Radiation Levels Spike Near Japan Plant, Detected in Seawater

BY Francine Uenuma  March 28, 2011 at 9:13 AM EDT

12:05 p.m. ET | Tepco officials say small amounts of plutonium have been detected in the soil near the Fukushima plant, but that those levels do not yet pose a public risk.

Workers are racing to pump out tons of radioactive water inside the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant as levels continue to rise in both the air and seawater off Tokyo’s eastern coast. According to Tokyo Electric Power Company, contamination in that water has registered at 100,000 times normal levels.

That water was detected in a tunnel in the facility, raising further concerns that it could seep out into the Pacific Ocean.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said he was told that the containment structure in the No. 2 reactor “is damaged and water is leaking.”

On Sunday Tepco accidentally reported the levels to be 10 million times normal, prompting a temporary evacuation. The levels were corrected to 1,000 milli¬≠sieverts per hour, still a serious level of exposure for the workers that remain at the plant. Conditions for those remaining in the facility have been described as “hellish”; the health hazards being compounded by the need for precise technical work in claustrophobic conditions. Last week three workers were hospitalized after coming into contact with contaminated water through their safety suits.

View all of our Japan coverage and follow us on Twitter.