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article imageSmoke ‘belching’ from No.3 reactor, Tokyo tap water contaminated

By Lynn Herrmann     Mar 23, 2011 in Environment
Tokyo - Tokyo’s tap water has seen a spike in radiation levels to more than twice the safe level recommended for infants, while TEPCO reports that gray smoke was “belching” from the No. 3 reactor building, increasing fears over the ongoing crisis.
With radiation continuing to find its way in Japan’s food chain, officials there on Wednesday reported tap water in Tokyo shows elevated levels of radiation and warned that infants in the Tokyo area should not drink tap water.
Ei Yoshida, head of water purification at Tokyo’s water department, said at a televised news conference that 210 becquerels per liter of iodine-131 had been discovered in Tokyo’s water. The recommended limit for infants is 100 becquerels per liter. Adult recommended limit is 300 becquerels, the New York Times reports.
The announcement has increased tension in a country trying to dig out from the devastating earthquake and tsunami on March 11 and the resulting nuclear crisis at Fukushima. Earlier reports revealed radiation poisoning had occurred in milk and spinach near the crippled facility.
“It’s unfortunate, but the radiation is clearly being carried on the air from the Fukushima plant,” said chief cabinet secretary Yukio Edano. “Because it’s raining, it’s possible that a lot of places will be affected. Even if people consume the water a few times, there should be no long-term ill effects,” he added, according to the NY Times.
Kyodo News reports smoke at the Dai-Ichi facility on Wednesday has forced the evacuation of workers there. It also reports surface temperatures at the No. 1 and No. # reactors have exceeded maximum levels set by plant designers. The increased temperatures were revealed by data measuring instruments after restoration of power on Tuesday, according to Tokyo Electric Power Comany (TEPCO).
Early this week the Associated Press reported the Japanese government had raised the normal limit of 100 millisieverts of radiation for emergency operations workers to 250 millisieverts. Six workers at the Dai-Ichi nuclear plant have been exposed to more than 100 millisieverts of radiation as they have attempted to bring the disaster under control.
Workers at the No. 2 reactor have not yet replaced its pump, essential to reviving its internal cooling system. TEPCO spokesman Hidehiko Nishiyama said at leaste 500 millisieverts per hour were detected at its turbine building, according to Kyodo News.
TEPCO’s latest news release states that at 4:20 p.m. on Wednesday, “light gray smoke was observed belching from the Unit 3 building.”
An executive speaking, on the condition of anonymity, told the Times: “The contamination levels are well beyond what you’d expect from what is in the public domain. There is no way that stored fuel did not burn in a very significant way.”
Tokyo's city center has a population of 13 million, while the greater Tokyo area is home to some 39 million people.
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