Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Fukushima Radioactive Particles Detected in UK

Radioactive fallout from the stricken Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan has been found in the UK.

Two British laboratories picked up traces of radioactive iodine today — nearly 6,000 MILES from the damaged plant, which has been in meltdown since the devastating earthquake and tsunami on March 11.

A spokesman for the Health Protection Agency said iodine has now been discovered at labs in Oxfordshire and Glasgow.

Dr Michael Clark said: "Very low levels of radioactivity, traceable to Fukushima, have been detected at monitoring stations in the UK including Chilton, in Oxfordshire, and Glasgow, in Scotland.

"These traces have been found in Europe - Switzerland, Germany and Iceland - and in the USA.

"They're trace levels but of course with radioactivity we can measure very low amounts."

The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) also confirmed the find, but stressed it wasn't a danger to the public.

Dr James Gemmill, Sepa's radioactive substances manager, said: "The concentration of iodine detected is extremely low and is not of concern for the public or the environment.

"The fact that such a low concentration of this radionuclide was detected demonstrates how effective the surveillance programme for radioactive substances is in the UK."

There was more bad news from the Fukushima plant today, as scientists confirmed they had found Plutonium in nearby soil.

But Japan's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) insisted the amounts of the cancer-causing chemical element were not a danger to the public.

NISA's deputy director-general Hidehiko Nishiyama said: "It was the same level as normally found in the atmosphere as radioactive fallout after an atmospheric nuclear test, but a test done far away that would not directly affect someone."

The Plutonium is thought to have come from some of the plant's fuel rods found in each of the troubled reactors.

Last week the plant's owners admitted that some of the rods had begun to melt after cooling systems were knocked out by the giant wave.

Nuclear plants use Plutonium-239, which has a chemical half-life of 24,000 years, meaning anything leaked from Fukushima today will still affect the area for thousands of years to come.

Workers at the plant, known as the Fukushima 50, are still battling to save the crippled site and avert a nuclear diaster.

Last week, two were taken to hospital after being exposed to high levels of radiation.

Locals living within 18 miles of the plant have been advised to leave the area entirely, or stay indoors as radiation continues to climb.

Meanwhile, Japan's Prime Minister Naoto Kan told his parliament that the country was grappling with its worst problems since the Second World War.

Mr Kan said: "This quake, tsunami and the nuclear accident are the biggest crises for Japan in decades."

He warned the nuclear disaster remained unpredictable, but added: "From now on, we will continue to handle it in a state of maximum alert."

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