The early June radiation exposure accident at the Oarai Research and Development Center in the Ibaraki Prefecture in Japan involving five workers has been designated a level 2 accident by the country's Nuclear Regulation Authority. Using the international scale for accidents, the incident is on the low end of the 1-7 scale of accident intensity with 7 being the most severe accidents and 1 being the least severe.
The accident in June involved five workers, including an employee described by the Japan Times as a male in his 50s. This employee opened a container in a storage room that held a plastic bag that held plutonium and uranium powder samples. The manner in which the container was opened caused the bag to rip, releasing powder into the area that was inhaled by the five employees.
The worker who opened the container suffered the highest exposure. But, according to reports, the level of exposure was far less than originally feared. Instead of a radiation dose of as high as 12 sieverts, the worker with the highest exposure is expected to be dosed with between 100 and 200 millisieverts over a period of 50 years, given the powder was ingested by the worker.
Urine samples confirmed the internal exposure to radiation, the Times reported.
After the accident, however, the research facility was cited for several sub-par safety practices. For one, the five workers failed to use a device that would check their protection masks to make sure there were no leaks.
Some of the radioactive material at the plant was also found to be improperly stored with some samples stored in a sub-par manner for as long as 35 years.
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