The use of these vests was mentioned in passing by worker “Happy11311” while talking about the effort to clean off unit 3. Workers had been sent up onto the scaffolding surrounding unit 3 to help guide the cranes wearing these vests. Apparently they have been in use for a while, there was a mention of workers wearing them to enter unit 2 back in 2011.
The vests were originally conceived by Entergy to lower exposure levels for workers doing certain tasks during refueling outages. Improvements were made to these vests to have both front and back protection when they were produced for TEPCO after the disaster. The vests are made out of a tungsten and iron powder suspended in silicone. This makes the vests flexible while still providing protection, they weight half as much as lead vests. The same company has also developed a sheet version of this material that can be used to block radiation or wrap around pipes. These sheet versions have also been in use at Fukushima Daiichi to block areas of high radiation.
The vests can cut about 642 mRem off of a 1550 mRem dose. The vests do not come cheap with a unit costing around $8000 USD each.
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