Lethal radiation levels but no melted fuel found in Fukushima reactor water

The Unit 2 reactor building at Tokyo Electric Power Co.'s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. © Reuters

Tainted water inside a reactor containment vessel at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant has shown a radiation level enough to kill a person within 40 minutes, according to TEPCO, the power plant’s owner.

The level of radiation was measured by a special robot on Sunday at a point about 30cm (one foot) from the bottom of the containment vessel of Reactor 1, the Japan Times reported on Tuesday.

The current radiation level is 11 sieverts per hour, the highest detected in water inside the containment vessel. A person exposed to this amount of radiation would likely die in about 40 minutes, the Japan Times reports.

Sunday’s probe also revealed sandy substances building up at the bottom of the vessel. Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings (TEPCO) officials, however, dismissed the idea that it might be melted nuclear fuel.

Experts have been looking for the melted fuel, which they believe has been accumulating in tainted water.

In March 2011, a 9.1 earthquake and the 15-meter tsunami that followed disabled the cooling system of Fukushima’s three reactors, causing the worst nuclear incident since the 1986 Chernobyl incident in Ukraine.

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TEPCO, which operates the crippled power plant, has been obliged to deal with the consequences of the incident.

In February, a robot sent to explore Reactor 2 broke down because of the “unimaginable” levels of radiation, close to 650 sieverts per hour. This was the first time a robot entered this reactor since the plant’s meltdown in 2011.

Previously, the highest radiation level was recorded one year after the disaster and went up to 73 sieverts per hour.

TEPCO has promised extract the hazardous material stuck in the plant’s second reactor, its president Naohiro Masuda said, according to the Japan Times.

In December, TEPCO nearly doubled the estimated cost for the Fukushima clean-up to $188 billion.

A zone of more than 300 square miles around the plant is currently uninhabitable due to the continuing radiation. (RT)