More and more I am hearing folks soft pedal the nuclear accident in Japan, attempting to leave the impression that it couldn't happen here at the Point Lepreau reactor. Check the record folks, we have never been that smart and Point Lepreau has edged up to the brink a few times during its history.
In Japan it gets worse and worse. Now they have found not only levels of iodine-131 that are almost 5,000 times the acceptable levels, but now cesium-137 has been found at a village in levels exceeding that used in Chernobyl to justify abandonment of the area for centuries into the future. Trust me this stuff doesn't go away in a few weeks.
It must be "Hell on Earth" ... Kyodo also reported Thursday that the bodies of hundreds of people killed by the quake and tsunami lay unburied near the plant because they were contaminated by radiation, and the police and morgue workers were unable to handle them safely.
Read what else the New York Times has to say:
Radioactive Iodine Detected in Ocean, Despite Gains at Japanese Plant
By DAVID JOLLY
Published: March 31, 2011
The death toll from the earthquake and tsunami that crippled the plant three weeks ago rose to nearly 11,600, with more than 16,000 people listed as missing. Hundreds of thousands of people are still homeless, including tens of thousands who have been displaced from the area around the nuclear plant. Workers have been dousing the reactors and spent fuel pools at the Fukushima Daiichi plant with water to prevent meltdowns and frantically trying to restore power and restart the cooling systems, but the resulting floods of dangerously contaminated water have complicated the efforts.TOKYO — Workers made incremental progress at the stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant on Thursday, but disturbingly high radiation readings there as well as miles away continued to reinforce fears that Japan’s crisis was far from over.
Workers prepared more tanks on Thursday to transfer radioactive water from the turbine buildings at Reactor Nos. 1, 2 and 3 to keep it from flowing into the ocean. But readings taken in the sea nearthe plant showed that levels of the radioactive isotope iodine 131 have continued to rise, testing at 4,385 times the statutory limit on Thursday, nearly four times higher than on Sunday, said Hidehiko Nishiyama, deputy director general of Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency. That rise increases the likelihood that contaminants from the plant are continuously leaking into the sea, he said.
Iodine 131 was also detected at levels 10,000 times the safety limit in groundwater near Reactor No. 1. However, the government asked for retesting after the plant’s operator, theTokyo Electric Power Company, which is known as Tepco, cast doubt on its own data not long after divulging the initial figures.
Sakae Muto, a Tepco vice president, said the company was working to build a range of facilities to handle the contaminated water.
There are new concerns about readings of the isotope cesium 137 at levels that pose a long-term danger at a spot 25 miles from the Fukushima Daiichi plant. The readings have raised questions about whether the evacuation zone should be expanded, and even whether the land might need to be abandoned. Residents within 12 miles of the plant have been ordered to evacuate, and those up to 19 miles away have been encouraged to leave.
The International Atomic Energy Agency found levels of cesium 137 in one village that exceeded the standard that the Soviet Union used as a gauge in recommending that land surrounding the Chernobyl reactor in Ukraine be abandoned, it was reported on Wednesday.
In contrast to iodine 131, which decays rapidly, cesium 137 persists in the environment for centuries.
So far, the government has shown no indication that it will expand the evacuation zone.
But on Friday, Yukio Edano, the nation’s chief cabinet secretary, said at a news conference that it was not possible to say when evacuees from around the plant would be able to return. The government will provide support for affected students whose education is disrupted and for workers from the area, he said.
Mr. Edano also noted that radiation above the acceptable limit had been found in beef from Fukushima prefecture, and he said the government was repeating the tests to confirm them. In any case, he said, “the radiation is not of a level sufficient to be harmful to human health if someone eats it once or twice.”
Contamination has already been found in vegetables and raw milk near the plant.
A Health Ministry spokesman, Taku Ohara, said the cow had been slaughtered on March 15 more than 40 miles from the plant, The Associated Press reported. The beef was found to have a total cesium level of 510 becquerels per kilogram; the limit is 500.
Tepco, which supplies Japan with one-third of its electric power, faces billions of dollars in losses and liabilities from the disaster. It has confirmed that Reactor Nos. 1, 2, 3 and 4 at the Fukushima Daiichi plant will have to be scrapped, and Prime Minister Naoto Kan was quoted on Thursday as saying that Reactors 5 and 6, which suffered far less damage because they were offline when the earthquake and tsunami struck, should be decommissioned.
Moody’s Investors Service, the ratings agency, cut its credit rating on Tepco debt to Baa1 from A1 on Thursday, saying that expected government support was the only justification for leaving the rating above junk levels.
President Obama, in a letter to Emperor Akihito sent on March 24 and disclosed on Thursday, conveyed “the deep sympathy felt by all Americans for the suffering of the people of Japan.”
“Our prayers are with you in this time of grief,” Mr. Obama added.
France and the United States are providing technical advice and material as the authorities grapple with the biggest nuclear emergency since the Chernobyl accident in 1986. On Thursday, President Nicolas Sarkozy of France became the first world leader to visit Japan since the disaster.
Prime Minister Kan, appearing in a somber suit instead of the blue work uniform he has usually worn since the quake, thanked Mr. Sarkozy for visiting, saying, “A friend who visits on a rainy day is truly a friend.”
Mr. Sarkozy, whose country generates about 80 percent of its electricity from nuclear power, arrived in Tokyo for a one-day visit after attending a Group of 20 meeting in Nanjing, China. He said he wanted to work in his capacity as the current leader of the Group of 20 to push for better international guidelines.
The Kyodo news agency cited a Japanese Communist Party official, Kazuo Shii, on Thursday as saying that Mr. Kan had agreed that Japan should reconsider its plan to build 14 nuclear plants by 2030.
Kyodo also reported Thursday that the bodies of hundreds of people killed by the quake and tsunami lay unburied near the plant because they were contaminated by radiation, and the police and morgue workers were unable to handle them safely.
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