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Radiation Levels Soaring At Fukushima Nuclear Plant Since 2011 Meltdown

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Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant which suffered a meltdown in 2011 due to twin earthquakes and tsunami, is emitting high levels of radiation.

The nuclear facility operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. (Tepco) measured high radiation levels inside the plant nuclear reactor. Officials from Tepco measured nuclear radiation so high that it could kill a human being even after momentary exposure.

Tepco found that the radiation level had gone up to a maximum of 530 sieverts per hour in the containment vessel of Reactor 2. The recently recorded level is the highest since the three cores melted down in 2011.

The measurement of the radiation was taken near the entrance leading to the space below the pressure vessel containing the core. Tepco thinks that some of the melted fuel may have escaped the vessel, which has caused the radiation level to soar.

The company recently released an image which showed a two-meter wide hole in the metal grating of the reactor. The hole may have been caused by nuclear fuel getting melted due to overheating, after the 2011 tsunami disabled Fukushomas's back-up cooling system.

"It may have been caused by nuclear fuel that would have melted and made a hole in the vessel, but it is only a hypothesis at this stage," said Tatsuhiro Yamagishi, spokesman of Tepco to AFP.

Yamagashi also added that the images offer useful information, but the company still needs to know more about the current situation inside the reactor before starting the cleanup process.

How Bad Is The Situation?

Reports state that exposure to 1 sievert of radiation can cause hair loss, sterility and will also increase the risk of cancer. Exposure to 4 sieverts would give the person a fifty-fifty chance of survival. A single dose of 10 sieverts would prove lethal leaving only a week's time in the hands of the person exposed.

The previous radiation level reading at Fukushima Nuclear Plant was recorded at 73 sieverts per hour, which makes the recent 530 sieverts per hour reading "unimaginable" to experts.

The enormous radiation level now highlights the difficult task of Tepco officials and workers who are responsible for cleaning up and decommissioning the plant with growing public pressure.

The Difficult Cleanup Process

The dangerously high radiation level at the nuclear plant has made the cleanup process not only hazardous to human health, but also a lot more complicated. Given the fact that no human being even with radiation suits on can survive the radiation levels, Tepco plans to send in a remote controlled robot in Reactor 2 containment vessel.  

The robot would be able to withstand up to 1000 sieverts and would roughly have two hours to gauge the situation before malfunctioning.

Based on previous radiation levels, the officials earlier assumed that the robot would have a minimum of 10 hours in its hand to inspect the situation. The latest reading brings down the time by more than 50 percent before the robot goes haywire.

Tepco is estimating that the decommission process of Fukushima Nuclear Plant will take almost 50 years to complete. 

Photo: Nuclear Regulatory Commission | Flickr 

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