TEPCO to study wrapping nuke reactors in sheeting as airborne radiation soars

13:44, April 04, 2011      

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As radiation continues to leak into the air, sea and ground in northeastern Japan the government has instructed Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) owner of the crippled Fukushima power plant to study further emergency methods to contain the contamination, local media reports revealed Monday.

One such method floated by the central government is for TEPCO to entirely wrap four damaged reactors at the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in a massive sheets.

According to government sources, the damaged 45-meter high containment buildings will be framed with skeletal structures to hold the sheeting, in a bid to limit the amount of radiation leaking from the faulty reactors into the atmosphere and the ground.

But the 950 million U.S. dollar plan has met with some skepticism from nuclear experts who said the move would have only limited effects on preventing radiation from leaking into the air and the earth.

Experts have suggested that he level of radiation inside the sheeting would subsequently increase making it even more difficult for workers to effectively conduct restoration activities at the crippled six-reactor plant.

A government source was quoted by local media as saying that the move was merely cosmetic and would only serve to mask the level of damage and danger posed by the stricken facility from the public.

As the government and TEPCO struggles to contain the worst nuclear accident since the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear travesty, the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare said it found mushrooms with radioactive levels far higher than the legal limit in Iwaki, Fukushima Prefecture.

The ministry said the mushrooms sampled contained 3,100 becquerels of radioactive iodine and 890 becquerels of radioactive cesium. The legal limits are 2,000 becquerels and 500 becquerels respectively, the ministry said.

As a result, the local government has asked farmers to voluntarily halt all shipments of mushrooms out of the prefecture.

Air samples at a height of between 160-650 meters above Fukushima Prefecture have also been found to exceed normal levels by ten times, said the science ministry.

Radiation of 0.30 microsieverts per hour was detected in the sky above Kawamata in the prefecture and the ministry said, " radioactive substances have spread to higher altitudes in the atmosphere."

However, the ministry also noted that in some areas, including Tohoku Prefecture and the Kanto area surrounding Tokyo, radioactive levels in the air had dropped.

Source: Xinhua

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