For the first time highly radioactive water has been found outside one of the reactor buildings of Fukushima nuclear plant, officials said. (photo, from lexpansion.com)
Although plutonium has been found at five locations at the plant, officials say it is not at levels that threaten human health.
Later Tepco, the plan’s operator, said the plutonium that had been detected came from samples taken a week ago, adding that it would not stop work at the plant.
Plutonium was used in the fuel mix for only one of the six reactors, number three.
Earlier, Tepco was strongly criticised by the country’s government over mistaken radiation readings on Sunday. The company had announced that a highly radioactive pool of water in the No 2 reactor was 100 times more radioactive than it actually was.
The radiation scare was caused by a partial meltdown of fuel rods, officials also said.
Since the earthquake and tsunami, pools of water with extremely high levels of radiation have only been found inside the reactor buildings, but this time the water was discovered in an underground maintenance tunnel, with one end located about 55m from the shore.
And radiation levels were measured at 1,000 millisieverts an hour, a dose which can cause temporary radiation sickness and is the same as the levels found on Sunday. Tepco said there was no evidence that the contaminated water had reached the sea.
On Sunday Tepco said radiation levels at reactor No 2 were 10 million times higher than normal before correcting that figure to 100,000.
“Considering the fact that the monitoring of radioactivity is a major condition to ensure safety, this kind of mistake is absolutely unacceptable,” said Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano.
Even though it apologised, Tepco is being criticised for its lack of transparency and failing to provide information more rapidly as well as for making a number of mistakes, including worker clothing.
On Thursday two workers were hospitalised after wading though contaminated water with inadequate protection.
In the meantime workers are still battling to restore power and restart the cooling systems at the nuclear plant.
The earthquake and tsunami are now known to have killed 10,901 people, and more than 17,000 people are still missing, while more than 190,000 people are living in temporary shelters.
Along with shortages of food, water and fuel, survivors are also enduring frequent aftershocks.
A foreign medical team was allowed by the Japanese government to enter the country in order to treat victims, for the first time since the disaster, the Japan Times reports.