site.
The situation inside of Reactor 2 is much like that on the roof of Chernobyl. The heat, humidity, and radiation make a workers stay time a matter of minutes once inside of the reactor, even with full protective gear on. There is much work that needs to be accomplished inside of the reactor, but radiation levels extending outside of the building are rising.
The risk for workers increases in areas littered with debris, because the levels of radiation can increase exponentially in proximity to radioactive debris. After a few days, ambient radiation will have begun to effect the machines onsite, and without debris removal, lowering the radiation levels and making a safe work environment for workers is impossible. The protection equipment that workers wear onsite can weigh in excess of 20 pounds, and with high levels of humidity, in can become difficult to breathe through the filtration masks.
At Chernobyl, the worst of of the radioactive debris accumulated inside what was left of the reactor. On the roof of the destroyed reactor high levels of radiation rendered the robotic equipment useless within a few days, forcing men on to the roof to remove the debris. The workers would work shifts between 40 seconds and 7 minutes, scrambling across the littered roof to remove the debris and lower the radiation levels.
There is also an increased risk of Corium escaping the housing units and reaching an underwater source, or an alternate route to the ocean. Corium is a mixture of melted fuel rods and other materials that is a semi-liquid material comparable to lava. If the mixture comes into contact with water, a steam explosion will occur, ejecting high radioactive material high into the atmosphere and surrounding areas.
At Chernobyl, the flooded pools and basement had been accumulating water, and were a serious steam explosion risk. 2 workers perished in the efforts to open the sluice gates and drain the bubbler pool and prevent the steam explosion. At Fukushima Daiichi, the situation is much more complicated. The water is accumulating outside of the reactor buildings, the grounds around the reactor have been subjected to massive amounts of water being injected into the reactors, and there are many leaks that have been found that lead directly into the ocean.
This article was posted: Monday, June 6, 2011 at 8:40 am