The Human Toll of the Tokaimura Incident: Hisashi Ouchi's Story (2024)

Researchers from all over the globe are always keen to learn more about radiation ever since it was first discovered and then employed as a nuclear weapon.

They’ve conducted a great deal of studies to discover the impact it has on living creatures. Throughout all these years, the focus was on animals for obvious reasons.

The Human Toll of the Tokaimura Incident: Hisashi Ouchi's Story (1)

The world has seen major nuclear strikes, like the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in the Second World War, as well as the collapse of nuclear power stations. The impact of such events was so severe that some results still surface after this many years.

After the Tokaimura nuclear disaster in Japan, Many scientists gained direct experience with those affected by the massive blasts and radiation.

The story concerningHisashi Ouchi, one of three workers at the Tokaimura nuclear power plant affected by the incident on the 30th of September 1999, has been highlighted as one of the most terrifying accounts of radiation exposure.

If you’ve been looking for the answers to what transpired to Hisashi Ouchi and the way his life turned out to be an endless saga for 83 days, which eventually led to his death, follow us as we go over everything regarding Hisashi Ouchi’s life in our piece in the following article.

Who was Hisashi Ouchi?

The Human Toll of the Tokaimura Incident: Hisashi Ouchi's Story (2)

Hisashi Ouchi was working at the Tokaimura nuclear power plant in Japan as a lab technician and he became popular ever since the radiation accident took place in 1999.

He was admitted to a hospital for 83 days to receive treatment after being exposed to radiation. A book entitled “A Slow Death: 83 Days of Radiation Sickness” was also published narrating the ordeal that he went through after the incident.

35-year-old Hisashi Ouchi’s name is at times reported as ‘Hiroshi’. He was born in Ibaraki and has one sibling. He is married and the couple shares a young son together. He was very fond of rugby sport in his school days.

Hisashi Ouchi was employed with JCO Tokaimura Plant when the incident took place where he along with his colleagues were responsible for creating fuel for a fast reactor. The incident occurred because of this Joyo reactor. There is not much information available in the public domain pertaining to his education even though his job was very technical in nature.

There have been some unofficial reports published in local media that he and his colleagues, Masato Shinohara (39 years old) and Yutaka Yokokawa (54 years old) were “unqualified” for the job and the place where the incident took place.

What exactly happened to Hisashi Ouchi?

Hisashi Ouchi was exposed to more radiation than a human being ever experienced before when the accident occurred at the Tokaimura Nuclear power plant. He fought for life for 83 days and succumbed to death because of multi-organ failure.

The Human Toll of the Tokaimura Incident: Hisashi Ouchi's Story (3)

Hisashi Ouchi along with his colleagues was mixing a batch of fuel at the JCO nuclear fuel processing plant. His colleague Yokokawa was sitting at a desk that was 13 feet away from the stainless steel container.

The uranium and exothermic chemical reaction that occurred in the process of generating energy from it led to a big blast that impacted 114 people in the plant.

Out of these 110 people have received lower doses and were unscathed by the accident whereas Hisashi Ouchi and his colleagues received high doses of radiation which resulted in 2 deaths. (Masato and Hisashi)

Tokaimura Nuclear Incident

The Human Toll of the Tokaimura Incident: Hisashi Ouchi's Story (4)

Tokai Nuclear Plant began its operations in 1988. The plant could process three tones of Uranium per year that were enriched to up to 20 percent U-235 and was slightly greater than that typically allowed.

Preparing nuclear fuel in this plant was deemed acceptable, which involved dissolving uranium powder with Nitric acid within a dissolution tank. After the process is completed, it transforms into a pure uranyl solution that is then moved to a storage column to mix.

This is later moved to a tank for precipitation. This last step led to Ouchi and his coworker Masato being afflicted by radiation the day before.

The tank for precipitation is enclosed by a jacket of water cooling to ensure that any energy generated through the chemical exothermic reaction is absorbed. What was wrong with this facility was that there was a significant failure in the entire procedure, and there were three key issues were the cause of this incident.

The Human Toll of the Tokaimura Incident: Hisashi Ouchi's Story (5)

The firm had changed its operating procedures almost three years ago but had yet to seek permission from the regulators.

On top of that, workers directly dumped the solution into the tanks for precipitation, which is quite different than what’s allowed in the rules.

There needed to be appropriate checks and balances to control the quantity poured into the tank that holds 100 liters of precipitation. On the 30th of September, 1999, Shinohara began pouring a Uranyl Nitrate solution into the mixing tank with a bucket made of steel.
The Human Toll of the Tokaimura Incident: Hisashi Ouchi's Story (6)

Yokokawa held the funnel in which Shinohara was pouring the liquid. Ultimately, Hisashi Ouchi took over the responsibility, and Yokokawa returned to his office.

The reaction happened within the mixing tank, which caused the exothermic reactions. The three people present could see the blue light flash and instantly realized something was wrong. They attempted to leave the scene immediately.

Hisashi Ouchi entered the adjacent changing room, where he vomited and fell unconscious.

83 days in the hospital

Hisashi Ouchi and two colleagues were admitted to the hospital in his hometown. Then, they were moved to the National Institute of Radiological Sciences before. Finally, Hisashi Ouchi was moved to the University of Tokyo Hospital.

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In the tragic accident, Hisashi Ouchi was directly in front of the container when the incident occurred, and he was the one to take in most of the radiation. The radiation completely damaged the structure of his body.

He was rushed immediately to Tokyo Hospital for treatment. The first few days, doctors noted that he appeared well. Even doctors were stunned.

Hisashi Ouchi’s condition began deteriorating, and he suffered for 83 days. Then, he died because of a multi-organ malfunction on the 21st of December 1999.

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The Human Toll of the Tokaimura Incident: Hisashi Ouchi's Story (2024)


What exactly happened to Hisashi Ouchi? ›

After the accident

The three workers who worked at the uranium-reprocessing facility were Hisashi Ouchi, Masato Shinohara, and Yutaka Yokokawa. Two of them died of radiation poisoning. Hisashi Ouchi, aged 35, died 12 weeks after the accident.

Was Hisashi Ouchi forced? ›

Contrary to popular belief, Hisashi was not kept alive because the doctors disregarded how much pain he was in. In fact, the doctors were heartbroken. They knew they couldn't save him, but his family never gave up. It was his family's request to keep him alive.

Who was the most painful death in Japan? ›

Hisashi Ouchi was killed at a nuclear fuel-processing plant in 1999. If the name Hisashi Ouchi doesn't ring any bells, the heart-stopping 1999 nuclear disaster in Japan - that left him 'crying blood', saw his 'skin melt' and eventually cost him his life - likely will.

What was hisashi ouchi blood cell count? ›

Hisashi Ouchi, 35, was transported and treated at the University of Tokyo Hospital for 83 days. Ouchi suffered serious radiation burns to most of his body, experienced severe damage to his internal organs, and had a near-zero white blood cell count.

What did Hisashi Ouchi look like? ›

Hisashi Ouchi's radiation burns covered his entire body, and his eyes were leaking blood. Most dire was his lack of white blood cells and the absence of an immune response.

What hospital did Hisashi Ouchi go to? ›

Things continued downhill after he arrived at the University of Tokyo hospital. Six days after the accident, a specialist who looked at images of the chromosomes in Ouchi's bone marrow cells saw only scattered black dots, indicating that they were broken into pieces.

Who is the guy with the most radiation ever? ›

A freak accident at a Japanese nuclear plant more than 20 years ago exposed a technician to the highest levels of radiation ever suffered by a human being. Hisashi Ouchi came to be known as the 'world's most radioactive man' after suffering the accident.

Who was the worst radiation exposure in history? ›

Albert Stevens (1887–1966), also known as patient CAL-1 and most radioactive human ever, was a house painter from Ohio who was subjected to an involuntary human radiation experiment and survived the highest known accumulated radiation dose in any human.

What happened to Hisashi Ouchi Quora? ›

Ouchi died of his wounds about 80 days after receiving a horrendously huge acute dose of gamma and neutrons. His exposure was due to the prompt criticality of uranium caused by a mixing tank mishap. He survived for the relatively long time of 80 days only because of “heroic" medical interventions.

What is the biggest killer in Japan? ›

The three major diseases in Japan that have been the leading causes of death since the 1950s are cancer (ICD-10 codes C00–C97, D00–D09), heart disease (I01–I02. 0, I05–I09, I20–I25, I27, I30–I52), and cerebrovascular disease (CVD) (I60–I69).

What is the number one killer in Japan? ›

Heart diseases, excluding hypertensive, followed with a share of around 14 percent. In recent years, malignant neoplasms have been the leading cause of death for both female and male populations in Japan. The most frequent cause of cancerous tumor related deaths has continued to be lung cancer for both.

What is Japan's lonely deaths? ›

Kodokushi (孤独死) or lonely death is a Japanese phenomenon of people dying alone and remaining undiscovered for a long period of time. First described in the 1980s, kodokushi has become an increasing problem in Japan, attributed to economic troubles and Japan's increasingly elderly population.

How old was Hisashi Ouchi? ›

According to doctors, two of the men were exposed to more than the 7 sieverts of radiation that is considered lethal: Hisashi Ouchi, aged 35, and Masato Shinohara, aged 29, received 17 sieverts and 10 sieverts respectively.

How much is 1 microsievert? ›

○ The “millisievert” is one-thousandths of a “sievert” and the “microsievert” is one-thousandths of a “millisievert.” ○ The bigger the value is, the greater influence it exerts on human bodies.

How did Albert Stevens survive? ›

On May 14, 1945, he was injected with 131 kBq (3.55 μCi) of plutonium without his knowledge because it was erroneously believed that he had a terminal disease. Plutonium remained present in his body for the remainder of his life, the amount decaying slowly through radioactive decay and biological elimination.

What is the longest living radiation victim? ›

Being exposed to anything more than 5 sieverts of radiation is fatal. Hisashi Ouchi was exposed to about 17 sieverts and was kept alive for 83 days.

Who is the most irradiated man in the world? ›

Read More. A freak accident at a Japanese nuclear plant more than 20 years ago exposed a technician to the highest levels of radiation ever suffered by a human being. Hisashi Ouchi came to be known as the 'world's most radioactive man' after suffering the accident.

What is the blue light in a criticality accident? ›

It has been observed that many criticality accidents emit a blue flash of light. The blue glow of a criticality accident results from the fluorescence of the excited ions, atoms and molecules of the surrounding medium falling back to unexcited states.

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