Tuesday, March 29, 2011

New plutonium traces fan fears in Japan

A file photo shows Japanese authorities trying to spray water into the No. 4 reactor at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, northeastern Japan.

Source: Press TV

Authorities have detected plutonium in the soil in five areas of the battered Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant amid soaring environmental fears in the disaster-hit country.

"Of the samples from five locations, we believe that there is a high possibility that at least two of them are directly linked with the current reactor accident," a spokesman for Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) said on Monday, AFP reported.

He, however, stressed that the levels were not “serious enough to harm human health."

Meanwhile, radioactive iodine linked to Japan's nuclear power plant has reached as far as northeast US, where officials reported amounts of radioactive iodine found in rainwater samples in Massachusetts.

The US officials said the radioactive iodine poses no threat to drinking supplies.

Japan is grappled with its worst ever atomic crisis triggered by a huge earthquake and tsunami on March 11 that left more than 28,000 people dead or missing. The deadly disaster that swept through northeast Japan knocked out the cooling systems for the six reactors of the Fukushima plant, which has been leaking radiation into the atmosphere.

The US environmental protection agency said unlike external exposure to plutonium, internal exposure "is an extremely serious health hazard,” as it could stay in the body for decades, exposing organs and tissues to radiation and increasing the risk of cancer.

Earlier on Monday, the Japanese plant operator said a large amount of highly radioactive water had leaked from the number two reactor's turbine building into an underground tunnel and might spread into the ocean.

The radiation in the water was estimated at 1,000 millisieverts an hour -- a dose that can cause temporary radiation sickness with nausea and vomiting for those exposed.

Seawater near the plant has been found to include radioactive iodine more than 1,850 times the legal limit, although it is not exactly clear how the contamination has reached the Pacific Ocean.

Meanwhile, TEPCO has faced criticism over an erranous report that radiation in water at the site had reached 10 million times the normal level. It has also come under fire for an incident last week in which two plant workers were hospitalized after they stepped in radioactive water without proper boots.

Efforts to restore power at reactor two have been disrupted since Sunday because of the danger posed by the radioactive water leaks.

Japanese authorities are trying to drain the highly radioactive water from the turbine room basements -- without releasing it into the environment.

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