Radiation leak confirmed at Fukushima

 
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RADIATION leaked from one of the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plants yesterday, as Japanese authorities tried to settle squabbles over the handling of the unfolding crisis.

A blaze at reactor 4 released radiation yesterday morning, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) confirmed, with levels spiking at 400 millisievert per hour near the reactor buildings.

Last night a second fire broke out at the reactor because the initial fire had not been properly extinguished. The Japanese government claimed the flames were under control.

A storage pond with almost 800 spent fuel assemblies – which are highly radioactive – was on fire for two hours yesterday morning and the roof later cracked.

“This is a high dose-level value, but it is a local value at a single location and at a certain point in time,” said the IAEA in a statement.

Reactors 5 and 6 could be partially dismantled today to prevent a similar hydrogen-fuelled explosion.

“The possibility of further radioactive leakage is heightening,” said Prime Minister Naoto Kan in an address to the nation yesterday.

The government said it could use helicopters to pour water on reactor 4 within two to three days.

Shares in Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), which operates the plants, have tanked 42 per cent in the last two days after criticism that the firm has not kept the public informed about explosions.

“Our communication needs to be strengthened and I am asking the Japanese counterparts to further strengthen and facilitate communication,” said IAEA director general Yukiya Amano at a press conference.

Seawater is still being pumped in to cool reactors 1,2 and 3.

Yesterday’s 6.1 magnitude earthquake at Eastern Honshu, 75 miles south-west of Tokyo, has not affected nearby Hamaoka nuclear power plant, which continues to operate normally.