Japan nuclear plant worker dies

2011-05-14 09:54

Tokyo – A man died on his second day of working at Japan’s tsunami-wrecked nuclear power plant today, and the plant operator said harmful levels of radiation were not detected in his body.

The contract worker in his sixties was the first person to die at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant in northeastern Japan since the March 11 quake and tsunami damaged the facility, causing a string of fires, explosions and radiation leaks in the world’s second-worst nuclear accident.

The worker was carrying equipment when he collapsed and died later in hospital, said Naoyuki Matsumoto, spokesman for Tokyo Electric Power Company. The company did not know the cause of his death, Matsumoto said.

The man had been wearing a radiation protection suit, mask and gloves while working at the plant’s waste disposal building, which stores radioactive-contaminated water that has leaked from the tsunami-crippled reactors.

Two Fukushima workers had died March 11 from the tsunami itself, when waves swept into the plant and heavily damaged buildings and equipment. Tokyo Electric Power Company said the workers, both in their early twenties, were found in the basement of a turbine building.

The quake and tsunami are believed to have killed more than 24 500 people. Police said yesterday that 15 019 were dead and 9 506 were still listed as missing.

Radiation leaks at the Fukushima plant have forced 80 000 people living within a 20km radius of the nuclear facility to leave their homes.

The nuclear crisis prompted the government to evaluate all of Japan’s 54 reactors for quake and tsunami vulnerability, and Prime Minister Naoto Kan asked that one plant in central Japan halt operations while its defences were improved.

Chubu Electric said its Hamaoka nuclear plant in Shizuoka was completely shut down today on the premier’s request.

The company will build a large seawall and other safety structures – work expected to take a few years.

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