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5 workers exposed to radiation at Japan nuclear lab

As reported by AP:

Five workers at a Japanese nuclear facility that handles plutonium have been exposed to high levels of radiation after a bag containing highly radioactive material apparently broke during equipment inspection, the country's Atomic Energy Agency said Wednesday.

The incident occurred Tuesday at its Oarai Research & Development Center, a facility for nuclear fuel study that uses highly toxic plutonium. The cause of the accident is under investigation, the state-run agency said. It raised a nuclear security concern as well as a question whether the handlers were adequately protected.

The agency said its initial survey found contamination inside the nostrils of three of the five men — a sign they inhaled radioactive dust. All five were also found to be contaminated on their limbs after removing protective gear and taking a shower, which would have washed off most contamination.

Agency spokesman Masataka Tanimoto said one of the men indicated high levels of plutonium exposure in his lungs, with the dose showing nearly 1,000 times that of his earlier nostril survey.

Internal exposure poses a bigger concern because of its potential cancer-causing risks. The figure, 22,000 Becquerels, could mean exposure levels in the lungs may not be immediately life-threatening.

But an inhalation dose of ultra-hazardous plutonium carries a high-risk for eventual lung cancer. The latency period could extend years or even decades.