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Nuclear Plant Contaminates Sea After Damage to Fuel Rods

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Tsuyoshi Inajima and Yuji Okada
March 22, 2011

Radiation leaked into the sea from Japan’s crippled nuclear plant, raising concern that seafood may become tainted, while the site’s operator moved closer to restoring power to critical cooling pumps.

Five kinds of radioactive materials released by damaged fuel rods were detected in the sea, Tokyo Electric Power Co. said on its website. Levels if Iodine-131, which increases the risk of thyroid cancer, were 127 times higher than normal in a sample of seawater taken yesterday, the company said.

“You could swim in the water with these levels of Iodine-131, and there shouldn’t be a problem,” said Don Higson, a Sydney-based fellow at the Australian Radiation Protection Society. “The only risk might be if people eat seafood with these materials inside it and this will be something the authorities will be paying careful attention to.”

Screening food for radiation is being stepped up as Japan seeks to calm a population that eats more fish than any other country other than China. Tokyo Electric said it expects to restore power to the buildings housing the plant’s first four reactors later today, a step toward getting cooling systems working again. Reactors No. 5 and 6 have electricity supply.

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This article was posted: Tuesday, March 22, 2011 at 4:15 am

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