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Tokai JCO Criticality Accident

Report [23]12/9/99 19:00

CNIC Responds to IAEA Report

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) released a report on the JCO accident on November 15th (Report on the Preliminary Fact-Finding Mission Following the Accident at the Nuclear Fuel Processing Facility in Tokaimura, Japan). This report is based on the investigation done by IAEA representatives that visited Japan from October 13th to 17th, however, rather than basing the report on facts found through a fair investigation, the report seems to have been prepared in an effort to minimize the scale of the accident in order to declare safety.

The cause of the accident lies with the government which failed to implement safety regulations for criticality control. As a result neutrons and radionuclides were released over a long period of time, and thus not only the employees but local residents were exposed as well. However, the IAEA report asserts that the accident was caused by human error (an error by employees at site) and that the only people of concern of damage from exposure are the three employees that were seriously exposed. Furthermore, it asserts that this accident is an "irradiation" accident rather than a "contamination" accident, and that local residents are mistakenly concerned over effects from exposure and thus it is necessary to undo this misunderstanding.

Based on well-grounded scientific evidence, CNIC is certain that this accident should be classified under the International Nuclear Event Scale as level 5. It is highly regrettable that a report downplaying the effects and the scale of contamination has been put out by IAEA when a number of important facts of the accident are being ignored by the Japanese government and accurate information on the accident is about to be thrown in the dark.

In its newsletter for local residents, Tokai village published on November 27th an introduction of the contents of the IAEA report and also a translation of the preliminary conclusion of the report. In that translation, the part which stresses safety was put in bold letters and it is obvious that the village officials used the IAEA report as a source for "safety declaration." This reflects the objects of the IAEA to put an end to this criticality accident and to declare safety.

It is interesting to note that in the translation of the preliminary conclusion of the IAEA report released by the Science and Technology Agency on November 15th, which was then reported by the media, and the translation published in the Tokai Village newsletter, "a flaw in the design of the conversion building" was added to the causes of the accident. However, nowhere in the original report is there a mention of this flaw. The report only mentions human error and a violation of safety regulations as the causes of this accident.


Citizens' Nuclear Information Center
Akebonobashi Co-op 2F-B, 8-5 Sumiyoshi-cho,
Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo, 162-0065, Japan