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Worker dies at Japan's tsunami-hit nuclear plant

A man has died on his second day working at Japan’s battered Fukushima nuclear power plant, however the plant operator has insisted that harmful levels of radiation were not detected in his body.

A boy walks along a road at sunset on May 13, 2011, in the town of Minamisanriku, Miyagi Prefecture, which was devastated by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.
A boy walks along a road at sunset on May 13, 2011, in the town of Minamisanriku, Miyagi Prefecture, which was devastated by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.
Image: Press Association Images

A MAN HAS DIED on his second day working at Japan’s tsunami-wrecked nuclear power plant, however the plant operator said harmful levels of radiation were not detected in his body.

The contract worker in his 60s 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 Co. The company does 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. TEPCO said the workers, both in their early 20s, 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 Friday 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 20-kilometre 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 defenses were improved.

Chubu Electric said its Hamaoka nuclear plant in Shizuoka was completely shut down Saturday on the premier’s request. The company will build a large seawall and other safety structures — work expected to take a few years.

- AP

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