LETHAL levels of radiation have been detected at Japan’s Fukushima nuclear power plant, seven years after its destruction by an earthquake and tsunami.
The Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco), which is responsible for the plant clean-up, made the discovery in a reactor containment vessel last month.
The energy firm found eight sieverts per hour of radiation, and 42 units were also detected outside its foundations.
A sievert is defined by the International Commission on Radiological Protection as the probability of cancer induction and genetic damage from exposure to a dose of radiation.
One sievert is thought to carry a 5.5 per cent chance of eventually developing cancer.
Experts told Japanese state broadcaster NHK World exposure to that volume of radiation for just an hour could kill, and another warned the leaks could lead to a “global” catastrophe if not tackled properly.
It came as Tepco said the problem of contaminated water – pooled around the plant’s three reactors – seeping into the ground had caused a major headache in its efforts to decommission the plant.
But Mycle Schneider, an independent energy consultant and lead author of the World Nuclear Industry Status Report, says that Tepco “hasn’t a clue what it is doing” in its job to decommission the plant.
He added the contaminated water leaking at the site could end up in the ocean if the ongoing treatment project failed, causing a “global” disaster, he told The Independent.
“Finding high readings in the reactor is normal, it’s where the molten fuel is, it would be bizarre if it wasn’t,” he said.
“I find it symptomatic of the past seven years, in that they don’t know what they’re doing, Tepco, these energy companies haven’t a clue what they’re doing, so to me it’s been going wrong from the beginning. It’s a disaster of unseen proportions.”
Mr Schneider said the radiation leaks could have global consequences.
“This is an area of the planet that gets hit by tornadoes and all kinds of heavy weather patterns, which is a problem,” he said.
“When you have waste stored above ground in inappropriate ways, it can get washed out and you can get contamination all over the place … if it contaminates the ocean, there is no local contamination – the ocean is global, so anything that goes into the ocean goes to everyone.”
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