News / Asia

Radiation Levels at Japanese Nuclear Plant Rise Sharply

Workers continue efforts to improve water pumping system

Radiation Levels at Japanese Nuclear Plant Rise Sharply
Radiation Levels at Japanese Nuclear Plant Rise Sharply
Martyn Williams

Japan says levels of radiation contamination in water inside part of the Fukushima nuclear power plant have increased sharply.  Workers at the plant spent the day Sunday on improvements to the water pumping system that is keeping the reactors cool.

The level of radioactive Iodine-134 in water in the basement of a turbine building adjoining the plant's Number-2 reactor spiked to more than 10 million times that of normal conditions.

At that level it is a thousands times more radioactive than water found in the neighboring Number-1 and -3 reactor buildings. It was in the Number-3 building on Thursday that two workers sustained heavy radiation contamination after standing in water without wearing boots.

Government officials and plant operators say they are not sure where the radioactive contamination is coming from.  But there is a possibility it is coming from the reactor core.

Levels of contamination are also rising in seawater around the plant.

Hidehiko Nishiyama, deputy director-general of the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency says Iodine-131 levels in seawater have been measured at 1,850 times the legal limit, up from 1,250 times the day before. He says the levels do not pose any immediate danger to human health.

Work at the plant continued on Sunday to improve the water-pumping system that is attempting to keep the reactor and spent fuel rods cool.

Fire trucks were due to be replaced by portable pumps and the water supply from seawater to fresh water. There is a worry that continued use of seawater could corrode pipes and valves and cause future problems.

The situation at the plant does appear to be stabilizing, although the government warns it will take a long time for things to be brought fully under control.

More than two weeks have passed since a massive earthquake and tsunami destroyed large portions of Japan's eastern coast. Japanese police say about 10,500 people are confirmed dead and 16,600 are missing.

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