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109 Workers Exposed to Radioactive Materials at Uljin Plant

109 Workers Exposed to Radioactive Materials at Uljin Plant

Posted December. 05, 2002 22:39,   


More than 100 repair workers were exposed to radioactive materials at Uljin Nuclear Plant, where a `white alarm` was earlier issued for the first time in the country after radiation leak from a coolant.

According to the data released by the Korea Anti-Nuclear Movement Coalition on Dec.5, the accident occurred on Nov. 28 when a group of workers opened the No. 3 reactor for repair work. Radioactive materials including iodine-131 leaked out, containing the vicinity. 63 employees of Korea Electric Power Corp. working at the scene were exposed to radiation by inhaling the contaminated air.

The power plant, however, pushed for repair work after a temporary evacuation, increasing the number of workers exposed to total 109, which includes 42 workers on the 29th and 4 on the 30th.

At 5:15 p.m. on Nov. 28 when the accident occurred, 7 times of the standard level of iodine-131 and 10 times of xenon-133 were detected in the air inside the building. Most of workers did not wear the mask and inhaled radioactive materials through the air.

˝Inhalation poses a more serious threat to health over the long term since the radioactive materials stay within a lung,˝ said Seok Gwang-hun, an officer at the anti-nuclear organization. ˝Despite the potentially fatal accident, the plant pushed ahead with repair work, and now the workers are fearing if the worst could happen after going through an unusual checkup.˝

˝We thoroughly examined the 109 workers who were on the scene and the results showed that they were exposed to 1.5mm of radiation per person,˝ said the Ministry of Science and Technology. ˝We sees no problem since the number is far below the 5,000 mm-a-year limit,˝

The accident is expected to spark controversy, however, as it happened at the time the court ruled in an industrial disaster case in favor of late Jung Kwang-seok, a KEPCO engineer who had worked at Uljin plant and later died of leukemia in 1999. It was also reported recently that Shin Chang-gi, another KEPCO employee who worked at the plant, is in critical condition after struggling with cancer.

A fuel rod in the No. 3 reactor first broke down on October 29 last year, but the plant had pushed for operations for 14 months. When the repair work started on Nov. 25, radiation at the coolant exceeded the warning level, triggering off the `white alarm` for the first time in the country.