Japan radiation reaches harmful levels

Following a third blast at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan’s quake-stricken region, the government has declared that radiation levels have reach the point of being harmful to human health.

The explosion may prove to be the most harmful of the three as it appears to have damaged one of the nuclear reactors’ containment systems. Government workers have now extended the danger zone and residents within an 18 mile radius have now been told to either evacuate or stay indoors.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said: “Now we are talking about levels that can impact human health.”

“Please do not go outside. Please stay indoors. Please close windows and make your homes airtight. Don’t turn on ventilators. Please hang your laundry indoors,” he told residents.

Japan's Sendai region was badly affected by the earthquake and tsunami

Later, government officials declared that radiation levels at the nuclear plant had actually begun to fall.

All three blasts were prompted by the earthquake, which struck Japan’s north-eastern region last week, and the 30-foot tsunami that was triggered by it.

Aside from the blasts, a fire also broke out in one of Fukushima’s nuclear reactors and is thought to have caused radioactive leaks.

The chief cabinet secretary said officials were closely watching reactors five and six at the plant, as they had begun overheating slightly. He added that cooling seawater was being pumped into reactors one and three – which were returning to normal – and into reactor two, which remained unstable after it became the third to explode.

Japan’s capital, Tokyo, which is located around 150 miles away from the site of the nuclear power plant, has reported higher than usual levels of radiation, but officials assured that they are not harmful.

In a televised address, Prime Minister Naoto Kan said: “There is still a very high risk of more radiation coming out.”

After the blast, radiation dosages of up to 400 millisieverts per hour were recorded at Fukushima (a single dose of 1,000 millisieverts causes temporary radiation sickness such as nausea and vomiting).

The current death toll from the earthquake stands at 2,400, but some estimate that the real number of casualties could be close to 10,000, as thousands remain unaccounted for, including hundreds of tourists, and authorities continue to scour the areas devastated by the tsunami for survivors. A 70-year-old woman was freed from the rubble in a coastal town five days after the disaster.

Click here to read about Jimmy Kimmel’s narrow escape from the tsunami.

Images: wikitravel and Wikimedia Commons