The operator of the Fukushima nuclear plant has detected radioactive iodine 1,250 times the legal limit in Pacific Ocean waters nearby, the nuclear safety agency was quoted by AFP as saying on Saturday.
In a test by the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), “Radioactive iodine-131 at 1250.8 times the legal limit was detected several hundred meters offshore near reactor number one,” an agency official said.
“This figure means that if you drank 500 milliliters (17 fluid ounces) of water containing this level of iodine it would reach the limit that a person can take in in one year, which is one millisievert… This is a relatively high level,” another agency spokesman said in a televised press conference.
The reading is sharply higher than several taken last week at the same spot, about 330 meters offshore.
TEPCO announced Tuesday that the seawater reading was 126 times above the legal level, and on Thursday that it was 145 times the legal level.
Fire-engines and concrete trucks have poured thousands of tons of seawater onto the reactors and into fuel rod pools at the plant after cooling systems were knocked out by the March 11 quake and tsunami.
In a televised address on the issue of radiation leak, Prime Minister Naoto Kan said, “The current situation is still very unpredictable. We’re working to stop the situation from worsening. We need to continue to be extremely vigilant.”
On March 11, a powerful quake, off the northeast coast of Japan’s main island, unleashed a 23-foot (7-meter) tsunami and was followed by more than 50 aftershocks for hours.
The Japanese government has put the post-quake rebuilding cost at $309 billion.
Japan has announced that nearly 28,000 people have died or are feared dead as a result of the disastrous quake and tsunami that hit the country two weeks ago.
The quake is now considered Japan’s deadliest natural disaster since the 1923 Great Kanto Earthquake that claimed the lives of more than 142,000 people.