Hisashi Ouchi: The Story of the Most Radioactive Man

When radiation was discovered and employed as a weapon during the nuclear age, scientists Hisashi Ouchi from all over the world have always been particularly interested in the subject.

They have conducted an extensive study to determine how it affects living things. As it was thought to be immoral to do the study on humans, animals have received the majority of attention over the years.

Major nuclear strikes, such as the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki during World War II and the meltdown of nuclear power facilities, have been observed across the world. Nevertheless, it was impossible to test how radiation might affect people.

Some experts have first-hand experience examining the victims of the large explosions to radiation during the 1999 Tokaimura nuclear disaster in Japan.

One of the three workers at the Tokaimura nuclear facility who were touched by the accident on September 30, 1999, was Hisashi Ouchi, whose situation stands out.

If you’ve been searching for information on Hisashi Ouchi and how his life was a living nightmare for 83 days until it ended in his death, keep reading because we’ll cover everything in our post below.

Who was Hisashi Ouchi?

Who was Hisashi Ouchi

After the radiation disaster that occurred in 1999, Hisashi Ouchi, a lab worker at the Tokaimura nuclear power facility in Japan, gained notoriety.

After being exposed to radiation, he was taken to the hospital for 83 days to obtain treatment. Also, a book titled “A Slow Death: 83 Days of Radiation Illness” about the agony he underwent as a result of the incident was released.

35-year-old ‘Hiroshi’ has been used to refer to Hisashi Ouchi on occasion. He has one brother and was born in Ibaraki. He is married, and the two of them have a little boy. He loved playing rugby when he was in school.

When the event occurred, Hisashi Ouchi was working for JCO Tokaimura Plant, where he and his coworkers were in charge of producing fuel for a fast reactor. This reactor Joyo is to blame for the tragedy.

Even though his employment was quite technical in nature, there isn’t much information in the public domain about his schooling.

Unofficial reports about him and his coworkers Masato Shinohara (39 years old) and Yutaka Yokokawa (54 years old) being “unqualified” for the job and the location where the event occurred have been reported in local media.

Hisashi Ouchi Worked At The Tokaimura Nuclear Power Plant

Hisashi Ouchi, who was born in Japan in 1965, started his career in the nuclear energy field at a crucial juncture for his nation. Only four years before his birth, Japan had resorted to nuclear power production due to its limited natural resources and expensive reliance on imported energy. The nation’s first commercial nuclear power plant was established as a result.

Due to the large amount of available land, the power plant’s site in Tokaimura was excellent and resulted in a large campus of nuclear reactors, research buildings, fuel enrichment plants, and disposal facilities. In the end, the fast-expanding nuclear industry in the Ibaraki Prefecture northeast of Tokyo would be responsible for supporting one-third of the whole city’s population.

On March 11, 1997, a power reactor explosion devastated Tokaimura, and the locals watched in fear. Before a government cover-up was started to disguise carelessness, dozens of individuals were radioactively irradiated. Yet only two short years later, the significance of that incident would be overshadowed.

For use in nuclear energy, the facility transformed uranium hexafluoride into enriched uranium. Usually, this was accomplished via a methodical, multi-step procedure that required combining several components in a precise order.

To speed up the procedure, officials started testing in 1999 to determine if some of those stages might be skipped. Nonetheless, it resulted in their missing a deadline for producing gasoline on September 28. So on September 30, at 10 a.m., Hisashi Ouchi, Masato Shinohara, 29, and Yutaka Yokokawa, their 54-year-old boss, tried a shortcut.

But, none of them knew what they were doing. They used their hands to pour 35 pounds of nitric acid into steel buckets, instead of using mechanical pumps to combine 5.3 pounds of enriched uranium with it in a designated tank. The uranium hit critical mass at 10:35 a.m.

The chamber burst with blue light, signaling the occurrence of a nuclear chain reaction and the release of fatal radiation.

Hisashi Ouchi Is Exposed to Massive Amounts of Radiation

Hisashi Ouchi Is Exposed to Massive Amounts of Radiation

The radiation exposure levels for the three workers varied, but Ouchi probably took the worst of it because of his close closeness to the material. Ouchi was exposed to 17 Sieverts of radiation for context. Ten Sieverts were directed towards Shinohara. Only three Sieverts were given to Yokokawa, the supervisor.

On average, 10 Sieverts is regarded to be the accepted value of lethal radiation. Naturally, the exposure would cause Shinohara and Ouchi to pass away. Although Yokokawa was seated at his desk and away from the main exposure event, he was able to survive his exposure.

The yearly exposure limit for nuclear employees in Japan is typically 50 millisieverts. Despite this rating, safety protocols for this and many similar gasoline reprocessing facilities were woefully deficient. To prevent such mishaps in the future, power plants were compelled to alter their operating processes and safety standards.

Tokaimura Nuclear Incident

When it was first put into operation in 1988, the Tokai nuclear facility, formerly known as the Japan Nuclear Plant, could process up to 3 tons of uranium per year that had been enriched to a maximum of 20% U-235. This sort of uranium was somewhat more than what is typically allowed because it was highly enriched.

It was decided to prepare the nuclear fuel for this plant by dissolving uranium oxide (U3O8) powder in nitric acid in a dissolution tank. After undergoing this procedure, the material is converted into a pure uranyl nitrate solution and sent to a mixing column for storage.

After that, it is sent to a tank for precipitation. On that fatal day, it was this final step that exposed Ouchi and his coworker Masato to radiation.

A water-cooling jacket surrounds the precipitation tank to help remove any additional heat produced by the exothermic chemical process. The difficulty at this factory was that there was a significant flaw in the whole procedure, and three significant issues might have contributed to this tragedy.

The corporation changed its standard operating procedure over three years ago without getting regulatory authorities approval.

Moreover, the operators were permitted to speed up the procedure by directly pouring the solution into the precipitation tank, which is against the protocol that should have been followed for everyone’s safety.

The amount that was tipped into the 100-liter precipitation tank was not subject to the appropriate checks and balances. Shinohara was using a steel bucket to directly pour a solution of uranyl nitrate into the mixing tank on September 30, 1999.

Shinohara was pouring liquid into the funnel that Yokokawa was holding. Yokokawa eventually returned to his desk, and Hisashi Ouchi took over the duty.

An exothermic reaction resulted from the reaction that took place in the mixing tank. The three men who were present all saw a blue flash of light and knew right away that something had gone wrong. They all made hasty attempts to leave the area.

In the neighboring changing room, Hisashi Ouchi vomited and lost consciousness.

83 days in the hospital

83 days in the hospital

Initial admissions for Hisashi Ouchi and his two coworkers were made to the neighborhood hospital. Afterward, Hisashi Ouchi was moved to the University of Tokyo Hospital, and then they were moved to the National Institute of Radiological Sciences.

Hisashi Ouchi was directly above the container in this sad occurrence, therefore he took in most of the radiation. His body was wrecked by the radiation.

He was taken right away to the Tokyo Hospital for medical attention. Doctors were startled when they first saw that he was doing considerably better and seemed to be in excellent health.

Hisashi Ouchi’s health began to deteriorate, and he endured 83 days of suffering. Ultimately, on December 21st, 1999, he passed away from multiple organ failure.

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