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UPDATE2: Radiation-exposed workers to be treated at Chiba hospital.

TOKYO, March 25 Kyodo

(EDS: ADDING INFO)

Three workers who were exposed to high-level radiation at a crippled nuclear power plant in Fukushima Prefecture arrived Friday at a radiation research center in Chiba city where they are scheduled to undergo specialized evaluation.

The accident highlighted the plant operator's lax procedures, with industry minister Banri Kaieda pointing to the absence of a person who should have been checking the on-site radiation level.

The three workers were exposed to radiation amounting to 173 to 180 millisieverts Thursday while laying cable underground at the troubled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant's No. 3 reactor, and two of them were taken to the Fukushima Medical University Hospital due to possible radiation burns to their feet.

The two were not wearing rubber boots as they stood in water that contained radioactive materials 10,000 times the normal level, plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. said.

Electrical engineering firm Kandenko Co., which employs the men, said its workers were not required to wear rubber boots as its safety manuals did not assume a scenario where its employees carry out work standing in water at a nuclear power plant.

The remaining worker from Kandenko's subcontractor was not hospitalized but was also sent to the National Institute of Radiological Sciences in Chiba, where the two workers in their late 20s and early 30s are expected to be treated for around four days, Kandenko and TEPCO officials said.

TEPCO's Fukushima office said the two workers have not complained of pain or nausea, but were suspected of having been exposed to gamma ray or sustained beta ray burns. Doctors said their condition is generally good, the utility added.

Before departing from a hospital in Fukushima city, the two went through a decontamination process, which involved repeatedly wiping their feet with warm towels.

As the two workers walked through the Fukushima hospital, about 15 Self-Defense Force members wearing radiation protective suits shielded them with blue sheets.

The revelation that the workers may have suffered radiation injuries underlines the possibility that part of the No. 3 reactor of the plant or the spent fuel pool in the reactor building may have been damaged, releasing radioactive materials.

The two, who were working in contaminated water up to 15 centimeters deep, had their feet and lower legs below the knee soaked as the water seeped through their protective suits.

Tokyo Electric, also known as TEPCO, said almost no water was present during an on-site inspection on Wednesday, and that the level of radiation was low at that time.

''Because of this, the workers were believed to have continued their work even after the alarm on their dosimeter went off, assuming there was a problem with the device,'' a TEPCO official said.

TEPCO plans to strictly enforce the rule of evacuating the site whenever the dosimeter's alarm goes off after the radiation level tops 20 millisieverts.

Referring to the absence of a person who should have been in charge of radiation-level monitoring, Kaieda, the minister of economy, trade and industry, told a press conference in Tokyo, ''This is a very big, basic oversight.''

The nuclear safety agency, which belongs to the Economy, Trade and Industry Ministry, ordered TEPCO on Friday to review its radiation management procedures to prevent a recurrence of a similar incident.

Including the three, a total of 17 workers have been exposed to radiation exceeding 100 millisieverts in the country's worst nuclear crisis.

Workers are usually allowed to be exposed to up to 100 millisieverts in an emergency situation. The limit, however, has been raised to 250 millisieverts during the ongoing crisis at Fukushima.
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Publication:Japan Energy Scan
Geographic Code:9JAPA
Date:Mar 28, 2011
Words:600
Previous Article:Radiation levels in Tokyo tap water decline further.
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