Unwillingly Kept Alive

The content below is from Episode 145 of the Who’d a Thunk It? Podcast



Tokaimura Nuclear Power Plant
  • For this true story, I’m going to ask you to flip your calendars back to 1961 Who’d a Thunkers, the year Japan’s built their first commercial nuclear power plant.
    • Japan (Nippon-koku) is a nation with few natural resources. Before nuclear power, they relied heavily on expensive imports for their energy. So when Japan created their first nuclear power plant in 1961, it was just the beginning.
    • Fast forward just 4 years later to 1965 and a one Hisashi Ouchi (this story’s main character) is born.
Hisashi Ouchi
  • Ouchi would grow up serving his country by working in the Tokaimura power plant.
    • From
      • The power plant location in Tokaimura was ideal due to the abundant land space, and it led to a whole campus of nuclear reactors, research institutes, fuel enrichment, and disposal facilities. Ultimately, one-third of the city’s entire population would rely on the nuclear industry rapidly growing in the Ibaraki Prefecture northeast of Tokyo.
      • The plant converted uranium hexafluoride into enriched uranium for nuclear energy purposes. This was typically done with a careful, multi-step process that involved mixing several elements in a carefully-timed sequence.
    • In March of 1997 the Tokaimura plant exploded. When the government stepped in they attempted a cover-up to hide the blatant negligence going on at the plant. It shocked the nearby residents irradiating some of them. But the horror of this explosion was nothing compared to what would happen just 2 year later.
    • It was in 1999 when plant officials thought they could speed up the process of their multi-step fuel mixture system to meet deadlines with ease… They thought they would experiment… with nuclear fission.
    • On September 28th, 1999 the Tokaimura plant had missed a deadline for creating fuel for the reactor.
  • On the morning of September 30th, 1999, at Japan’s Tokaimura nuclear power plant, a young Hisashi Ouchi was just beginning his day. Hisashi Ouchi, his 29-year-old peer Masato Shinohara, and their 54-year-old supervisor Yutaka Yokokawa tried a short cut.
    • The plant where he worked was under a lot of stress to meet deadline after deadline. Shortcuts were constantly being made to save money and the subsequent years that followed were rife with breaches in safety protocol. The plant was only inspected two times a year by the state regulator. It had never been inspected while the plant was in operation. In hindsight, the Tokaimura plant probably should have been shut down long before September 30th. But while hindsight is 20/20, that morning Ouchi’s bosses at the Japan Nuclear Fuel Conversion Co. (JCO) told him and two of his coworkers to mix another batch of fuel.
    • On top of the shortcuts and seeming indifference to safety, Ouchi and his coworkers were not properly trained to do the job they were asked to complete.
      • Ouchi and Shinohara were mixing a batch of fuel containing uranium in a stainless steel tank while Yokokawa (supervisor) was sitting at a desk 4 meters (just over 13 feet) away.
    • They mixed the nuclear fuel materials… by hand.
    • The amount of uranium used that day by the untrained men was 7 times more than the correct amount and it was poured into the wrong tank, not capable of containing the highly poisonous element.
    • Out of the three workers mixing one of the most dangerous concoctions of all time that morning, Ouchi was the one standing directly over the vessel used to contain the mixture. Though his body was taking on the most, the entire room was being flooded with Gamma rays… unbeknownst to the three men.
    • None of them had any idea what they were doing. Instead of using automatic pumps to mix 5.3 pounds of enriched uranium with nitric acid in a designated vessel, they used their hands to pour 35 pounds of it into steel buckets. They started this work at 10AM. By 10:35AM, that uranium reached critical mass.
      • The room exploded with a blue flash that confirmed that a nuclear chain reaction had occurred and was releasing lethal emissions of radiation.
  • Eventually, the local towns were evacuated to stay safe from the harmful Gamma rays, but Ouchi and his coworkers weren’t so lucky.
    • Ouichi was taken to the hospital where his condition shocked the doctors treating him. He had almost zero white blood cells. He had virtually no immune system so he was kept in a special radiation ward to protect him from pathogens from the outside world.
      • The first place Ouchi and his coworkers (Yutaka Yokokawa and Masato Shinohara) were taken to the National Institute of Radiological Sciences in Chiba. All three of the men were exposed to the radiation, but because of where they were positioned in the room in relation to the reactor fuel mix, they didn’t all get the same amount of radiation.
    • The sievert (Sv) is the International System of Units (SI) derived unit of dose equivalent radiation that takes into account the relative biological effectiveness of different forms of ionizing radiation.
      • It is intended to represent the stochastic health risk of ionizing radiation, which is defined as the probability of causing radiation-induced cancer and genetic damage. The sievert is important in dosimetry and radiation protection.
      • The rule of thumb is that seven sieverts (Sv) is enough to kill a person.
      • Nuclear Radiation 101: Nuclear radiation affects the atoms in our bodies by removing electrons. This breaks the bonds between atoms, including DNA and water in our bodies, damaging them. If your DNA gets damaged enough, cells can’t replicate and they die. Those that can still replicate, create more damaged cells. When damaged cells multiply, it creates cancer.
    • Yutaka Yokokawa, the supervisor that day, was exposed to 3 Sv. He would be the only man out of the 3 Tokaimura plant workers to survive.
  • Ouchi’s pain began immediately.
    • He could barely breathe and was vomiting violently in-between moments of unconsciousness on his way to the hospital.
    • He was crying blood and covered in red radiation burns almost immediately.
    • After just 3 days at the National Institute of Radiological Sciences in Chiba with doctors assessing each of the three men’s internal organs, they were transferred to the University of Tokyo Hospital. There they attempted revolutionary stem-cell treatments.
  • His first week at the University of Tokyo Hospital in the ICU was full of agonizing skin graft after skin graft and blood transfusion after blood transfusion. This was all they could do to keep him alive.
    • That’s when Hisamura Hirai, a cell transplant specialist, said they should try something risky. It was unheard of to treat radiation patients with stem-cell transplants, but then again, Ouchi had been exposed to an unheard-of amount of radiation.
      • The stem-cells worked. They gave Ouchi’s body a chance to create new blood. His sister donated her own stem-cells.
    • But then they started to take a closer look at Ouchi’s body and the scope of its condition became clear. The photos of his chromosomes were disturbingly informative.
      • His chromosomes were obliterated by radiation. They had “shattered like glass.” They could not be identified or arranged. Without chromosomes, his cells could not regenerate and his body could not heal. His white blood cell count was 0. All transplanted blood would quickly need to be transplanted again for more new blood because the radiation running through his body would destroy the introduced blood cells.
      • There are images of Ouchi’s body in the hospital that I have chosen NOT to show here (feel free to google image search is you’d like but be warned, they are gruesome). The photos of his body show that the uncountable skin grafts the hospital put on his body were doing very little. His DNA couldn’t rebuild itself. His skin was melting.
  • It wasn’t long before his skin started to melt off of him and he cried tears of blood begging to see his mother.
  • His body leaked as he endured a level of agony unseen on this Earth.
    • When he was first brought into the hospital, Ouchi did not seem to understand the severity of his radiation poisoning, often asking when he could go home, and asking if this could cause leukemia. But a few weeks later he began to bed for death.
      • He reportedly said things like “I can’t take it anymore,” and “I’m not a guinea pig!”
      • His family, the ones not experiencing his intense pain, insisted he be kept alive.
    • On day 27, Ouchi’s intestines started “to melt.” Three weeks later, he started hemorrhaging. He began receiving blood transfusions, sometimes as many as 10 in 12 hours. He began losing a significant amount of fluids (10 liters, or over 2 1/2 gallons, a day) through his skin so they wrapped him completely in gauze. He was bleeding from his eyes. His wife said that it looked like he was crying blood. Ouchi started receiving daily skin transplants using artificial skin, but they wouldn’t stick. His muscles began falling off the bone.
    • On the 59th day after the accident at Tokaimura power plant, Ouchi, or what was left of him, suffered from numerous heart attacks, but the hospital staff would revive him over and over again.
      • Because of the way end-of-life laws are set up in Japan, if his family wished it, he had to be revived at all costs. His family insisted he be kept alive for as long as physically possible. They wanted him to be resuscitated everytime he died.
      • On that 59th day, Ouchi had 3 heart attacks in just 1 hour.
      •  This severely damaged his brain and kidneys. At this point, Ouchi was on life support.
  • The melting mass that was once Hisashi Ouchi suffered before his final escape in the form of a final cardiac arrest… 83 days after being admitted to the hospital.
    • With his DNA obliterated and brain damage increasing every time he died, Ouchi’s fate had long been sealed. It was only a merciful final cardiac arrest due to multi-organ failure on Dec. 21, 1999, that released him from the pain.

Hisashi Ouchi Photos

Japan TimesA picture of Hisashi Ouchi from his identification badge at the nuclear power plant.

The following paragraphs were taken from and

The immediate aftermath of the Tokaimura nuclear accident saw 310,000 of villagers within six miles of the Tokai facility ordered to stay indoors for 24 hours. Over the next 10 days, 10,000 people were checked for radiation, with more than 600 people suffering low levels.

There was no critical accident alarm at the facility. When the accident first occurred, other workers were unaware of the emergency. After they were made aware, there was confusion as to whether or not the danger had passed. This led to three members of emergency personnel being unexpectedly exposed while trying to rescue the workers inside.

Because the plant was not included in the National Plan for the Prevention of Nuclear Disasters, immediate protocols for the protection of individuals outside of the plant were not in place. Workers at a lumber yard very near the plant were not evacuated until 3pm, 4 1/2 hours after the reaction.

Tokaimura Nuclear Accident Victims

Kaku Kurita/Gamma-Rapho/Getty ImagesResidents in Tokaimura, Japan, being checked for radiation on Oct. 2, 1999.

But none suffered as much as Hisashi Ouchi and his colleague, Masato Shinohara.

Shinohara spent seven months fighting for his life. He, too, had received blood stem cell transfusions. In his case, doctors took them from the umbilical cord of a newborn.

Shinohara seemed to be getting better. On New Year’s Day 2000, he was taken in his wheelchair to visit the hospital gardens.

However, in late February 2000, Shinohara contracted pneumonia and the damage to his lungs from the radiation meant that he needed to be put on a ventilator. This prevented him from speaking, so he had to write messages to nurses and family. Some of the last words written by Shinohara were “Mommy, please.”

Tragically, neither the stem-cell transfusions approach nor skin grafts, blood transfusions, or cancer treatments had worked. He died of lung and liver failure on April 27, 2000.

As for the supervisor of the two deceased workers, Yokokawa was released after three months of treatment. He had suffered minor radiation sickness and survived. But he faced criminal charges of negligence in October 2000. JCO, meanwhile, would pay $121 million to settle 6,875 compensation claims from affected locals.

In reaction to the accident, which was found to be completely the result of human error, the Tōkai-Mura power plant was fully automated and fitted with neutron monitoring equipment. Tōkai-Mura had a history of taking shortcuts and putting their employees at risk to speed up production. The deaths of Ouchi and Shinohara were the ultimate penalty for their carelessness.

One year after the devastating accident, 6 employees were arrested and charged with negligence. One of the 6 was Yokokawa who claimed he “forgot” or was not aware of the dangers in the plant. He pled guilty.

At the time, Japan generated approximately 1/3 of its electricity from nuclear power.

The nuclear power plant in Tokai continued to operate under a different company for more than a decade until it shut down automatically during the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami. It has not operated since.



Lava Sharks and a Demon Rock

The content below is from Episode 108 of the Who’d a Thunk It? Podcast


  • 1883 is some of the best writing to come out of the Western Genre in a long time.
    • This 10 episode series is technically a prequel to the Yellowstone show starring Kevin Costner, but because it is set about 140 years in the past you really don’t need to see Yellowstone in order to understand what is happening.
    • 1883 follows the story of a wagon party on their journey across the Oregon Trail.
    • Some of the main characters are
      • the Captain (played by Sam Elliot) is in charge of keeping all the German immigrants alive along the way
      • The Farmer (played by Tim McGraw) who agrees to help the wagon party in hopes it will keep his own family safe
      • And the farmer’s wife is played by Tim McGraw’s real-life wife Faith Hill.
      • His daughter Isabel Dutton is the main character of the show. Her character is heard narrating throughout the series and the audience experience most of the show through her eyes.
  • The show is amazingly written and I binged it within like 5 days.
    • oh, and guest stars include actors like Billy Bob Thornton and Tom Hanks…



  • This week I will be covering topics that were sent to me by fans, two topics to be precise: Lava Sharks and a Demon Rock.
  • Back in 2005, when I was just 11 years old a terrible movie came out called The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl 3-D.
    • Here is the premise: Bullied by classmates, young Max (Cayden Boyd) escapes into a fantasy, conjuring up the action-packed lives of Lavagirl (Taylor Dooley) and Sharkboy (Taylor Lautner). But one day, Lavagirl and Sharkboy suddenly come to life — and their world, Planet Drool, needs a hero named Max. As Max escapes to Planet Drool, he battles aliens and tries to save his new friends’ planet from destruction. He also battles his bullies, who have become villains like the Ice Princess (Sasha Pieterse).
    • With terrible CGI and even worse acting it was a nightmare of a movie, but it was also iconic and was talked about a lot.
    • Why do I bring this up? Well, sharks and lava apparently go together like peanut butter and jelly in the wild.
This is an actual underwater photo of a shark swimming near Kavachi volcano
  • Marine biologists and geologists are stunned by a recent discovery off the coast of the Solomon Islands.
    • The waters there hide a short-tempered volcano known as Kavachi and also sharks apparently.
    • These orange murky waters are bombarded by Kavachi’s frequent underwater eruptions. The concussive force of the blasts alone was enough to make biologists think larger marine life would steer clear of the area, not to mention the toxicity levels from lava-hot rock jutting out from the earth, or the boiling hot water. But the biologists were wrong. What the team of scientists saw with their underwater cameras were schools of reef sharks, hammerheads, and scalloped hammerheads.
    • The sharks seem to be thriving in this underwater hellscape and though we aren’t exactly sure yet, some biologists think it is due to a specialized nose.
    • You see these sharks have pores on their snouts called ampullae of Lorenzini. They think these pores allow them to sense changes in Earth’s magnetic field. Sharks use the information for homing and migration, and may also use them to avoid dangerous situations.
    • While this is a big discovery in the abilities of sharks, it isn’t entirely outside the realm of belief. Recent studies have shown that sharks are able to avoid hurricanes and cyclones. Now biologists are thinking this is linked to the ability to avoid volcanic eruptions.
    • Right now the total mystery is why. Why do these apex predators of the ocean prefer to gather in large numbers near volcanoes?
      • The initial theories are the 2 MAJOR reasons for almost everything in the wild: food or fornication.
    • Biologist think there might be a food source near volcanoes that we haven’t discovered yet or perhaps they prefer to reproduce there.
    • Michael Heithaus, a scientist and professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Florida International University even said “who doesn’t like a hot tub?”
This is some CGI image that popped up when I googled “volcano shark.”
  • Why is this newsworthy?
    • Well, it is behavior in wild animals we weren’t aware of before and it is the behavior we humans didn’t predict because we thought volcanos were dangerous.
    • It also involves sharks which are pretty neat and also involves volcanos which are also pretty darn neat.


  • I like Japanese stuff which apparently makes me a weeb.
    • WEEB: “Weeaboo is a mostly derogatory slang term for a Western person who is obsessed with Japanese culture, especially anime, often regarding it as superior to all other cultures.” –
    • It also means people who know me will send me all sorts of articles and memes that pertain to Japanese culture. The other day my fiance Shannon sent me an article about this Demon Rock that split open and release all sorts of bad JuuJuu upon the world.
    • This rock is said to kill anyone who comes into contact with it and just within the last couple of months it split open like a cantaloupe.
    • The story goes that a beautiful young maiden named Tamamo-no-Mae was part of a conspiracy to kill Emperor Toba who ruled over Japan from 1107 to 1123. This murderous plot was created by a feudal lord and he used Tamamo-no-Mae as a means to his end. When she died her dead body transformed into the Sessho-seki (killing stone).
    • But the legend goes deeper… It is believed that the maiden’s true self was the evil nine-tailed fox demon. Ninetails’ spirit is said to be trapped and encased in lava somewhere in the Tochigi prefecture near Tokyo. This area is famous for its hot springs and sulfur.
    • Many today still believe the stone is deadly and may even spew poisonous gas. So when it was recently discovered that the stone broke into 2 nearly equal parts it made headlines.
    • A lot of people online (mostly Twitter) are saying how this is just another messed up thing to add to the pile of horrible things to happen in the 2020s. But the stone most likely has been cracking for years now and things have just taken their natural course. Rain and wind slowly widened the cracks until the rock split.
    • Since the so-called demon rock has been a major tourist attraction in the area, there is talk about restoring it.
    • My question: are they going to get a Buddhist monk to seal the demon back inside before they seal it up with cement? Or are they going to use Elmer’s glue?