Thursday, March 31, 2011

Radioactive leaks continue in Fukushima

Workers discovered more deposits of radioactive water is leaking from the damaged Japanese nuclear complex, plant officials said on Monday while emergency crews struggled to remove hundreds of tons of contaminated water and put the facility under control again. Officials believe the contaminated water has high levels of radioactivity in the coastal resort and has polluted the sea water and soil.

Workers on Monday found traces of plutonium in the ground outside the complex, but officials said there was no threat to public health. Plutonium is present in the fuel complex, which has been leaking radiation for more than two weeks, so the experts predicted it detect anything. Tsuruoka June, the plant operating company Tokyo Electric Power Co., said only two of the samples taken on Monday were leaking reactor.

The other three were from previous surveys. The atmospheric nuclear tests have left small amounts of plutonium in many parts of the world. Meanwhile, the radioactive water found Monday was located in deep wells used for piping and wiring out of the three units of the complex. Contaminated water has been emitting more radiation than four times the limit that the government considers safe for workers.

People who worked in the place at that time were not affected, TEPCO spokesman Takashi Kurita. It is not known precisely where it comes from the water, but many suspect escapes from a damaged reactor. On the other hand, the highly radioactive iodine released nuclear plant may have leaked into the sea, far north of Fukushima than planned, officials said Monday, heightening concern even as the crisis enters its third week.

Radioactive iodine 131 was discovered just at the outer end of units 5 and 6 at a level 150 billion times higher than normal, said Hidehiko Nishiyama, a spokesman for the Agency for Nuclear and Industrial Safety. New readings showed that pollution in the ocean spread to almost 1.6 kilometers (one mile) north of the nuclear site.

The power plant Fukushima Dai-ichi, located 220 kilometers northeast of Tokyo, has suffered from radioactive leaks since an earthquake of magnitude 9.0 was followed by a tsunami that flooded the nuclear complex on 11 March. The tsunami killed the system that cools the fuel rods, which are dangerously hot and has since been emitting radioactivity.

Radioactive water found inside several buildings housing six units of nuclear reactors must be removed and stored with care before they can continue the work to turn the normal cooling system of the plant. In Unit 2 of Fukushima Dai-ichi will be reached to observe more than one mSv per hour on a recent reading, ie about 100 thousand times the normal amounts, TEPCO said.

Chief of Staff Yukio Edan reiterated Monday that the contaminated water in Unit 2 appears to be due to a partial meltdown of the reactor core, something he described as "very unfortunate" but was limited to that unit.

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