Workers Enter Fukushima Electrical Room In Socks, Get Contaminated

This unusual event at Fukushima Daiichi took place in early June. Workers entered a 2nd floor electrical room in the unit 4 turbine building in their socks. The room holds electrical equipment for the nearby reverse osmosis water filtration system. The equipment in this room is all new, post disaster equipment. The room appears to be a “clean” area where they attempt to keep dust and contamination out of the room.

To keep the room clean, workers are expected to change into shoes placed for use in the electrical room to prevent dust and radioactive contamination from entering the room. Instead of switching shoes, five of the ten workers removed their shoes and entered in their socks. TEPCO reports the act of opening and closing the door allowed dust to enter the room. When the workers entered in their socks they picked up contaminated dust on their socks.

The contaminated socks were discovered as workers were scanned at the workers facility. The inside of the shoes they wore that day were contaminated. Everywhere they walked in their socks in the worker facility was also potentially contaminated. TEPCO had to track down the shoes these workers wore by scanning all shoes of those sizes until they found the contaminated ones.

TEPCO did not clarify if there was a lack of enough pairs of shoes or if they were not proper sizes to allow all of the workers to use them. TEPCO is now reviewing the shoe inventory for this room to assure there are enough available for workers to change shoes. Training and new notices about work processes are being added to avoid a repeat problem. Radioactive dust on site can contain insoluble microparticles and alpha radiation. These are an inhalation hazard as well as a problem of external exposure if they become attached to the skin or hair.

Contamination levels found in the electrical room
Surface contamination density in the electrical room: 1.7 Bq / cm2 to 11.0 Bq / cm2

Maximum contamination found on worker socks
Right sock (foot sole): 44.2 Bq / cm2
Left sock (foot sole): 27.0 Bq / cm2

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