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Fukushima nuclear disaster: how it was for the workers when it happened

Report Details Initial Chaos at Stricken Nuclear Plant, NYT By MATTHEW L. WALD  November 11, 2011 Fukushima Daiichi Unit 1 was stuck in darkness, and everyone on site feared that the reactor core was damaged. It was the day after a devastating earthquake and a towering tsunami had hit the plant, and the workers knew that they were the only hope for halting an unfolding nuclear disaster.
Another power company had rushed in a mobile electrical generator to power the crucial water pumps that cool the reactor, but connecting it required pulling a thick electrical cable across about 650 feet of ground strewn with debris from the tsunami.

The cable, four inches in diameter, weighed approximately one ton, and
it took 40 workers to try to maneuver it into position. Manhole covers
had been washed away, leaving holes for workers to stumble into, and
their urgent efforts were interrupted by aftershocks and alarms about
possible new tsunamis.
By 3:30 in the afternoon, the workers had managed what many consider a
heroic feat: they had hooked up the cable. Six minutes later, a
hydrogen explosion ripped through the reactor building, showering the
area with radioactive debris and damaging the cable, rendering it

The details about those first hours after the earthquake at the
stricken plant are contained in a new 98-page chronology of the
Fukushima accident. The account was compiled by American nuclear
experts, who interviewed operators and executives from the company
that runs the plant, Tokyo Electric Power Company, and had access to
many of the company’s documents……
The report also takes note of the human toll of the disaster among the
workers, though the prose is more industrial than dramatic.

It points out that many plant workers had lost their homes and even
their families in the tsunami, and that for days after the quake, they
were sleeping on the floor at the plant, and soaking up radiation
doses even in the control room. Because of food shortages, they were
provided with only a biscuit for breakfast and a bowl of noodles for

Working in darkness and without electricity, even simple tasks became
challenging. At one point, control room operators formed themselves
into teams of two, to dash into high-dose areas to try to open a
crucial vent. One would hold the flashlight, monitor radiation dose
and perform other support tasks, and the other would try to get a
valve to move. But there was no communication once the team was in the
field, so the next team could leave only after the first had returned.

Eventually, the radiation levels got too high, and they gave up. The
first explosion rocked the plant soon after, belching clouds of
radioactive materials and giving the world its clearest sense of the
scope of the catastrophe unfolding in Japan.

Hiroko Tabuchi contributed reporting from Tokyo.


November 13, 2011 - Posted by | - Fukushima 2011

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