The Japan Syndrome

The nation's worst civilian nuclear disaster is only the latest in a long line of accidents

The flash of blue light was the first sign that something was horribly wrong. Three workers feeding uranium into a tank were jolted by the flash inside the JCO uranium-processing plant, 85 miles northeast of Tokyo. One of them was knocked unconscious. Within minutes, the others were nauseated, and their hands and faces were burned bright crimson. The way they had handled stainless-steel pails full of uranium 235 had caused the worst nuclear accident in Japan's history.

As the workers soaked up potentially lethal doses of radiation, still more leaked from the plant in Tokaimura, the hub of the Japanese...

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