Worker at Fukushima nuclear plant dies of heart attack

TOKYO —

A worker at Japan’s crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant has died of a heart attack, the operator said Thursday, the fifth death at the power station since it was hit by the tsunami of March 2011.

Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) said the 57-year-old man suffered a cardiac arrest on Wednesday while working on the installation of a tank to store contaminated water.

He arrived at the nuclear plant at 5:35 a.m. and started work around 9 a.m., TEPCO officials said.

He informed his superiors that he was feeling unwell and was taken off duty and told to lie down and rest 50 minutes later. At around 10:35 a.m., he was found unconscious and was taken to a hospital in nearby Iwaki. He was confirmed dead by hospital doctors, company spokesman Jun Oshima said, adding it was not believed radiation from the broken reactors had played a part.

“As far as we know, he is the fifth person to have died after falling sick during work at the plant since the accident,” Oshima said.

“It doesn’t seem that there was a causal link between his death and radiation because he died of a heart attack,” he said.

The man was an employee at a subcontractor for Hitachi-GE Nuclear Energy Ltd. He began working at the Fukushima plant in August last year.

The cumulative radiation dose the worker received was measured at 25.24 millisieverts, Oshima said.

Under Japanese regulations, nuclear plant workers can be exposed to a maximum 50 millisieverts annually and 100 millisieverts total in five years.

Asked whether the fatality rate at Fukushima Daiichi was higher than at other nuclear plants, Oshima said direct comparisons were difficult to make, citing the large number of employees and the different nature of the work.

About 3,000 workers are engaged in decommissioning the crippled plant. Much of the work is physically demanding construction work, in contrast to the less exacting operation and inspection required at functioning nuclear plants, the spokesman said.

The quake-sparked tsunami of March 2011 knocked out cooling systems at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, causing three reactors to go into meltdown in the world’s worst atomic disaster for 25 years.

Nobody is officially recorded as having died as a direct result of the radiation released in the disaster.

AFP/Japan Today

  • 9

    zichi

    A number of workers in the nuclear disaster zone have complained about high stress levels but to cut costs TEPCO has reduced its health care programs. Because of the no-go zone the nearest hospital is quite some distance. They need to use copterss.

  • -1

    hoserfella

    thats about how much value is placed on subcontractor lives in Japan; "go lie down".

    Reminds me of the nickname Japanese authorities gave new recruits during the war, "one sen" (or something to that effect) which was the cost of sending their marching orders by post.

  • 2

    cabadaje

    Heck, as long as we're making unsupported assumptions and thoughtless insinuations, why don't we just claim that TEPCO is secretly poisoning all its workers since the radiation isn't killing them fast enough?

    Geez, a manager can't even let an old guy lie down for a bit without being accused of working him to death.

  • 0

    Utrack

    RIP

  • 8

    gogogo

    Subcontractors are part timers, no medical benefits no heath insurance, heck no overtime.

    Thumbs up if you think Tepco needs to support it's workers more!

  • 1

    Utrack

    TEPCO is the most dangerous NPP to work for. So when a workers says their not feeling well it could be serious. Helicopter transport would be a good idea for TEPCO to have in case of emergency. Telling the worker to lie down in this situation was wrong. There should be some procedure for when a worker who is working around high levels of radiation feels unwell and there should be a medical facility with doctors and nurces onsite. TEPCO should care enough to have that much for the workers at least.

  • -1

    Alex Einz

    cabadaje, they are working in high radiation zone ( way higher than any "safe" zone) - all the steam been released is highly radioactive and the place must super hot by now. go lie down shows utter disregard to human life there.

  • 2

    JapanGal

    5:35 to 9:00 am

    Either those suits are difficult to put on, or he had a long early tea break.

    RIP and thanks for helping up there. We appreciate it.

  • 0

    titaniumdioxide

    ...and where are the robots Japan has researched and developed through the years? Bring ASIMO to the zone and have him clean the mess!

  • -1

    tmarie

    Could be a number of things. Was he a day laborer of questionable health before he started there? Was he one of those workers who lied about radiation levels? Did he has any other illnesss? Regardless, he certainly wasn't the first to die while working there, won't be the last. RIP to whomever he is.

  • -1

    basroil

    UtrackAug. 23, 2012 - 01:51PM JST

    TEPCO is the most dangerous NPP to work for.

    Well, this one sentence makes anything you say invalid. TEPCO is a power company that has several nuclear power plants (NPP) among other non-nuclear generation systems. The man didn't even work for them, rather for Hitachi and was assigned to Fukushima Dai-ichi. His cardiac arrest was not caused by radiation, nor even slightly attributable to it like some foolish protestors may have you believe.

  • 1

    basroil

    Cardiac arrest is one of the leading causes of death, and not uncommon for his age. It is unfortunate, but hardly news, it's no more rare than dying at a desk job or even sports stand.

  • 0

    Utrack

    I meant TEPCO Daiichi NPP

  • 1

    basroil

    UtrackAug. 23, 2012 - 02:29PM JST

    I meant TEPCO Daiichi NPP

    No such thing.

  • 0

    TokyoGas

    It must be hot as an oven up there.

  • 3

    ohayo206

    Seriously anyone willing to risk their lives to clean up the mess in Fukushima deserves a massive amount of respect. Unsung heroes. RIP.

  • 0

    Melissa Baker-Lhermitte

    @ basroil,

    It's Blatant neglect, there is not even a medical facility onsite at TEPCO's Daiichi NPP. Plain and simple no matter how you personally call it.

  • 1

    Thunderbird2

    I didn't realise he died of a heart attack. Poor bloke. As some others have said, these people working in Fukushima to clean it up are heroes, pure and simple. I'm not pathalogically against nuclear power, but I wouldn't do what these ladies and gentlemen are doing...

    RIP.

  • 0

    basroil

    Melissa Baker-LhermitteAug. 23, 2012 - 03:41PM JST

    It's Blatant neglect, there is not even a medical facility onsite at TEPCO's Daiichi NPP. Plain and simple no matter how you personally call it.

    There is a "medical facility", about the same as you would find at ANY major place including power plants and factories. He was likely given standard first responder care, but you ALWAYS seek immediate transfer to an actual hospital. There seems to be no neglect since he was immediately attended to upon discovery that he was unconscious, and the man was still alive until he reached the hospital. The symptoms of a heart attack vary by individual, and hardly any are like in the movies. The man likely didn't realize he was having a heart attack, and likely none of the manager had been trained in detecting that (though likely trained in emergency response). Hopefully there will be a push for more training at ALL major companies to detect things like heart attack and stroke before it is too late, but this is hardly an issue with TEPCO alone, rather a country wide issue.

    And no, there is no such thing as "TEPCO Daiichi NPP", it is either "TEPCO's Daiichi" ( as you stated buy not the other guy), or "Fukushima Daiichi" (a more proper name).

  • 2

    Thomas Anderson

    This IS Japan!! We put shoguns/rulers/corporate at the top of our life, not after health (that's women's concerns), not after family (that's the women's job), not after anything, we'd rather die a glorious death ganbarimasu-ing for the shoguns than live but not able to accomplished work that the shoguns expected us to do. You foreigners would never understand our Japanese spirit, so stop criticizing our culture, it's rude!

    Please stop speaking for the Japanese people, especially the younger generations who would scoff at your so called "Japanese spirit" of the Showa era Japan.

  • 2

    Thomas Anderson

    Unless of course, that post happened to be satire, which I suspect that it was...

  • 0

    lucabrasi

    @Thomas

    Please stop speaking for the Japanese people,

    I think you've been taken in by a bit of irony.

  • 1

    basroil

    Thomas AndersonAug. 23, 2012 - 04:27PM JST

    Unless of course, that post happened to be satire, which I suspect that it was...

    I think he was a few babies short of Jonathan Swift, but it's safe to assume that's what he was going for. Not really sure what the intended message was or how it relates to this sad event.

  • -1

    Alex Einz

    Cardiac arrest and the increasing rates of it can and should be linked to high radiation

  • 0

    Alex Einz

    Radiation pericarditis is the most common cardiac complication due to radiation therapy. Radiation pericarditis may occur acutely after treatment or more commonly months to several years after treatment. Patients who receive radiation therapy directed at the chest, for either lymphomas, lung or breast cancers, are at an increased risk of damaging the heart tissue. The combination of radiation and chemotherapy may increase this risk. Many of these problems develop years after the initial cancer treatment although some patients may experience symptoms during treatment. Radiation damage to the heart, particularly with treatment for Hodgkin’s lymphoma and breast cancer, may take the form of narrowing of the arteries that supply the heart , the coronary arteries, many years or decades after the initial radiation exposure.

  • 0

    Alex Einz

    http://www.ehow.com/about5273435radiation-effects-humans.html

  • 0

    basroil

    Alex EinzAug. 23, 2012 - 05:27PM JST

    Radiation pericarditis is the most common cardiac complication due to radiation therapy.

    Radiation workers are not eligible for work if they undergo radiation therapy, as the typical doses over the course of treatment are in the range of 45Sv, or about 225 times above the 5 year dose limit and 450 times above the one year limit. Any talk of radiation therapy is beyond asinine and completely irrelevant to this discussion.

  • 1

    Charles M Burns

    Okay, let's call it a heart attack...

  • 2

    Ewan Huzarmy

    I fear that heart attack has become a euphemism for 'lethal dose of radiation'.

  • -1

    Cricky

    Expendable staff supplied through dubious means, given cursory training and even less safety training, from previous reports a high percentage of workers are paying off debts to salubrious companies...health care, health concerns that cuts into the profit that is to be made. He had a heart attack perhaps being made to work in a suit and mask neither of which actually work, as they are not lead. All that can be said is it looks good, and kills people who should not be there except for debt repayment.

  • 0

    Utrack

    Alex Einz is right Heart Attacks in this case and others in Fukushima can be associated with high levels of radiation. For example I'll use past JT articles:

    Fourth worker at Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant dies, JT National Jan. 13, 2012 - the man was pouring concrete for a tank to hold radioactive materials, when he complained of sickness and later passed out before falling into a coma

    It is a pity JT does not keep all of their articles, I wanted to show more examples.

  • 3

    zichi

    Hitachi-GE Nuclear Energy have been working on the No4 reactor and will be the ones to remove the spent fuel from the cooling pool. Once the debris is removed from the No3 reactor they'll move onto that one too. The worker who died seems like a temp worker, nuclear gypsy or day labourer, although in the photo's I've seen from TEPCO, all the Hitachi workers look like engineers?

  • -8

    BertieWooster

    And Noda is still iffy about using nuclear power or not.

    Hmmmmm.

  • 0

    Open Minded

    Most likely this death has nothing to do with radiation. But I am tired to hear these immediate TEPCO's disclaimers that this is not related to Fukushima NPP's situation without any back up.

    TEPCO: Make it transparent, let independent journalists visit the site, get rid of this sub, sub, sub-contractors odious system and then, maybe, a kind of trust can come back you are able to manage this crisis. Anyway don't expect Japanese people will let you restart any NPP.

    Between us my choice is already made!

  • -1

    basroil

    The cumulative radiation dose the worker received was measured at 25.24 millisieverts, Oshima said

    Any assumption of radiation therapy issues being possible is entirely without merit due to scale. Radiation therapy involves multiple doses of over 1Sv with common total doses in the range of 45Sv. There is NO EVIDENCE for radiation related anything under 100mSv, and no evidence of radiation induced heart problems under about 4Sv. This man was over 150 times UNDER the amount for any of those comments to be anywhere near relevant to this man's death. Saying they are related is like saying that breaking your smoke detector is a level 7 nuclear emergency.

  • 0

    Jim N Helen Hill

    Silent heart attacks are very deadly. I had one at 40. Luckily, I had resigned from GE several months so I was taken to the taken to the ER for blood thinners immediately instead of being told to lay down and see if it gets better. His supervisor should be disciplined severely for their inaction.

  • 2

    Lowly

    My, so many complaining about lack of care for the guy, and jumping to the conclusion that this is somehow indicative of Japanese business-doing ways!

    Anyone who has been here long enough knows they will regret and reflect and hansei suru, and after clucking their tongues in a warm-up for action-making orders, they will, when the twentieth man has fallen from a "heart attack (sh! radiation overdose)", figure out a way to get them out and to a hospital in time to avoid any criticism of themselves (=ossan in charge) (whether dead or not), at which point they will climb on the corpse (or the critical-care patient, as he may be) to the flashing of the newspaper strobes and the whirr of camera-wheels, and declare how regrettable it was that Johnny fell to such a fate, and it was thanks to his great work we all made it this far, and he was a team player, and his willingness to give all for the team tho he may die has inspired them to continue in the hard work, and to of course give back to him by risking their lives and credibility to rescue him in such a timely manner, and of course it was the team that made this happen, and this team, this team they threshed from the chaff, is what made it all happen.

    Then you will know the pride and staunchness of the J-way. And you will stop making fun of it.

  • 0

    ka_chan

    You have to wonder how good of a medical facility does the plant have. If some is having a MI (heart attack), there are obvious signs that any qualified medical professional should have spotted and immediately sent him to an acute care hospital probably by air.
    Is TEPCO management responsible? Of cause they are, the IM was probably brought on by acute stress. Stress does a lot of damage to the human body no matter your age. It usually doesn't cause a problem until you are older.
    Now there is also the question, did he died of a "heart attack". If the medical staff at the plant did not see signs of a heart attack, did he die of a heart attack. Was an autopsy done to find the cause of death? Doesn't should like they did. This almost sounds like the Soviet era response when some important died, "heart attack".

  • 0

    ReformedBasher

    I'm a "first aid officer" where I work. Finally got asked to help somebody the other day (no, I don't want to get asked, I much prefer everybody healthy).

    Anyway, the guy was feeling "unwell" too and already resting on the sickbed. I'm not a doctor and most "real" medical staff would know much more than me. The best I could do was to advise him to go to a clinic around the corner - something he declined.

    He was fine but one never really knows. I guess I'm "typical" of a lot of first aid officers, we learn mouth-to-mouth, bandage people, etc, but quite often the book (yes, there is one) says to keep an eye on people while they have a rest, and get to them to a doctor if things get "worse". Good luck trying to work that one out, unless it's really obvious, by which time it might be too late.

    So, looks like this is the same scenario, but even so, considering the situation you would think there would be expereinced medical staff available to act quickly. As soon as anybody feels "unwell" in this kind of environment, rush them off to a doctor and worry about false alarms later. And no action should be taken against the employee in the case of a genuine false alarm.

  • -3

    basroil

    Asked whether the fatality rate at Fukushima Daiichi was higher than at other nuclear plants, Oshima said direct comparisons were difficult to make, citing the large number of employees and the different nature of the work.

    About 3,000 workers are engaged in decommissioning the crippled plant. Much of the work is physically demanding construction work, in contrast to the less exacting operation and inspection required at functioning nuclear plants, the spokesman said.

    Think of it this way, the death rate in Japan is about 1% per year. Lets assume only 25% die during job bearing ages, and the work day is 12 hours. That means that about 4 people would be expected to die "on the job" each year, and as it's been over a year, they are pretty much on track to be average. Anyone who says that this is odd should go ahead and check the records for any other construction company and see that it's actually much safer there than most other places. While this article tries to imply that it is odd that this many people die, IT IS STATISTICALLY NORMAL FOR THIS LEVEL OF DEATHS. People die, and when you work half the day, you have a 50% chance of dying on the job (actually higher if you include accidents). This man was not young, and at an age where most heart attacks happen.

    ka_chanAug. 24, 2012 - 05:05AM JST

    You have to wonder how good of a medical facility does the plant have. If some is having a MI (heart attack), there are obvious signs that any qualified medical professional should have spotted and immediately sent him to an acute care hospital probably by air. Is TEPCO management responsible? Of cause they are, the IM was probably brought on by acute stress. Stress does a lot of damage to the human body no matter your age. It usually doesn't cause a problem until you are older. Now there is also the question, did he died of a "heart attack". If the medical staff at the plant did not see signs of a heart attack, did he die of a heart attack. Was an autopsy done to find the cause of death? Doesn't should like they did. This almost sounds like the Soviet era response when some important died, "heart attack".

    When they noticed something was wrong, they immediately sent him to a hospital according to this article. They likely have facilities slightly better than a high school nurse, but nowhere near a full fledged hospital. Likely no devices to monitor his heart activity, which is the only sure way to detect a heart attack. Nothing was said of him clutching his chest or screaming of pain like they do in the movies, because a good portion of heart attacks have no significant symptoms other than fatigue, and are many times ignored by patients and doctors alike. The man was old enough that the heart attack could be entirely natural, or due to stress completely unrelated to Fukushima.

  • -5

    basroil

    LowlyAug. 24, 2012 - 02:20AM JST

    Anyone who has been here long enough knows they will regret and reflect and hansei suru, and after clucking their tongues in a warm-up for action-making orders, they will, when the twentieth man has fallen from a "heart attack (sh! radiation overdose)"

    Suggesting conspiracy theories about heart attacks masking acute radiation syndrome (no such thing as radiation overdose, unless of course you were to describe radiotherapy, though even that would be referred to as radiation poisoning) is ridiculous. It is impossible to mask acute radiation poisoning of that nature, as the man died within 24 hours, and that generally requires almost impossibly high radiation doses, as even 2000 times more radiation than his 25.24 millisievert dose in a few minutes would still take more than a day to kill him. Not to mention uncontrollable diarrhea, fever, and burns that would impossible to hide unless they cremated him on the spot.

    This man died of a heart attack, simple as that. Hopefully NISA (which takes care of power plans and other industrial facilities, not just NPP) will apply lessons learned for ALL factory environments, and people will learn more about the symptoms of major time sensitive illness like myocardial infarctions (heart attack) and cerebrovascular accidents (stroke).

  • -1

    Lowly

    Oh, cdrist, Basroil, lighten up and enjoy the sarcasm.

    I have absolutely NO idea what went on up there, what is normal there, or what happened to the guy. (Which is what I usually say when I post on crime articles- not enough info, don't jump to conclusions). I was making satire on some ingrained common aspects of jpn last night whilst enjoying my wine. (I have experienced it (and been a part of it) too much and for too long for it to be unfair criticism, no matter what anyone says).

    NO idea about what you posted either, tho, seems to me you might just be talking out of your nose.

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