Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Japan doubles radioactive leak estimate

An aerial view of Japan's Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant

Source: Press TV

Japan has revised its initial estimate of the amount of radiation leak from the Fukushima nuclear plant nearly three months after it was hit by a devastating earthquake and tsunami.

Japan's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency said on Tuesday the radiation released into the atmosphere has been more than double the amount originally thought, AFP reported.

The findings were released on the eve of the first meeting Tuesday of an independent 10-member academic and expert panel that will look into the causes of the world's worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl a quarter-century ago.

The group's leader, a Tokyo University researcher on human error, Yotaro Hatamura, said at the meeting that "nuclear power has higher energy density and is dangerous. It was a mistake to consider it safe.”

Prime Minister Naoto Kan's special advisor on the nuclear crisis, Goshi Hosono, said Monday that the latest findings were unlikely to affect plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Company's roadmap to bring all reactors to a stable "cold shutdown" by January 2012.

Plutonium has also been found for the first time in soil just a few kilometers from the Fukushima facility. But researchers say the levels are not a cause for alarm.

On March 11, a 9-magnitude earthquake, off the northeast coast of Japan's main island, unleashed a 30-foot (10-meter) tsunami wave, which knocked out power to the cooling system of the reactors at the Fukushima plant, causing a radiation leak.

The powerful quake and the massive tsunami that followed killed nearly 24,000 people. The crisis has displaced about 80,000 residents from around the plant.

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