PHOTO, CLICK FOR LARGE: An aerial view from a height of some 1,500 meters (4,920 feet) and distance of more than 30 kilometers (18 miles) from the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station, March 29, 2011. From right are the No. 1, No. 2, No. 3 and No. 4 reactors. (REUTERS/Kyodo)
The government of Japan today announced that levels of radioactive iodine-131 in a seawater sample near the Fukushima plant were measured at a concentration of 3,355 times the maximum level permitted under law.
The leak is believed to be ongoing, and to have originated from the cores of nuclear reactors (probably in buildings 1 or 2, if I'm reading this right) where fuel rods have partially melted.
Hidehiko Nishiyama, a spokesman for the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, said the exact cause of the high iodine concentration remains unknown but that data collected by the plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. indicate radiation that has leaked at the site during the ongoing crisis "somehow" flowed into the sea. He reiterated that the polluted seawater does not pose an immediate risk to health because fishing is not being conducted in the evacuation zone within 20 kilometers of the plant and radiation-emitting substances would be "significantly diluted" by the time they are consumed by marine species and then by people.
In related news, workers inside the Fukushima plant are today struggling to drain thousands of metric tons of water highly contaminated with radioactivity from the basements of turbine buildings.
"Considering the ratio of radioisotopes, it undoubtedly came from nuclear fuel," said Kazuya Idemitsu, professor of nuclear fuel engineering at Kyushu University.
Boing Boing editor/partner and tech culture journalist Xeni Jardin hosts and produces Boing Boing's in-flight TV channel on Virgin America airlines (#10 on the dial), and writes about living with breast cancer. Diagnosed in 2011. @xeni on Twitter. email: firstname.lastname@example.org.