Nu­clear plant ra­dioac­tiv­ity rate 10 mil­lion times nor­mal

Townsville Bulletin - - World Snapshot -

WORK­ERS strug­gling t o pump con­tam­i­nated wa­ter from Ja­pan’s stricken nu­clear com­plex have fled one of the trou­bled re­ac­tors af­ter re­port­ing ra­dio ac­tiv­ity lev­els 1 0 mil­lion time s higher than nor­mal in the re­ac­tor’s cool­ing sys­tem.

The num­bers were so high that the worker mea­sur­ing ra­di­a­tion lev­els with­drew yes­ter­day be­fore tak­ing a sec­ond read­ing.

It was not clear how long work­ers were ex­posed to the highly ra­dioac­tive wa­ter or how long the lev­els had been that high at the Fukushima Dai­ichi plant.

But it came as of­fi­cials ac­knowl­edged there was con­tam­i­nated wa­ter in all four of the com­plex’s most trou­bled re­ac­tors, and as air­borne ra­di­a­tion in­side one re­ac­tor unit mea­sured four times the limit deemed safe by t he gov­ern­ment, Tokyo Elec­tric Power Co’s Takashi Ku­rita said.

While the dis­cov­ery and evac­u­a­tion again de­layed ef­forts to bring the com­plex un­der con­trol, a gov­ern­ment of­fi­cial in­sisted the sit­u­a­tion had par­tially sta­bilised.

‘‘ We have some­what pre­vented the sit­u­a­tion from turn­ing worse,’’ chief cabi­net sec­re­tary Yukio Edano said.

The dis­cov­ery over the past three days of ra­dioac­tive wa­ter has been a ma­jor set­back in the mis­sion to get the plant’s cru­cial cool­ing sys­tems op­er­at­ing more than two weeks af­ter a 9 . 0 - mag­ni­tude quake off Ja­pan’s north­east coast trig­gered a tsunami that bar­relled on­shore and dis­abled the Fukushima plant, com­pli­cat­ing an im­mense hu­man­i­tar­ian disas­ter.

The death toll from the dis­as­ters stood at 10,668 yes­ter­day, with more than 16,574 peo­ple miss­ing.

Work­ers have been scram­bling to re­move the ra­dioac­tive wa­ter from the four units and find a safe place to store it, of­fi­cials said. Ja­pan’s nu­clear safety agency said each unit could have hun­dreds of tonnes of ra­dioac­tive wa­ter.

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