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Plutonium found in soil at Japan nuclear plant

28 march 2011, 22:24
Plutonium was detected Monday in soil at five places at a tsunami-stricken nuclear plant in Japan, but the levels are not believed to pose a threat to human health, AFP qoutes the operator as saying.

"Of the samples from five locations, we believe that there is a high possibility that at least two of them are directly linked with the current reactor accident," a spokesman for Tokyo Electric Power Co. said.

But he added: "We believe the level is not serious enough to harm human health."

The level of plutonium was similar to that detected in Japan after neighbouring countries such as North Korea and China conducted nuclear experiments, the spokesman said.

A massive earthquake and tsunami on March 11 knocked out the cooling systems for the six reactors of the Fukushima Daiichi plant, which has been leaking radiation into the atmosphere.

The number three reactor is a particular concern because it contains a potentially volatile mix of uranium and plutonium.

The discovery is sure to add to environmental concerns over contamination which has already wafted into the air and been detected in farm produce and tap water, although Japan says there is no imminent health threat.

"We will continue to study soil samples from the plant for other radioactive materials," the TEPCO spokesman said. "We will strengthen the monitoring mechanism."

Earlier Monday TECPO said a large amount of highly radioactive water had escaped from the number two reactor's turbine building into an underground tunnel and might leak into the ocean.

The water is thought to have leaked from the vessel containing the fuel rods -- which are suspected to have temporarily melted -- or from the pipe system.

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