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JCO plant worker in 'very serious' condition.

TOKYO, Dec. 7 Kyodo

A worker at a JCO Co. uranium processing plant who was exposed to high levels of radiation in Japan's worst nuclear accident more than two months ago fell into "very serious" condition Tuesday, doctors said.

Hisashi Ouchi, 35, is suffering from unstable blood pressure, likely caused by septicemia, and the future course of his condition is uncertain, the doctors at the University of Tokyo Hospital said.

Ouchi recovered slightly after his heart temporarily failed on Nov. 27, but he has remained in serious condition since then.

Ouchi's blood pressure was 167-68 and his pulse was 137 beats per minute, the doctors said. He has been suffering from a reduction in red blood cells since last week.

Ouchi has been seriously ill since the Sept. 30 accident, in which he was exposed to an estimated 17 sieverts of radiation. That level is about 17,000 times the average annual exposure in Japan, according to the National Institute of Radiological Sciences in Chiba, Chiba Prefecture, where he was first treated.

After the accident, Ouchi's white blood cell count plummeted to nearly zero, effectively depriving him of an immune system and prompting doctors to move him to the University of Tokyo Hospital to undergo transfusions of peripheral stem cells in early October.

After he received transfusions Oct. 6 and 7 from his brother, his white blood cell count increased to almost normal in mid-October, leading doctors to declare the operations a success.

But Ouchi's overall condition remained serious, and he began discharging blood from his bowels Nov. 18 due to bleeding in his small and large intestines. Doctors said then that the bleeding was not likely to be immediately life-threatening as the patient's blood pressure and pulse were relatively stable.

Ouchi has also developed a condition in which water accumulates in his chest and stomach and he is losing body fluids through his skin, which was severely burned in the accident.

Ouchi and two other workers at the plant run by JCO Co. were exposed to radiation when they poured too much uranium into a processing tank, triggering a self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction.

At least 80 other people were exposed to excess radiation in the accident.
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Publication:Japan Energy Scan
Date:Dec 13, 1999
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