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Radiation levels above safety limit recorded in sea by Fukushima plant

Officials working to discover source of radiation leak after concerns emerged earlier over possible breach to core of one of the plant’s six units.

TEPCO employees work to restore power at the control room for Reactors 1 and 2 on Wednesday.
TEPCO employees work to restore power at the control room for Reactors 1 and 2 on Wednesday.
Image: Kyodo/AP/PA

RADIATION LEVELS DETECTED in the sea by the Fukushima nuclear power plant in eastern Japan have been recorded at 1,250 times higher than the safety limit.

However, Japanese officials say that the contamination will have reduced to safe levels again after eight days, the BBC reports.

The UN’s nuclear watchdog the IAEA says that dilution and dispersion of the contamination “will lead to a rapid decrease of the initial surface contamination”. The IAEA also says that it would take “months or years” for the contamination to reach other Pacific shores.

Yesterday, authorities said they were concerned that the core of highly toxic Reactor 3 may have been breached and they are working to discover the source of the radiation leak. Two plant workers have been treated for skin lesions after being splashed with radiated water.

US naval barges are supplying freshwater to the plant as workers switch from injecting seawater into the reactors as an emergency method of keeping them cool. Officials are concerned about the corrosive effects of seawater, which may also be clogging pipes in the reactors.

Japan’s government spokesperson Yukio Edano said today that the situation remains grave: “We seem to be keeping the situation from turning worse, but we still cannot be optimistic.”

Although higher-than-normal radiation levels were detected in tap water in several areas, including Tokyo, officials say the level has been receding continually since peaking on Wednesday and is now safe for infants to drink.

The official death toll from the 11 March earthquake and tsunami is 10,151 today, with over 17,000 missing. Although the lists may overlap somewhat, the final death toll is expected to surpass 18,000.

- Additional reporting from the AP

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