The Tokaimura Accident
Part IV: Immediate Aftermath
There was considerable confusion and some local panic at the time of the accident. Management did not have an emergency plan or an authoritative spokesperson. Rumors circulated that vegetables and dairy products might be contaminated. Authorities warned people not to drink well water or harvest their crops. In an effort to maintain order, some officials suggested that all persons within the 10-kilometer (6.2-mile) radius be checked for radiation exposure. Over a 10-day period following the accident approximately 10,000 residents sought medical check-ups. This was costly and yielded little direct benefit except to ease the concerns of some residents.
Some newsperson or persons flew over Tokaimura in a helicopter and took pictures of a roof damaged in an explosion and fire that had occurred in 1997. This building was located five kilometers (3.1 miles) from the JCO processing plant. However, the picture was published and displayed repeatedly on the Internet. A number of websites quickly came online as information sources. Unfortunately, much of the information was inaccurate and leaned toward sensationalism. Neither JCO nor other local nuclear industries had websites to provide factual information.