Japanese authorities said Friday that a breach in the core of the No. 3 reactor at the damaged Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant could indicate a more serious release of radioactive material.
Prime Minister Naoto Kan called the situation “very grave and serious” as workers continued efforts to contain the disaster. “We are not in a position where we can be optimistic,” he said.
In a televised address Friday evening, Kan said, “I ask the people in the devastated areas to summon the courage to keep moving forward.”
Three workers who were injured when they stepped into water inside the No. 3 reactor were likely exposed to radiation 10,000 times the normal levels. One of the workers was exposed to180.7 millisieverts of radiation. That water could be an indicator of a breach in the core’s containment vessel. Tokyo Electric Power Co. says some 536 people are still working in the plant.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said an investigation is being conducted into the source of the leaks.
After maintaining a 12-mile evacuation radius since the earthquake damaged the reactor, Japan’s government expanded it to 19 miles on Friday. The U.S. government has recommended its citizens stay more than 50 miles away from the area.
Tests show radiation in 11 types of vegetables from the region and concerns over tap water continue in Tokyo and in the northern part of the country.