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Elevated Radiation Levels Detected in Tokyo Tap Water

March 23, 2011 at 12:00 AM EDT
Japanese officials warned Tokyo residents to avoid giving tap water to infants after tests revealed radiation levels exceeded safe limits. Tom Clarke of Independent Television News reports on the latest problem stemming from the damaged Fukushima nuclear plant.
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JIM LEHRER: Radiation fears rose in Japan today after reports that Tokyo’s drinking water is contaminated. Fallout from a damaged nuclear plant sent the levels to twice what’s considered safe for babies.

We have a report from Tom Clarke of Independent Television News.

TOM CLARKE: These are the men of the Tokyo Fire Department hyper rescue unit. The pictures filmed last Friday but only released today are of one of the most daring operations at the Fukushima plant yet. The firefighters, gloved and masked, some in full protective suits, preparing to douse the number three reactor using old-fashioned fire hoses.

Behind one of the trucks, you can just make out the smoldering reactor. Every new release of smoke has forced a temporary evacuation until radiation levels are checked. And today, reactor number three was on fire again, a spokesman from the plant admitting they still don’t know why.

TAKASHI KURITA, Toyota Electric Power Company (through translator): Black smoke was seen rising from the number three reactor building, so we evacuated workers from the site.

TOM CLARKE: As it happens, the fire didn’t raise radiation levels. But even though a crane has replaced hoses in cooling the reactor, the situation here remains precarious — not what they want to hear in Tokyo. The city’s water supply now contains enough radioactive iodine to force a drinking-water ban for babies under 1.

MAN (through translator): Water is an essential supply. We cannot help drinking it. It’s a real crisis.

TOM CLARKE: It’s a similar story for potentially contaminated vegetables and seafood from the north of the country. But even if the risks are low, worry and frustration will continue for as long as it takes to fix Fukushima.