Japan finds highly toxic plutonium at radiation-leaking nuke plant

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Tokyo - Highly toxic plutonium has been found in soil in five separate locations at the crippled Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant in northeast Japan, the facility's operator said on Tuesday. 

Global concern is rising about the growing severity of the crisis at the leaking plant.

Owner and operator of the stricken six-reactor plant, Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), said the plutonium may well have been discharged from nuclear fuel at the plant following the facility being damaged by the massive March 11 earthquake and ensuing tsunami.

The utility firm also said the levels of plutonium found were small, although a spokesperson for TEPCO said at a press conference that it was "deplorable" that plutonium had escaped, despite the plant's containment measures.

"I apologise for making people worried," said Sakae Muto, vice president of TEPCO, announcing the latest piece of bad news from Fukushima at a briefing in Tokyo.

Muto said the levels of radiation found in traces of plutonium were in keeping with levels found in Japan in the past due to particles in the atmosphere from nuclear testing in the US and Russia.

"It's not at the level that's harmful to human health," Muto said.

Nuclear experts said that it was likely that some, if not all, of the leaking plutonium probably came from spent nuclear fuel rods at the plant or caused by damage to the facility's troubled No. 3 reactor.