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How to Help the Oakland Warehouse Fire Victims

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Sol Rodriguez, center, and Aaron Torres visit a shrine for the victims of a warehouse fire near the site Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016, in Oakland, Calif. The death toll was expected to rise, as crews using buckets and shovels slowly made their way through the building, finding victims where they least expected them, Alameda County Sheriff's Sgt. Ray Kelly said.

At least 36 people are dead after a fire broke out in a converted warehouse in Oakland, Calif., Friday night, with more casualties all but certain. If you'd like to help the victims of the fire and their families, here's how.

Typically Money recommends not giving donations to organizations that are not properly vetted on websites like Charity Navigator. But the proliferation of crowd-funding sites has made it possible for reputable organizations and charities to quickly solicit and collect donations in the immediate aftermath of tragedies -- such as after the Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando --and to disperse them with transparency. As always, however, you should be aware that scammers will try to take advantage of your generosity in these situations.

In Oakland, local sports teams have taken a lead in early responses to the disaster. Both the Oakland A's and the Oakland Raiders have vowed to match up to $50,000 in donations to a YouCaring fundraising campaign set up by the A's. (The Golden State Warriors have donated $50,000 to the Unity Council, a nonprofit community center in Oakland, whose website notes that it will pass donations along to the local Red Cross chapter.)

The Gray Area Foundation for the Arts, a local arts nonprofit, set up a YouCaring campaign shortly after the fire was reported. It has raised over $200,000 as of Monday morning. Josette Melchor, the foundation's executive director, writes that the funds would be used to cover medical bills for survivors and funeral services for the deceased. Melchor noted the foundation is "forming an oversight committee, talking with Oakland authorities, and will be sure the funds are allocated appropriately to fire victims and with due diligence." The foundation also promises to publicly disclose how the funds are dispersed.

Money has reached out to the organizers of both YouCaring campaigns and the Unity Council about their fundraising efforts, and will update when we hear back from them.

According to NBC Bay Area , the American Red Cross and the Alameda County Sheriff's Office have set up a family assistance center, where grief counselors will be available. You can donate to the Red Cross on its website , and stipulate that your funds be used for assistance related to the fire. Additionally, consider donating to the Oakland Fire Department .

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Hisashi Ouchi Suffered an 83-day Death By Radiation Poisoning

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Hisashi Ouchi

On the morning of Sept. 30, 1999, at a nuclear fuel-processing plant in Tokaimura, Japan, 35-year-old Hisashi Ouchi and two other workers were purifying uranium oxide to make fuel rods for a research reactor.

As this account published a few months later in The Washington Post details, Ouchi was standing at a tank, holding a funnel, while a co-worker named Masato Shinohara poured a mixture of intermediate-enriched uranium oxide into it from a bucket.

Suddenly, they were startled by a flash of blue light, the first sign that something terrible was about to happen.

The workers, who had no previous experience in handling uranium with that level of enrichment, inadvertently had put too much of it in the tank, as this 2000 article in Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists details. As a result, they inadvertently triggered what's known in the nuclear industry as a criticality accident — a release of radiation from an uncontrolled nuclear chain reaction.

How Much Radiation Did Ouchi Receive?

What does a high dose of radiation do to the body, ouchi's condition continued to deteriorate.

Ouchi, who was closest to the nuclear reaction, received what probably was one of the biggest exposures to radiation in the history of nuclear accidents. He was about to suffer a horrifying fate that would become a cautionary lesson of the perils of the Atomic Age.

"The most obvious lesson is that when 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 Union of Concerned Scientists, and co-author, with his colleague Steven Dolley , of the article in Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

Hisashi Ouchi

If safeguards aren't carefully taught and followed, there's potential for "a devastating type of accident," Lyman says.

It wasn't the first time it had happened. A 2000 U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission report noted that before Tokaimura, 21 previous criticality accidents had occurred between 1953 and 1997.

The two workers quickly left the room, according to The Post's account. But even so, the damage already had been done. Ouchi, who was closest to the reaction, had received a massive dose of radiation. There have been various estimates of the exact amount, but a 2010 presentation by Masashi Kanamori of the Japan Atomic Energy Agency put the amount at 16 to 25 gray equivalents (GyEq) , while Shinohara, who was about 18 inches (46 centimeters) away, received a lesser but still extremely harmful dose of about 6 to 9 GyEq and a third man, who was further away, was exposed to less radiation.

Internet articles frequently describe Ouchi as ' the most radioactive man in history ,' or words to that effect, but nuclear expert Lyman stops a bit short of that assessment.

"The estimated doses for Ouchi were among the highest known, though I'm not sure if it's the highest," explains Lyman. "These typically occur in these kinds of criticality accidents."

The radiation dose in a criticality accident can be even worse than in a catastrophic accident at a nuclear power plant, such as the 1986 reactor explosion at Chernobyl in Ukraine, then a part of the Soviet Union, where the radiation was dispersed. (Even so, 28 people eventually died from radiation exposure.)

"These criticality accidents present the potential for delivery of a large amount of radiation in a short period of time, though a burst of neutrons and gamma rays," Lyman says. "That one burst, if you're close enough, you can sustain more than a lethal dose of radiation in seconds. So that's the scary thing about it."

High doses of radiation damage the body, rendering it unable to make new cells, so that the bone marrow, for example, stops making the red blood cells that carry oxygen and the white blood cells that fight infection, according to Lyman. "Your fate is predetermined, even though there will be a delay," he says, "if you have a high enough dose of ionizing radiation that will kill cells, to the extent that your organs will not function."

According to an October 1999 account in medical journal BMJ , the irradiated workers were taken to the National Institute of Radiological Sciences in Chiba, just east of Tokyo. There, it was determined that their lymphatic blood count had dropped to almost zero. Their symptoms included nausea, dehydration and diarrhea. Three days later, they were transferred to University of Tokyo Hospital, where doctors tried various measures in a desperate effort to save their lives.

When Ouchi, a handsome, powerfully built, former high school rugby player who had a wife and young son, arrived at the hospital, he didn't yet look like a victim of intense radiation exposure, according to " A Slow Death: 83 Days of Radiation Sickness ," a 2002 book by a team of journalists from Japan's NHK-TV, later translated into English by Maho Harada. His face was slightly red and swollen and his eyes were bloodshot, but he didn't have any blisters or burns, though he complained of pain in his ears and hand. The doctor who examined him even thought that it might be possible to save his life.

But within a day, Ouchi's condition got worse. He began to require oxygen, and his abdomen swelled, according to the book. Things continued downhill after he arrived at the University of Tokyo hospital. Six days after the accident, a specialist who looked at images of the chromosomes in Ouchi's bone marrow cells saw only scattered black dots, indicating that they were broken into pieces. Ouchi's body wouldn't be able to generate new cells. A week after the accident, Ouchi received a peripheral blood stem cell transplant, with his sister volunteering as a donor.

Hisashi Ouchi

Nevertheless, Ouchi's condition continued to deteriorate, according to the book. He began to complain of thirst, and when medical tape was removed from his chest, his skin started coming off with it. He began developing blisters. Tests showed that the radiation had killed the chromosomes that normally would enable his skin to regenerate, so that his epidermis, the outer layer that protected his body, gradually vanished. The pain became intense. He began experiencing breathing problems as well. Two weeks after the accident, he was no longer able to eat, and had to be fed intravenously. Two months into his ordeal, his heart stopped, though doctors were able to revive him.

On Dec. 21, at 11:21 p.m., Ouchi's body finally gave out. According to Lyman's and Dolley's article, he died of multiple organ failure. Japan's Prime Minister at the time, Keizo Obuchi, issued a statement expressing his condolences to the worker's family and promised to improve nuclear safety measures, according to Japan Times .

Shinohara, Ouchi's co-worker, died in April 2000 of multiple organ failure as well, according to The Guardian .

The Japanese government's investigation concluded that the accident's main causes included inadequate regulatory oversight, lack of an appropriate safety culture, and inadequate worker training and qualification, according to this April 2000 report by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission . Six officials from the company that operated the plant were charged with professional negligence and violating nuclear safety laws. In 2003, a court gave them suspended prison terms, and the company and at least one of the officials also were assessed fines, according to the Sydney Morning Herald .

Radiation exposure can be expressed in different sorts of units. Rads or grays reflect the amount of radiation absorbed, while rems and sieverts reflect the relative biological damage caused by the dose, according to MIT News.

Please copy/paste the following text to properly cite this article:

Hinkley Point B Nuclear Powerstation, England

10 Worst Cases of Radiation Poisoning

Did Yassar Arafat die of exposure? Marie Curie and the victims at Hiroshima did.

Marie Curie, a physicist and chemist famous for her work on radioactivity.

Nov. 7, 2013— -- intro: This week, former Palestinian leader Yassar Arafat's death was in the news in a case of suspected radiation poisoning. Swiss scientists announced they had found 18 times the normal levels of polonium in Yasser Arafat's rib, pelvis and in soil stained with his decaying organs, concluding that he was poisoned.

Radiation was not discovered until the late 19th century and its dangers were not immediately known. In 1896, Serbian-American inventor Nikola Tesla intentionally subjected his fingers to X-rays and published findings that burns developed.

In 1927, American geneticist Hermann Joseph Muller published research showing genetic effects of radiation, and in 1946 he was awarded the Nobel prize.

Radiation poisoning is rare, but deadly. Polonium-210 (P-210) is a high-energy alpha emitter with a radioactive half-life of 138 days. It is only a hazard if it is ingested, because of the low range of alpha particles in biological tissues. As a result, external contamination does not cause radiation sickness, according to a 2007 report in the Journal of Radiologic Protection. But taken internally, the poison can be fatal within one month.

Polonium's effect, known as "acute radiation syndrome," first causes nausea, vomiting, anorexia and diarrhea. After a latent phase, victims experience hair loss and bone marrow failure and, if they do not recover, die within weeks to months.

History reveals other frightening cases of radiation poisoning caused by ignorance, industrial disasters and even criminal intent.

quicklist: 1title: Physicist Marie Curie

text: Polish-born and French-naturalized Marie Curie won two Nobel prizes for discovering polonium and radium. At the turn of the 20th century, doctors and industries marketed products like radium enemas and water tonics.

Marie Curie spoke out against treatments, warning that the effects of radiation on the human body were not well understood. In 1934 she died of aplastic anemia caused by radiation poisoning, according to her obituary in The New York Times.

She often carried test tubes containing radioactive isotopes in her pocket and stored them in her desk drawer. She reportedly liked the blue-green light that the radiation gave off in the dark.

media: 20818150

quicklist: 2title: Midori Naka at Hiroshima

text: An estimated 200,000 people died in nuclear bombs dropped in Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World War II. The first person to be extensively studied for what was then called "atomic bomb disease" was the Japanese actress Midori Naka, who was present in Hiroshima in 1945.

media: 20818644

quicklist: 3title: Eben Byers

text: Eben Byers, a 51-year-old Pennsylvania steel manufacturer and golf champion, brought attention to the dangers of radiation when he died in 1932 after consuming large amounts of the so-called cure, "radium water," according to the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh.

His physiotherapist recommended the product Radithor for arm pain and fatigue.

Each bottle contained one microgram of radium and one microgram of esothorium mixed with triple distilled water to drink after every meal.

But Byers lost weight, had headaches and began to suffer bone necrosis in his jaw, losing several teeth. He dropped weight and suffered severe headaches.

The company that made Radithor was investigated for false and misleading advertising, but Byers' doctor maintained he had died of gout.

media: 20818052

quicklist: 4title: Cecil Kelley

text: An industrial accident at the Los Alamos, N.M. , plutonium-processing plant took the life of experienced chemical operator Cecil Kelley in 1958.

He had an excruciating death after being exposed to a lethal dose of neutrons and gamma rays from a mixing tank. When he switched on the stirrer, the liquid formed a vortex and the plutonium layer was released in a pulse that lasted only 200 microseconds.

Kelley fell to the floor and screamed, "I'm burning up," according to reports from the American Federation of Scientists.

At first, he was mentally incapacitated, but on arrival at the local medical center he came to and began vomitting and hyperventilating. His skin turned reddish purple, indicating he had little oxygen in his blood.

He improved briefly, but then developed severe abdominal pains, sweat profusely, developed an irregular pulse and, 35 hours after the accident, Kelley died.

media: 20818929

quicklist: 5title: Hiroshi Couchi

text: Japan's worst nuclear radiation accident took place in 1999 at a uranium reprocessing facility in Tokaimura. Three workers were exposed to radiation after a uranyl nitrate solution exceeded the critical mass. Three workers were exposed to high doses of radiation, according to the 2008 book "Slow Death: 83 Days of Radiation Sickness."

One, Hiroshi Ouchi, was taken to the University of Tokyo Hospital Emergency Room and died two and a half months later. At first, he could talk, but his condition gradually got worse as the radioactivity broke down the chromosomes in his cells.

media: 20818467

quicklist: 6title: Alexander Litvinenko

text:Former K.G.B. agent Alexander Litvinenko was living in political asylum in Britain in 2006 when he unexplainably became ill and died in the hospital three weeks later. An autopsy showed that his tea had been spiked with a lethal dose of polonium-210. Just before his death, he accused the Russian government of masterminding the poisoning.

According to The New York Times, his death created "one of the most stirring dramas of espionage since the cold war." Russia's relations with Britain suffered and diplomats on each side were expelled.

British authorities blamed the murder on Andrei K. Lugovoi, a former K.G.B. bodyguard who is now a member of the Russian Parliament. But the Russians refused to extradite him.

Lugovoi has accused the British secret intelligence agency, MI6, and a self-exiled Russian tycoon, Boris A. Berezovsky, of organizing the killing.

media: 20818414

quicklist: 7title: Harry K. Daghlian, Jr

text: A 1945 accident in Los Alamos, N.M., took the life of Armenian-American physicist Harry K. Daghlian, Jr., who was part of the top-secret Manhattan Project. He was attempting to build a neutron reflector by manually stacking a series of tungsten carbide bricks around a plutonium core. Moving the final block into position, neutron counters warned that it would render the system supercritical. He accidentally dropped the brick causing setting off a nuclear reaction and in the process sustained a lethal dose of neutron radiation. He died 25 days later.

The top-secret Manhattan Project took the lives of several scientists, according to the Atomic Heritage Foundation.

In 1944, a group of engineers were working on an experimental facility at the Philadelphia Navy Yard when, without warning, it exploded, send a cloud of radioactive uranium hexafluoride over the facility.

Killed were engineer Peter Newport Bragg Jr., who was unclogging a tube as part of the mission to perfect the thermal diffusion process for the enrichment of uranium. His co-worker, Douglas Meigs, was also killed. Their work was crucial to the development of the first atomic bomb.

media: 20818864

quicklist: 8title: Louis P. Slotin

text: In 1946, Canadian scientist Louis P. Slotin died in another Manhattan Project experiment in Los Alamos, N.M. He was exposed to deadly gamma and neutron radiation that flashed in a blue blaze. Slotin was exposed to almost 1,000 rads of radiation, far more than his six other colleagues who survived.

Little more than a week later, he died in the hospital after experiencing severe diarrhea and diminished urine, swollen hands, redness on his body, massive blisters on hands and forearms, paralysis of intestinal activity, gangrene and a "total disintegration of bodily functions."

media: 20818770

quicklist: 9title: Chernobyl Disaster

text: In 1986, the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in the former Soviet Union exploded causing tens of thousands of deaths, a number that has never been fully determined.

The official death toll was 31 from acute radiation syndrome, but associated cancers, heart disease and birth defects have been associated with the accident.

The operating crew was planning to test whether the turbines could produce sufficient energy to keep the coolant pumps running in the event of a loss of power until the emergency diesel generator was activated.

Safety systems were deliberately shut off and the reactor had to be powered down. But when the level fell to less than 1 percent and it needed to be increased, there was an unexpected power surge, according to Green Peace The emergency shutdown failed, causing a violent explosion.

The accident released more radiation than the bombing of Hiroshima.

media: 20818573

quicklist: 10title: K-19 Submarine

text: The Soviet submarine, the first of two to carry nuclear ballistic missiles, saw its reactor "go haywire" in 1961. It developed a leak in its reactor coolant system causing temperatures to rise dangerously high.

Captain Nikolai Vladimirovich Zateyev sent seven crew members to their deaths in a heroic struggle to save the boat.

The reactor did not explode but these men died in agony of radiation poisoning, "begging their shipmates to kill them," according to a 1994 report in the Los Angeles Times.

The entire boat submarine was contaminated and within a few years 20 more men were dead.

The fate of the submarine and its crewmembers was secret until after the break up of the Soviet Union when the newspaper Pravda revealed that radiation had killed many members of the crew.

The accident was the subject of the 2002 movie, "K-19: The Widowmaker."

media: 20818238

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History of Yesterday

The Man Kept Alive Against His Will: Hisashi Ouchi

How modern medicine kept a ‘husk’ of a man alive for 83 days against his will..

by Calin Aneculaesei | Sep 8, 2022 | Science

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Trigger warning. The following article includes images of a man who underwent heavy exposure to radioactive compounds. Some may find the images used to tell this story upsetting. Reader’s discretion is advised .

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Outside of major nuclear events such as the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the meltdowns of nuclear facilities such as nuclear power plants, the effect of radiation on humans could not be tested. As such, after the 1999 Tokaimura nuclear accident, many scientists jumped at the opportunity to study the victims of such a high amount of explosion to radiation. Out of all the victims of the disaster, the case of Hisashi Ouchi stands out.

Tokaimura nuclear plant

Hisashi Ouchi was one of three employees of the Tokaimura nuclear plant to be heavily impacted by the accident on 30 September 1999. Leading up to the 30th of the month, the staff at the Tokaimura nuclear plant were in charge of looking after the process of dissolving and mixing enriched uranium oxide with nitric acid to produce uranyl nitrate, a product that the bosses of the nuclear plant wanted to have ready by the 28th.

Due to the tight time constraints, the uranyl nitrate wasn’t prepared properly by the staff, with many shortcuts being used to achieve the tight deadline. One of these shortcuts was to handle the highly radioactive produce by hand. During their handling of the radioactive produce, while trying to convert it into nuclear fuel (uranyl nitrate is used as nuclear fuel) for transportation, the inexperienced three-man crew handling the operation made a mistake.

Tokaimura nuclear plant

During the mixing process, a specific compound had to be added to the mixture, the inexperienced technicians added seven times the recommended amount of the compound to the mixture leading to an uncontrollable chain reaction being started in the solution. As soon as the Gamma radiation alarms sounded, the three technicians knew they made a mistake. All three were exposed to deadly levels of radiation; more specifically, Ouchi received 17 Sv of radiation due to his proximity to the reaction, Shinohara 10 Sv, and Yokokawa 3 Sv due to his placement at a desk several meters away from the accidents. When being exposed to radiation, it is said that anything over 10 Sv is deadly; this would prove to be true in this instance.

The fallout of radiation

Shinohara, the least affected out of the two who received a deadly dose of radiation, lasted 7 months in hospital until 27 April 2000. The technician died of lung and liver failure after a long battle against the effects of the radiation he endured. During his, 7-month stay at the University of Tokyo Hospital, several skin grafts, blood transfusions, and cancer treatments were performed on him with minimal success. Shinohara’s time at the University of Tokyo Hospital would be much less painful than Ouchi’s.

On Ouchi’s arrival at the University of Tokyo Hospital, he had radiation burns across his whole body, a near-zero white blood cell count, and severe damage to his internal organs. He was all but dead without the intervention of the staff at the hospital. He was under intensive care for his first week at the hospital, receiving revolutionary cancer treatment meant to boost his white blood cell count as well as many skin grafts and blood transfusions. After a week of treatment, he told the doctors, “I can’t take it anymore[…]. I am not a guinea pig.”

Hisashi Ouchi at the University of Tokyo Hospital

Even so, his treatment went on and on. On the 59th day of his admission, the now nearly lifeless body of Ouchi suffered three heart attacks in under an hour. The doctors of the hospital resuscitated him after every heart failure, prolonging his pain. Only on the 83rd day after his admission would the technician die of multiple organ failure.

The moral implications of keeping what could best be described as a husk of a man alive for 83 days do not need to be stated. By keeping Ouchi alive for 83 days, the doctors of the University of Tokyo Hospital did the opposite of what they are trained to do, limit human suffering. As a result, Ouchi’s case goes down in the history books as a show of cruelty for the sole reason of research.

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Student of Philosophy, Politics and Economics. History fanatic. Contact: [email protected]

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Hisashi Ouchi, the Most Irradiated Man in the World and Kept Alive for 83 Days

Picture The North Sentinel Island : One of the most isolated and unwelcomed places on the Earth.

Human error and natural disasters have been two major causes of nuclear accidents worldwide. So, when demands on efficiency and speed increased at Japan’s first nuclear power plant, that resulted in human error and negligence, which led to two accidents. Unfortunately for the victims, the first was not enough to improve safety measures. The story of the second accident’s victim is more terrifying than anything anyone could imagine. Here’s more on the background of Japan’s unavoidable dependence on nuclear energy and how it led to the plight of Hisashi Ouchi, the most irradiated man in the world, who was kept alive for 83 days.

Warning: NSFW, contains graphic images!

Table of Contents

Nuclear Energy in Japan and Struggle for Energy Independence

Nuclear Power in Japan

Being an island nation with scarcely any natural resources for power generation, Japan had to rely heavily on imported crude oil, natural gas, and coal. World War II was followed by rapid industrial growth and an unprecedented demand for energy. In 1955, a small number of Japanese researchers were sent to study at the Argonne National Laboratory in the US to gain knowledge that could be used to develop nuclear power in the country.

The following year, Japan Atomic Energy Institute was created by the newly enacted Atomic Energy Basic Law with one of these researchers, Kinichi Torikai, as its president. The law confines the use of nuclear energy to only peaceful purposes. Consequently, Japan began to invest in nuclear power, with its first commercial nuclear power plant built in 1966 in the village of Tōkai in the Ibaraki Prefecture on the east coast of Japan.

Following the oil crisis in 1973, Japan began to diversify its energy sources in order to maintain energy efficiency, and it became increasingly clear nuclear power could help overcome the deficit. To date, Japan has built 54 nuclear reactors. Before the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami, over 30% of Japan’s power was generated by these reactors. Following that earthquake disaster, only nine reactors were left fully operational. The rest are either closed, under review, or undergoing upgrades to protect against future disasters with a goal to have at least 33 reactors reactivated by 2030.

Tōkai Nuclear Power Plant and JCO

 Tōkai Nuclear Power Plant

Tōkai’s first reactor, Unit 1, began operating in 1966 with the capacity to generate 166 megawatts of electricity. The second reactor, Unit 2, began operating in 1978 at 1100 megawatts capacity. With the advent of nuclear technology, several other departments and industrial buildings began to crop up around the power plant. One of them was the Japan Nuclear Fuel Conversion Co. (JCO), established in 1979. The facility was used for converting uranium hexafluoride into enriched uranium dioxide, a necessary first step for making fuel rods to be used in the power reactors.

Tōkai Nuclear Power Plant Units

Every year, JCO processes three tons of uranium using a “wet” process. The building’s infrastructure design was based on approved standard processes and material measurements. However, sometime in 1996, the work procedure was changed to allow the dissolving of uranium dioxide in nitric acid in steel buckets rather than dissolution tanks. The required amount of mixture is supposed to then be transferred to the precipitation tank gradually via a buffer tank. A water-cooling jacket surrounds the precipitation tank to prevent critical temperatures.

In addition to that, there was a lack of regulatory oversight, and no routine inspections were done. Since it was not included in the National Plan for the Prevention of Nuclear Disasters, the plant did not install any critical alarms. With the company’s revenue decreasing and the pressure to increase efficiency, this new procedure was not submitted to the safety management division for approval as they were certain it would not be approved.

The First Accident at Tokaimura

Radioactive waste barrels

Japan’s first serious nuclear accident occurred on 11 March 1997 at Power Reactor and Nuclear Fuel Development Corporation (PNC) while processing low-level liquid waste. The waste would usually be solidified by combining molten bitumen, commonly known as asphalt, and then encased to be stored safely in a remote site. However, on that day, the workers were doing a trial mix using 20% less asphalt than usual. At 10:00 a.m., a gradual chemical reaction created flames in a fresh batch. The flames soon spread to others and were impossible to extinguish, forcing the workers to evacuate.

At 8:00 p.m., just as the workers planned to reenter the building, there was an explosion that blew out the doors and windows and blew off part of the roof. Of the workers, 37 of them were exposed to some amount of radiation. The radiation surrounding the facility increased by 200%. The PNC leadership tried to cover up the extent of damage and the lack of proper supervision. After a lot of public outcry, the facility was shut down. According to the International Nuclear Event Scale, the severity of the incident was ranked at 3, compared with Chornobyl, which was 7.

Criticality Accident on 30 September 1999

location of the Tokaimura nuclear accident

Two years later, another far more serious accident that would rate 4 on the Nuclear Event Scale occurred just four miles away from PNC. On that day, three technicians were working at the JCO preparing new uranium rods after a pause of three years for the experimental fast reactor Jōyō. Hisashi Ouchi and Masato Shinohara were at the tank, and Yutaka Yokokawa was supervising from a nearby room. They were unaware that the operating manual hadn’t been approved.

The uranyl nitrate solution they made was enriched up to 18.8% with uranium-235, far more than the usual 5%-enriched solution they were used to handling. According to the new procedure, they began to pour it directly into the precipitation tank. Under standard procedure, the buffer tank would automatically pump the solution in 2.4- kilogram (5.3-pound) increments into the precipitation tank. However, they did this manually, bypassing the buffer tank.

At around 10:35 a.m., the tank was filled with the solution containing 16 kilograms (35 pounds) of enriched uranium and reached criticality after they added the seventh bucket. At seven times its legal mass limit, uncontrolled nuclear fission began emitting intense gamma rays and neutron radiation. There was a blue flash caused by Cherenkov radiation, and the gamma radiation alarms rang.

Victims of the Accident

Hisashi Ouchi

The 35-year-old Hisashi Ouchi, who had been leaning over the tank while adding the fuel, received up to 17 sieverts of penetrating radiation. Shinohara (29 years), who stood on the platform beside the tank to help Ouchi, received 10 sieverts. A lethal dose of radiation is 7 sieverts, and the maximum allowable annual dosage for Japanese nuclear workers was 50 millisieverts. Yokokawa, aged 54, who was shielded by the walls and distance, received 3 sieverts.

Both Ouchi and Shinohara experienced immediate acute radiation syndrome (ARS) symptoms such as intense pain, nausea, and breathing difficulties. After evacuating the site, Ouchi became incoherent, and his mobility deteriorated. He lost consciousness for 70 minutes, and all three men were transferred to the hospital.

More than 667 people, including other workers at the site who tried to help, first responders, and residents of surrounding households, were exposed to between 5 to 48 millisieverts of radiation following the accident.

Aftermath and Evacuation

Five hours after the accident, everyone within a 350-meter radius, including all the plant workers and around 161 residents from the surrounding 39 households, were evacuated. The remaining 300,000 residents of Tokai were told to stay indoors until the next afternoon. They were told to halt agricultural production and not drink water from their wells.

The following morning, the workers replaced the water in the precipitation tank’s cooling jacket with a boric acid solution. Water reflects neutrons, but boron is capable of absorbing neutrons, and the replacement helped bring down the chain reaction to subcritical levels.

In the following days, over 10,000 medical checkups were done on both workers and residents. The Science and Technology Agency (STA) and Ibaraki Prefecture monitored gamma radiation levels in the soil, vegetation, food, and water. Only the areas surrounding the plant had low levels of radiation, but the rest were found to be safe. In two days, the restrictions on citizens were lifted.

Effects of Severe Exposure on Hisashi Ouchi’s Body

Ouchi's Damaged Chromosomes After Tokaimura Nuclear Accident, 1999

Ouchi was initially taken to the National Institute of Radiological Sciences (NIRS) in Chiba. His body was exposed to so much radiation that it was thought to be equivalent to being at the center of the Hiroshima atomic bombing. It left his body’s immune system completely destroyed, and his white blood cell count plummeted to almost zero. His internal organs were severely damaged, and most of his body received severe radiation burns.

The onslaught of Surgeries and Transplants

Body of Hisashi Ouchi

As he began to get worse, Ouchi was transferred to the University of Tokyo Hospital. He had to be kept in a special radiation ward to prevent infections because his severely compromised immune system made his body vulnerable to harmful microorganisms in the hospital.

On October 6 and 7, the doctors tried to improve his immune system by performing the world’s first peripheral blood stem-cell transplantation with his sister as the donor. However, the new cells mutated because of the residual radiation in his body, which triggered his immune system, causing his condition to worsen. Soon, his white blood cell count began to again drop dangerously low.

Even though he received several cultured skin grafts, he kept losing body fluids. To stop any further deterioration of his condition, the doctors constantly treated him with broad-spectrum antibiotics for infections and painkillers to make things bearable for him. They also administered a granulocyte colony-stimulating factor to increase the production of stem cells and white blood cells in his bone marrow.

In order to keep him alive, the doctors provided his body with blood and fluids every day. With the government treating it as a high-priority case, they treated him with medicine that wasn’t available in Japan at the time, but to no avail.

Heart Failure, Multiple Resuscitations, and Death

Hisashi Ouchi, Tokaimura Nuclear Accident, 1999

According to the book A Slow Death: 83 Days of Radiation Sickness by NHK (Japan Broadcasting Corporation), after a week into the treatment, he said, “I can’t take it anymore. … I am not a guinea pig.” On November 27, his heart failed for more than an hour. The doctors managed to revive him, and various drugs were used to treat his unstable blood pressure caused by septicemia.

Even though it was clear that treating the damage caused to Ouchi’s body was an impossibility, at the request of his family, the doctors kept reviving him, again and again, every time his heart stopped. In the end, the family decided not to resuscitate him should it happen again.

On December 21, after 83 days of torturous ordeal, multiple organs in Ouchi’s body began to fail, followed by cardiac arrest. This time, the doctors did not interfere with what was an inevitability. His body was returned to Kanasago accompanied by his wife and was attended by several senior JCO officials.

The Fate of Shinohara and Yokokawa

Cancer surgery

Shinohara lasted four months longer than Hisashi Ouchi. He underwent radical cancer treatment as well as many skin grafts, which were successful, unlike in Ouchi’s case. He was also given many blood transfusions to improve his stem cell count from congealed umbilical cord blood. However, his body could not fight the infections and internal bleeding caused by radiation damage. He died on April 27 due to kidney and lung failure. Yokokawa, their supervisor, received treatment for radiation at NIRS and was released after three months with minor radiation sickness.

Compensation, Lawsuits, and Safety Measures

Nuclear radioactive

In 2000, over 7,000 compensation claims were settled, and JCO agreed to pay $121 million to those whose agricultural services and other businesses were affected by radiation. The company’s credentials were withdrawn. Everyone who had to evacuate within the 350-meter radius of the facility was compensated on the condition that they would not sue the company later. The ensuing lawsuit saw the president resigning and pleading guilty on behalf of the company. For failing to train technicians and bypassing safety procedures, six other officials, including Yokokawa, were charged with professional negligence.

That year also marked the beginning of Japan’s atomic and nuclear commissions’ regular quarterly inspection of facilities and the conduct of workers and supervisors. Special laws were made to ensure operational safety, extensive safety education, and quality assurance of all nuclear facilities. To prevent further accidents, complying with emergency preparedness procedures, international safety guidelines, and safe disposal of nuclear waste was made mandatory.


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JCO worker succumbs after 83 days

One of three JCO Co. workers exposed to massive radiation in September in the nation's worst nuclear accident died of organ failure at a Tokyo hospital late Tuesday night, becoming the first fatality of his kind in Japan. Hisashi Ouchi, 35, was critically injured during an accident Sept. 30 at the JCO uranium processing plant in the village of Tokai, Ibaraki Prefecture, where hundreds were forced to evacuate or stay indoors as an uncontrolled chain reaction spewed forth radiative particles. The amount of energy that hit him is thought to be equivalent to that at the hypocenter of the Hiroshima atomic bombing. He died at 11:21 p.m., the Science and Technology Agency said. His death, which comes 83 days after the incident, is expected to rekindle opposition to the nation's controversial nuclear power program, which has been tainted by a spate of accidents and coverup scandals in recent years. Ouchi is the second Japanese to die of acute radiation-related injuries since 1954, when U.S. fallout from thermonuclear testing in the Bikini Atolls of the Marshall Islands claimed 40-year-old Aikichi Kuboyama, who was exposed on the fishing boat Fukuryu-maru No. 5. Ouchi's body was returned to his home in Kanasago, Ibaraki Prefecture, on Wednesday afternoon, accompanied by his wife, Chizuru. Several senior JCO officials were in attendance as the casket entered the house. A statement released by Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi expressed condolences to Ouchi's family and pledged to strengthen nuclear safety measures and prevent further accidents. Tokai Mayor Tatsuo Murayama, however, portrayed Ouchi as the "victim of the safety myth" surrounding Japan's nuclear energy program, now more than 40 years old. Ouchi was part of a crew that had sidestepped safety procedures and used a bucket to pour a highly excessive amount of uranium into a processing tank, triggering a self-sustained nuclear chain reaction that neither he, his company, nor the government had thought possible at such a facility. It is suspected that their actions were accepted, if not condoned. In a matter of minutes, Ouchi had been exposed to an estimated 17 sieverts of radiation, or about 17,000 times the maximum annual permissible exposure level set by the government. The accident effectively destroyed Ouchi's immune system by sending his white blood cell count plummeting to nearly zero. As his condition worsened, the National Institute of Radiological Sciences in Chiba, Chiba Prefecture, transferred him to University of Tokyo Hospital, where he reportedly underwent the world's first transfusion of peripheral stem cells on Oct. 6 and 7. Doctors kept Ouchi alive by pumping huge amounts of blood and fluids into him on a daily basis and treating him with drugs normally unavailable in Japan, indicating the high priority the government placed on his survival, observers said. A group of top experts was assembled from Japan and abroad to treat him, with some of the sources saying they felt "silent pressure" from no particular person or body to treat his quick death as a matter of national dignity. Many who were called in to help voiced surprise that the worker had managed to hang on, despite being perhaps the only person in the world to have ever been subjected to so much radiation so quickly. But despite the urgent efforts, his overall condition did not improve, and his heart failed for about 70 minutes on Nov. 27. Doctors managed to keep him alive, but a slight recovery afterward took a turn for the worse. He had been in critical condition since Sunday, and various drugs were being used just to maintain his blood pressure and pulse at adequate levels. His unstable blood pressure was probably caused by septicemia. Despite several skin transplants, however, he continued to lose body fluids through the pores of his skin. Doctors who treated Ouchi told a news conference Wednesday that they did not take special measures such as heart massage to resuscitate him after his heart failed. They said his family had wanted his death to come peacefully. Meanwhile, Ibaraki police said they plan to step up their investigation into the criminal liability of JCO and its parent company, Sumitomo Metal Mining Co., for the accident.

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'Most Radioactive Man' Kept Alive For 83 Days As He 'Cried Blood' And Skin Melted

'Most Radioactive Man' Kept Alive For 83 Days As He 'Cried Blood' And Skin Melted

More than 20 years ago, a freak chemical reaction at a power plant in Japan left one of its technicians living in agony, kept alive by doctors as he 'cried blood' and his 'skin melted'.

Hisashi Ouchi was helping a colleague pour litres of uranium into a huge metal vat at the Tokaimura Nuclear Power Plant in 1999.

However, due to a miscalculation, the liquid reached 'critical point' and released dangerous neutron radiation and gamma rays into the atmosphere.

None of the men involved had been trained to carry out such a delicate task, which it was later discovered involved 16kg of uranium, when the legal limit was just 2.4kg.

According to reports, due to the fact workers were manually transferring the solution, they had no way of measuring how much had been used.

Hisashi Ouchi suffered extensive burns during the incident at the Tokaimura Nuclear Power Plant.

Thirty-five-year-old Ouchi was most exposed to the radiation, suffering burns, becoming dizzy and vomiting violently afterwards.

This was to be the start of his 83-day nightmare.

Ouchi was found to have absorbed 17 Sieverts of radiation, the highest level suffered by any living human and more than twice the amount that should kill a person.

The emergency responders at Chernobyl were exposed to just 0.25sv.

Ouchi was rushed to the University of Tokyo Hospital following the incident and the area surrounding the plant was put on lockdown.

Doctors found that Ouchi had no white blood cells and was in need of extensive skin grafts and multiple blood transfusions.

Tokaimura Nuclear Plant. Credit: Public Domain

His sister also donated stem cells in a bid to help his immune system to recover.

The exposure also reportedly left him 'crying blood', as he bled from his eyeballs.

Despite the efforts of doctors to keep him alive, a week into his treatment, Ouchi is said to have begged them to stop.

He reportedly shouted: "I can't take it any more! I am not a guinea pig!"

He later said that he 'wanted to go home' and demanded medical staff 'stop it'.

Almost two months on from the incident, on the 59th day of his time in hospital, Ouchi's heart gave out three times.

However, at the request of his family, doctors were able to get it started again.

But on 21 December that year, Ouchi's body eventually gave out and he died as a result of multiple organ failure.

The technicians' supervisor, Yutaka Yokokawa, also received treatment, but was released after three months with minor radiation sickness, before going on to face charges of negligence in October 2000.

Nuclear fuel company JCO went on to pay later paid $121 million to settle 6,875 compensation claims from people and businesses who had suffered from or been exposed to radiation from the accident.

Topics:  World News , doctors , Japan , Medicine

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