Radiation levels at stricken Fukushima plant reach new high
RADIATION levels at Japan's stricken Fukushima nuclear plant have reached a new high as an earthquake off the country's east coast underlined the urgency of the crisis.
Readings at steel tanks used to store thousands of tonnes of radioactive water showed a 20pc rise to 2,200 millisieverts per hour. Experts say exposure to that level of radiation for more than two hours could prove fatal. The new high was at the same "hot spot" identified by the Nuclear Regulation Authority last Saturday, when the level stood at 1,800 millisieverts.
"The radiation concentration was found in the H3 area of storage tanks, which are the same type of tanks that have leaked in the past," a spokesman for Tokyo Electric Power Co (Tepco), the plant operators, said. "The reading of 2,200 millisieverts was found about five centimetres from the tank, but it had fallen to 40 millisieverts per hour 50 centimetres from the tank. We were not able to find any leak in the tank, but we are planning to use more precise measuring equipment to continue investigating where the radiation came from."
Tepco said all its systems at the plant were functioning normally after an earthquake of 6.9 magnitude struck about 250 miles beneath the surface of the seabed some 360 miles south of Tokyo at 9.19am yesterday. The tremor registered at level four on Japan's seven-point scale along the east coast of the country, including at the Fukushima plant, which was damaged by an earthquake and tsunami in March 2011.
Tom Snitch, a senior professor at the University of Maryland who has more than 30 years' experience in nuclear issues, said Japan needed to take some very difficult decisions quickly. "They need to address the real problems, the spent fuel rods in unit 4 and the leaking pressure vessels," he said. "There has been too much work done wiping down walls and duct work in the reactors for any other reason than to do something.
"They also need to decide where to store the waste – where they are going to put 1,533 spent fuel rods. All of this is really a political decision and not a technological issue. This is a critical global issue and Japan must step up." (© Daily Telegraph, London)