On the morning of Sept. 30, 1999, at a nuclear fuel-handling plant in Tokaimura, Japan, 35-year-old Hisashi Ouchi and two other specialists were cleansing uranium oxide to make fuel bars for a research reactor.
As this account published a couple of months later in The Washington Post details, Ouchi was standing at a tank, holding a pipe, while a colleague named Masato Shinohara poured a combination of intermediate-enhanced uranium oxide into it from a can.
Unexpectedly, they were startled by a flash of blue light, the primary sign that something horrendous was about to happen.
The laborers, who had no previous involvement with handling uranium with that degree of advancement, inadvertently had put too quite a bit of it in the tank, as this 2000 article in Release of the Atomic Scientists details.
Thus, they inadvertently set off what’s known in the nuclear industry as a criticality accident — a release of radiation from an uncontrolled nuclear chain reaction.
The Amount of Radiation Ouchi Got!
Ouchi, who was nearest to the nuclear reaction, got what probably was one of the greatest openings to radiation in the history of nuclear accidents. He was about to experience a sickening fate that would become a cautionary illustration of the risks of the Atomic Age.
“The clearest illustration is that while you’re working with [fissile] materials, criticality limits are there for a reason,” explains Edwin Lyman, a physicist and director of nuclear power safety for the Association of Concerned Scientists, and co-author, with his colleague Steven Dolley, of the article in Release of the Atomic Scientists.
What Does a High Portion of Radiation Do To the Body?
The radiation portion in a criticality accident can be surprisingly more dreadful than in a catastrophic accident at a nuclear power plant, like the 1986 reactor blast at Chernobyl in Ukraine, then a part of the Soviet Association, where the radiation was dispersed. (All things considered, 28 individuals eventually kicked the bucket from radiation openness.)
“These criticality accidents present the potential for conveyance of a large amount of radiation in a brief timeframe, however an eruption of neutrons and gamma rays,” Lyman says. “That one burst, assuming you’re sufficiently close, you can sustain in excess of a lethal portion of radiation like a flash. So that’s the scary thing about it.”
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