Tokyo Electric Power Company has asked independent research centers to check if radioactive substances from the Fukushima plant contain highly toxic plutonium.
The company says it expects the results will be available within several days.
The nuclear power plant continues to emit radioactive materials that may include plutonium.
Plutonium is a radioactive element that is produced when uranium fission occurs in a reactor core.
So far, the utility firm has not detected plutonium through its own methods.
It took soil samples from the plant’s compound on March 21 and 22 and sent them to the Japan Atomic Energy Agency and the Japan Chemical Analysis Center for examination.
Plutonium is formed at power plants that use conventional uranium fuel. The No.3 reactor of the Fukushima plant uses mixed oxide fuel, or MOX fuel, which contains uranium blended with plutonium extracted from spent nuclear fuel.
Radioactivity from plutonium can be blocked by human skin or paper. But if the substance is inhaled or ingested, it remains in the body for a long time and can cause cancer.
The power company plans to conduct checks twice a week to determine if the plant’s soil is contaminated with plutonium.
Sunday, March 27, 2011 22:02 +0900 (JST)