Radiation concern spreads
HIGHLY radioactive iodine seeping from Japan’s damaged nuclear complex may be making its way i nto seawater farther north of the plant than previously thought, adding to radiation concerns as the crisis stretches into a third week.
Mounting problems, i ncluding badly miscalculated radiation figures and no place to store dangerously contaminated water, have stymied emergency workers struggling to cool down the overheating plant and avert a disaster with global implications.
The coastal Fukushima Dai-ichi power plant, located 220km northeast of Tokyo, has been leaking radiation since a magnitude-9.0 quake on March 11 triggered a tsunami that engulfed the complex.
The wave knocked out power to the system that cools the dangerously hot nuclear fuel rods.
Yesterday, workers resumed the laborious yet urgent task of pumping out the hundreds of tons of radioactive water inside several buildings at the six-unit plant.
The water must be removed and safely stored before work can continue to power up the plant’s cooling system, nuclear safety officials said.
The contaminated water, discovered last Thursday, has been emitting radiation that measured more than 1000 millisieverts per hour in a recent reading at Unit 2 – some 100,000 times normal a mounts, plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. said.
As officials scrambled to determine the source of the radioactive water, c hi e f Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano repeated yesterday the contaminated water in Unit 2 appeared to be due to a temporary partial meltdown of the reactor core.
He called it ‘‘ very unfortunate’’ but said the spike in radiation appeared limited to the unit.
However, new readings show contamination in the ocean has spread about 1.6km farther north of the nuclear site than before.
Meanwhile, a strong earthquake shook the region and prompted a brief tsunami alert early yesterday, adding to the sense of unease across Japan. The quake off the battered Miyagi prefecture coast in the northeast measured magnitude-6.5.