TOKYO: Japan’s nuclear energy agency said Wednesday that five employees have been exposed to dangerously high levels of radiation after a bag containing plutonium broke apart during a routine inspection.
The Japan Atomic Energy Agency said the workers were undergoing emergency medical treatment after the accident Tuesday at its Oarai Research and Development Center north of Tokyo.
Their exposure was not immediately life-threatening but one person’s lungs showed a very high 22,000 becquerels of radiation, the agency said.
The group inhaled Plutonium-239 and other radioactive materials after a bag covering the substances tore apart during an equipment inspection, the agency said.
There was no radiation leak outside the building, it added.
Japan’s atomic watchdog slammed what it described as unheard-of levels of exposure.
“There appears to have been a significant level of radiation exposure. I’ve never heard of exposure this high in my career,” Shunichi Tanaka, chairman of the Nuclear Regulation Authority, told reporters Wednesday as he criticized the agency.
Japan has remained on edge over radiation since the 2011 Fukushima crisis, the worst nuclear accident in a generation. AFP