Workers at the all-but-destroyed Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan continue to face dangerous — even deadly — levels of radiation in their ongoing attempts to stabilize the plant. Via MSNBC.com:
Pockets of lethal levels of radiation have been detected at Japan’s crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in a reminder of the risks faced by workers battling to contain the worst nuclear accident since Chernobyl.
Plant operator Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco) reported on Monday that radiation exceeding 10 sieverts (10,000 millisieverts) per hour was found at the bottom of a ventilation stack standing between two reactors.
Tepco said Tuesday it found another spot on the ventilation stack itself where radiation exceeded 10 sieverts per hour, a level that could lead to incapacitation or death after just several seconds of exposure.
The company used equipment to measure radiation from a distance and was unable to ascertain the exact level because the device’s maximum reading is 10 sieverts.
While Tepco said the readings would not hinder its goal of stabilizing the Fukushima reactors by January, experts warned that worker safety could be at risk if the operator prioritized hitting the deadline over radiation risks.
(Handout image taken by a gamma ray camera showing the bottom of a ventilation stack where radiation exceeding 10 sieverts per hour - seen here in red - by TEPCO via Reuters / MSNBC.com)
ENEMY NEIN Smoke rises from the cooling towers of the nuclear power plant in Gundremmingen, southern Germany. The German cabinet is to decide on a bill phasing out nuclear power in Europe’s biggest economy by 2022, prompted by the March 2011 disaster at Japan’s Fukushima plant. (Photo: AFP-Getty via the New York Post)
Nuclear experts say new findings of highly toxic plutonium in the soil outside Japan’s beleaguered Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant show the crisis unleashed by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami is far from over.
"Minute amounts of plutonium have been detected for the first time in soil outside the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant," Japanese broadcaster NHK reported today.
Japanese researchers who analyzed roadside soil samples taken some 1.7 kilometers from the power station’s front gate on April 21 “found minute amounts of three kinds of plutonium,” NHK reported. The Japanese researchers said the quantities of plutonium found in the soil are roughly similar to that which has been found at past nuclear bomb test sites.
Plutonium is highly toxic—whether ingested or inhaled—because it emits alpha radiation “that can easily penetrate membranes inside the body,” Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based Arms Control Association, told The Envoy.”
Pripyat, the Ukraine. The city of 50,000 was built to house workers from the nearby Chernobyl nuclear plant. Among its utilitarian buildings sat an amusement park, complete with bumper cars and a brand-new Ferris wheel. The town has since been abandoned, metal and concrete structures left to rust and spall — and become reclaimed by the wilds of nature.
THE DEAD ZONE The Chernobyl nuclear power plant, the site of the world’s worst nuclear accident 25 years ago Tuesday, is seen from a bridge two miles away. The molten wreckage of Reactor #4 is covered by a steel and concrete structure known as the “Sarcophagus.” It was built in only six months and is now falling apart. Ukraine is asking the west for $800 million to build a new enclosure designed to last 100 years. Among the isotopes inside the building is Plutonium-239, which has a half-life of 24,000 years. This site — and for that matter every nuclear power plant in the world — will be radioactive for hundreds of thousands of years. (Photo: Katherine Buell / PBS Newshour)
The Washington Post's look at Chernobyl's legacy, 25 years later: iodine-131, cesium-137, strontium-90, and a large swath of land comprising parts of the Ukraine, Belarus and Russia, still (mostly) bereft of human life.
Mike Keefe / The Denver Post
LOOKSI A guard inspected a truck at a checkpoint marking the 30-kilometer zone around the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine Thursday. The 25th anniversary of the nuclear reactor explosion in Chernobyl is April 26. (Photo: Gleb Garanich / Reuters via the Wall St. Journal)
Highly contaminated water is escaping a damaged reactor at the crippled nuclear power plant in Japan and could soon leak into the ocean, the country’s nuclear regulator warned on Monday.
The discovery poses a further setback to efforts to contain the nuclear crisis as workers find themselves in increasingly hazardous conditions.
In another new finding, Tokyo Electric Power Company, which runs the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power station, said late Monday that it had detected an increase in levels of plutonium in soil samples taken from within the compound a week ago, raising fears of yet another dangerous element that may be escaping the crippled reactors.
It was unclear where the plutonium had come from. The reactors could be a source, and tests of nuclear weapons in the atmosphere, which ended in 1980, left trace amounts of plutonium around the world. The highest levels in the soil, of plutonium 238, were found about 500 yards from the most heavily damaged reactors, the company said. It said lower levels of plutonium 239 and 240 had also been found, at amounts not significantly higher than normal.
All the reported readings are within the normal range of plutonium levels in sediment and soil given by the United States Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry. But Tokyo Electric said the highest reading was more than three times the average level found in soil in Japan.”
– "Contaminated Water Escaping Nuclear Power Plant, Japanese Regulators Say," from the New York Times
BLUE SHIELD Japan Self Defense Force members in protective clothing prepare to transfer to another hospital workers who were exposed to radiation at Tokyo Electric Power Co.’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. The chief of the International Atomic Energy Agency said that the country is "still far from the end of the accident" and that the plant continues to spew radiation into the atmosphere and the sea. (Photo: Reuters via the New York Post)
Andy Singer / No Exit