Radioactive iodine in Tokyo water, radiation in food near n-plant

Saturday, March 19, 2011
By Paul Martin

Telegram.com
Saturday, March 19, 2011

FUKUSHIMA, Japan — In the first sign that contamination from Japan’s stricken nuclear complex had seeped into the food chain, officials said today that radiation levels in spinach and milk from farms near the tsunami-crippled facility exceeded government safety limits.

Minuscule amounts of radioactive iodine also were found in tap water Friday in Tokyo and elsewhere in Japan — although experts said none of those tests showed any health risks. The Health Ministry also said that radioactive iodine slightly above government safety limits was found in drinking water at one point Thursday in a sampling from Fukushima prefecture, the site of the nuclear plant, but later tests showed the level had fallen again.

Six workers trying to bring the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant back under control were exposed to more than 100 millisieverts of radiation — Japan’s normal limit for those involved in emergency operations, according to Tokyo Electric Power Co., which operates the complex. The government raised that limit to 250 millisieverts on Tuesday as the crisis escalated.

Officials said the crisis at the plant appeared to be stabilizing, with near-constant dousing of dangerously overheated reactors and uranium fuel, but the situation was still far from resolved.

“We more or less do not expect to see anything worse than what we are seeing now,” said Hidehiko Nishiyama of the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency.

Japan has been grappling with a cascade of disasters unleashed by the 9.0-magnitude earthquake on March 11. The quake spawned a tsunami that ravaged Japan’s northeastern coast, killing more than 7,600 people and knocking out cooling systems at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant, causing the complex to leak radiation.

More than 11,000 people are still missing, and more than 452,000 are living in shelters.

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