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Fukushima radiation seeping into the ocean

Highly radioactive water has been spilling into the ocean off the Japanese coast, near the Fukushima nuclear power plant. The company is now pumping more than 3 million gallons of water into the ocean, that is contaminated to 500 times the legal limit, in order to free space for even more highly radioactive water at the plant.

The radiation hazard has prevented workers from getting close enough to power up cooling systems needed to stabilize the dangerously vulnerable rods. The company says it now has to release the less-contaminated water into the ocean, as the pooling water has damaged systems.

Following the 9 magnitude earthquake and ensuing tsunami, which knocked out the plant’s cooling system, on March 11, the power plant has been spewing out radioactive material.

TEPCO knows there may be other similar cracks in the area, but they were unable to seal the 8 inch long crack with concrete. Experts say the radiation will quickly dilute in the vast Pacific Ocean, though the company is trying to erect polyester fabric screens in order to localize the pollution.

Radioactive iodine-131, at concentrations higher than the permitted limit, was first detected in waters off the plant seven days earlier. Radiation had spread to 25 miles south of the plant. However, authorities stressed it was still well below levels that are dangerous to human health. No fishing is permitted in the waters near the plant.

A worker at the plant admitted the tsunami has left the grounds littered with dead fish that remain throughout the plant. Birds are now feasting on the dead, contaminated fish.

Measurements showed the air over the radioactive water in the pit as containing above 1,000 millisieverts per hour of radioactivity. Even just 60 centimeters away, that figure dropped to 400 millisieverts. Workers have taken samples of the water from the pit and seawater and are analyzing them to determine the level of contamination.

The crack is thought to have been created at the time of the quake and may have been leaking since then, said spokesman Osamu Yokokura of Tokyo Electric Power Co., which is responsible for running the plant.

The death toll is expected to reach 25,000. Nearly four weeks after the horrific events more than 165,000 people are still living in shelters following the earthquake and tsunami.

“The government has been too focused on the Fukushima power plant rather than the tsunami victims," said Megumi Shimanuki, 35, whose family is living in a temporary shelter. 260,000 households still have no running water and 170,000 have no electricity. 15,500 people are still unaccounted for.

by S. C.
06 april 2011, World News > Asia

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