Daily Mail – March 27, 2011
Workers trying to prevent a disaster fled for their lives from Japan’s crippled nuclear plant today when radiation soared to a level 10 million times above normal.
Tests on water in reactor number two at the Fukushima plant revealed radioactivity of 1,000 millisieverts (mSv) per hour, way above the level deemed safe.
But as alarm spread, the electric company operating the Fukushima plant said last night that there had been a mistake and the readings were ‘not credible’
A spokesman added: ‘We are very sorry’.
Whether the back down was intended to pacify growing alarm was not known.
However, critics of the way the nuclear crisis is being handled said that if an error in the readings had been made it proved the Tokyo Electric Company had lost control and were making ‘one mistake after another’.
The reported deadly radiation was discovered in water surrounding the turbine at the troubled reactor, which was badly damaged by the March 11 tsunami.
Using nuclear standards, officials said the radiation in the reactor building was recorded at more than 1,000 millisieverts and hour, compared to a safety standard of 250 millisieverts for an entire year. A single dose of 1,000 millisieverts is enough to cause internal bleeding.
‘The situation is serious,’ said Mr Robert Finck, a radiation protection specialist at the Swedish Radiation Safety Authority. ‘You can only be in there for a few minutes. It’s impossible to say how long it will take before they can gradually take control.’
Officials revealed further alarming news yesterday when they reported that radiation in the sea off the plant had risen to 1,850 times above normal, a jump from 1,250 the previous day.
It was in irradiated water in the neighbouring no.3 reactor that three workers were standing and had to be taken to hospital late last week after the water seeped into their boots and came into contact with their skin.
The mishap resulted in experts checking the water in the adjoining reactor – and came up with the earlier alarming findings that it was millions of times above the expected level.
They did not wait around to take a second reading – they ordered everyone to evacuate immediately.
There are also concerns that the no.1 reactor has highly irradiated water in its basement.
The high readings – or the error that was made in making them – is a further blow in the fight against the spread of radioactivity and the confusion and lack of detailed and credible information is doing nothing to calm the nerves of people in Tokyo, 135 miles away.
Apart from the dangerous levels found in the sea off the Fukushima plant lower amounts have been found in vegetables and some tap water sources in Tokyo.
A spokesman for the electric company conceded that the cause of the leak in the no.2 reactor was not known.
‘We are examining the cause of this, but no work is being done there because of the high level of radiation,’ he said.
‘High levels of caesium and other substances are being detected, which usually should not be found in reactor water. There is a high possibility that fuel rods are being damaged.’ The radioactive materials included iodine-134, iodine-131 and caesium 134 and 137 – substances emitted during nuclear fission inside a reactor core.
Analysts said this left no doubt that dangerous radiation was leaking from within the reactor core itself and preventing further spillage would be risky for workers.
A Greenpeace activist, Mr Jan va de Putte, said last night that he had taken radiation readers from a village 30 miles from the plant and found levels in the atmosphere that would put people living in the area at great risk.
‘The government aren’t telling us everything,’ he said. ‘People are scared – they want to know the truth about that plant.