Japan Radiation Levels Continue to Rise Tuesday

Mar 15, 2011, 12:58

High radiation levels were detected Tuesday at Japan's earthquake-damaged Fukushima nuclear power plant after a fire erupted near a reactor, officials said.

The fire, which Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said was likely caused by another hydrogen explosion at the facility, was extinguished, Kyodo reported.

Edano told reporters the level of radiation "may pose health risks to humans," the Yomiuri Shimbun reported.

Experts said they fear that a massive amount of radioactive material leaked from reactors since a magnitude-9 earthquake and tsunami struck Japan Friday.

Minute amounts of radioactive material were detected in Ibaraki and Tochigi prefectures and Tokyo Tuesday, local governments said.

Prime Minister Naoto Kan urged the approximately 136,000 residents within a 12-to-18-mile radius of the Fukushima power plant to remain indoors, Yomiuri Shimbun said.

Tokyo Electric Power Co. and other sources said high levels of radiation were detected at multiple sites near the plant.

"The levels are completely different from the � figures we had announced previously," Edano said. "These figures may cause health damage."

Officials estimated radiation levels had reached about 40 rems, The Wall Street Journal reported. A single dose of 25 rems can cause temporary sterility in men. One hundred rems can cause radiation sickness and 500 rems likely will cause death.

Kan urged calm but warned that there was "a very high risk" of more leakage. The prevailing winds had so far swept most of the radioactive plume over the Pacific Ocean instead of populated areas, officials said.

"We are on the brink. We are now facing the worst-case scenario," Hiroaki Koide, a senior reactor engineering specialist at the Research Reactor Institute of Kyoto University, told The New York Times.

Source: UPI