Tokyo Electric Power Company says plutonium has been found in soil samples from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.
It says the radioactive substance appears to be related to the ongoing nuclear accident, but the level detected is the same as that found in other parts of Japan and does not pose a threat to human health.
TEPCO collected samples from 5 locations around the power plant over 2 days from March 21st and found 2 samples contaminated with plutonium.
Plutonium is a byproduct of the nuclear power generation process. At the number 3 reactor of the Fukushima plant, plutonium is an ingredient in mixed oxide, or MOX, fuel.
Radioactivity from plutonium can be shielded by a sheet of paper. But it can remain in lungs and other organs to cause long-term damages including cancer.
The Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency says the detected level is the same as that found in the environment and not health-threatening for workers who conducted the sampling, nor residents in surrounding areas.
The agency said it is awaiting the results of another survey by the Science Ministry outside of a 20-kilometer radius from the plant, as well as a further survey by TEPCO in the plant compound.
Tuesday, March 29, 2011 02:20 +0900 (JST)