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Radioactivity in Seawater Near Nuclear Plant Reaches New High

1 p.m. ET | Tepco said Thursday that the water beneath the damaged reactor has radioactivity measuring at 10,000 time the legal limit, though it still believes the drinking water supply to be safe.

French and U.S. experts are being consulted in an effort to find a solution to the crisis and how to dispose of the high amounts of contaminated water, exacerbated by the use of large quantities of water to try to cool the overheating reactors. A robot is expected to be deployed at the plant, where workers have been facing hazardous conditions in the attempt to stave off a meltdown. Though levels at the plant are constantly monitored, individual workers do not have radiation-measuring devices.

10 a.m. ET | Radioactive iodine in seawater near the stricken Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant in northeastern Japan has reached 4,385 the legal limit. The International Atomic Energy Agency has also found potentially unsafe levels of radiation outside of the 12-mile evacuation radius put in place by the Japanese government, raising questions about whether the current evacuation zone is sufficient.

Officials in the Fukushima prefecture have had difficulty recovering the bodies of victims from the 9.0-magnitude earthquake and tsunami because of fears of spreading radiation, compounding the initial disaster that claimed an uncounted number of lives. Though the official death toll stands at more than 11,000, current estimates are that more than 19,000 were killed.

Efforts to cool the damaged reactors have been hampered by high levels of radiation, evacuations and the failure of the plant’s cooling systems. In addition to radiation in the seawater, traces of plutonium have been found in the soil nearby.

“We will continue monitoring the level of radiation with heightened vigilance and we intend to take action if necessary,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said.

In addition to the IAEA, several international governments have offered assistance. French President Nicolas Sarkozy arrived in Tokyo Thursday and offered to host a meeting on nuclear safety standards this spring. Sarkozy is the first foreign leader to visit Tokyo since the disaster.

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