News / Asia

    Radioactive Plutonium Found in Soil Around Damaged Japanese Nuclear Plant

    Yumi Saitou, who lives in Fukushima, is silhouetted as she is tested for possible nuclear radiation at an evacuation center in Fukushima, northern Japan, March 28, 2011.
    Yumi Saitou, who lives in Fukushima, is silhouetted as she is tested for possible nuclear radiation at an evacuation center in Fukushima, northern Japan, March 28, 2011.

    Officials say highly radioactive plutonium has been detected in the soil in five locations around Japan's earthquake-disabled nuclear reactor, adding to the problems faced by workers struggling to get the power plant under control.

    The Tokyo Electric Power Company, TEPCO, that runs the Fukushima plant said late Monday it believed some of the plutonium came from nuclear fuel in the damaged reactors. But the company insisted the levels were not high enough to be considered a risk to human health.

    The US embassy in Tokyo said the chief of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, Gregory Jaczko, was on his way to Japan Monday to assess the current situation. Jaczko said the NRC was ready to provide any assistance it can to ease the nuclear crisis.

    The International Atomic Energy Agency said Monday the situation at the nuclear station is still very serious.

    Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said earlier Monday he suspected a partial meltdown of one of the Fukushima earthquake-disabled nuclear reactors was leading to pools of highly radioactive water that plant operators say have been found in trenches outside the plant's buildings.

    Plant workers are caught between trying to pump uncontaminated water into the reactors to cool them so that they can fix the damage inside, and getting rid of the radioactive water.

    Edano said the government's top priority was to prevent the contaminated water from seeping into the ground water system. He urged residents to stay away from the 20-kilometer evacuation zone as the area continued to be very risky.

    Greenpeace called on the government to extend the evacuation zone, as their experts have found unsafe radiation levels 40 kilometers northwest of the plant.

    Radioactive contamination has been spreading into the seawater and soil for the past two weeks, since the reactors' cooling systems were seriously damaged in the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

    The contaminated water appears to be leaking from the one of the damaged plant's reactors after having been in contact with melted-down fuel rods inside the reactor's core. The discovery is the latest setback for crews that have been battling fires, explosions and spikes in radioactivity in their efforts to repair the cooling systems.

    More than 10,800 people have been confirmed dead since the quake and 16,200 are missing, according to national NHK television. It said 193,000 people are living in evacuation centers, down from about 300,000 last week.

    TEPCO officials said Monday radiation levels in the leaked water were "extremely high". Company officials said they were continuing to monitor seawater for radioactivity, and that it would have to develop a plan to monitor radiation levels underground.

    Edano said the water seems to be coming from inside the plant's pressure chamber where it has been exposed to melted-down fuel rods in the reactor's core. That would confirm suspicions that the reactor suffered at least a partial meltdown, and that water is escaping from the pressure chamber.

    The power company said Monday that water found in a utility trench outside the number two reactor building was emitting radiation at a rate of more than 1,000 millisieverts per hour.  Officials said that is about the same level as the water inside the building, which was reported Sunday to be 100,000 times higher than normal.

    Two workers were taken to a hospital last week after suffering burns to their feet while wading in the radioactive water. Officials said Monday the workers were recuperating.

    Radiation from the plant, which lost its cooling systems during the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, has also been detected in milk and vegetables in a wide area around the plant and in tap water as far away as Tokyo, 220 kilometers to the south.

    Related video by Melinda Smith:


    Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

    You May Like

    In Britain, The Sun Still Doesn’t Shine

    Invoking Spitfires and Merlin, Leave voters insist country can be great again, following surprising 'Brexit' vote last week

    Double Wave of Suicide Bombings Puts Lebanon, Refugees on Edge

    Following suicide bombings in Christian town of Al-Qaa, on Lebanon's northeast border with Syria, fears of further bombings have risen

    US Senators Warned on Zika After Failing to Pass Funding

    Zika threats and challenges, as well as issues of contraception and vaccines, spelled out as lawmakers point fingers

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeasti
    X
    June 29, 2016 6:15 PM
    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.
    Video

    Video Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeast

    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.
    Video

    Video Clinton Leads Trump, But Many Voters Don't Like Either

    In the U.S. presidential race, most recent polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton with a steady lead over Republican Donald Trump as both presumptive party nominees prepare for their party conventions next month. Trump’s disapproval ratings have risen in some recent surveys, but Clinton also suffers from high negative ratings, suggesting both candidates have a lot of work to do to improve their images before the November election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video New US Ambassador to Somalia Faces Heavy Challenges

    The new U.S. envoy to Somalia, who was sworn into office Monday, will be the first American ambassador to that nation in 25 years. He will take up his post as Somalia faces a number of crucial issues, including insecurity, an upcoming election, and the potential closure of the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya. VOA’s Jill Craig asked Somalis living in Kenya’s capital city Nairobi how they feel about the U.S. finally installing a new ambassador.
    Video

    Video At National Zoo, Captivating Animal Sculptures Illustrate Tragedy of Ocean Pollution

    The National Zoo in Washington, D.C., is home to about 1,800 animals, representing 300 species. But throughout the summer, visitors can also see other kinds of creatures there. They are larger-than-life animal sculptures that speak volumes about a global issue — the massive plastic pollution in our oceans. VOA's June Soh takes us to the zoo's special exhibit, called Washed Ashore: Art to Save the Sea.
    Video

    Video Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roar

    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Melting Pot of Immigrants Working to Restore US Capitol Dome

    The American Iron Works company is one of the firms working to renovate the iconic U.S. Capitol Dome. The company employs immigrants of many different cultural and national backgrounds. VOA’s Arman Tarjimanyan has more.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora