03/29/2011, 00.00
JAPAN
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Maximum alert in Fukushima: plutonium in soil, water tests radioactive

Naoto Kan declares this the worst crisis since the war. Worrying levels of plutonium and radioactive water near reactors 3 and 2. Growth in levels of Iodine 131 in China, South Korea, Vietnam and the U.S., all at levels not harmful to health.

Tokyo (AsiaNews) - Prime Minister Naoto Kan today declared the country on “maximum alert” to regain control of the nuclear crisis that has erupted in Fukushima. Meanwhile the presence of plutonium has been registered in soil around the plant’s reactors while water has tested highly radioactive in some of the collection pools.

Speaking today before the Diet (parliament) of Japan, the prime minister said that "this earthquake, tsunami and nuclear accidents are the biggest crisis for Japan" since the Second World War. Police have meanwhile upgraded the number of bodies recovered to 11 thousand, but it is expected that the final toll will exceed 18 thousand victims.

Meanwhile, the crisis seems to worsen at Fukushima nuclear plant. The ground around the plant and on the floors of the building was found to contain plutonium, only used in reactor 3 (out of six in the plant). Tetsuo Iguchi, a professor of isotope analysis at the University of Nagoya, said that "if the plutonium enters the bloodstream, it can damage our cells leading to cancer of the bones or liver."

Water was found in a tunnel outside of reactor 2, with radiation greater than 1 sievert per hour. Exposure for 30 minutes at such levels causes nausea, for four hours can lead to death within two months. The continued growth of radiation indicates that a partial melting of the fuel rods has taken place at the plant.

In the country, the fear of radiation, has led to a ban on vegetables and milk from the region of Fukushima: the government is ready to expand the evacuation area around the central, to date, fixed at 20 km.

Because of wind, other countries around Japan have recorded increases in the presence of radioactive iodine in the air or soil, but not all at levels of concern for health. The Agency for the Environment in the U.S. found radioactive traces in the rain falls in Ohio, the Chinese Ministry of the Environment has stated that "low levels" of iodine 131 were found along the coast in Jiangsu, Shanghai, Zhejiang, Anhui, Guangdong and Guangxi, the same in South Korea and even Vietnam.
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