High radiation levels in food

Authorities have detected high levels of radiation in fish and spinach produced near the damaged Fukushima nuclear power plant in north-eastern Japan, a news report said.

About 2,600 to 3,200 becquerels per kilogram of radioactive caesium was found in two samples of sand lance caught off Iwaki city, south of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station. That is five to six times above the legal limit, public broadcaster NHK reported.

Local government officials also detected 960 becquerels of caesium per kilogram in spinach harvested in Otama village in Fukushima prefecture.

The Fukushima nuclear plant was severely damaged by the 11 March 2011 earthquake and ensuing tsunami and has been leaking radioactive material ever since.

The government has set the safety standard for leafy vegetables at 500 becquerels per kilogram. Shipments of several kinds of vegetables and fish from near the plant have been already banned, NHK said.

Workers at the plant were to start in June to decontaminate radioactive water, which has prevented workers from accessing the site to restore key cooling functions, the government said.

87,500 tons of contaminated water

Operator Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) said 87,500 tons of contaminated water was found in the basements of the turbine buildings of reactors 1 to 4 and in trenches nearby.

In addition, some 500 tons of contaminated water per day is leaking from the reactors due to efforts to cool them by injecting water. Toshiba Corp and Hitachi-GE Nuclear Energy Ltd, a joint venture between Hitachi Ltd and US partner General Electric Co, is to install a water recycling system in May 2011, Jiji Press said.

The system is to process 1,200 tons of water per day, treating some 200,000 tons by the end of the year.

At first, oil will be eliminated from radioactive water, then radioactive caesium will be removed using zeolite adsorbents, a sort of chemical sponge, Jiji reported.

A system developed by French firm Areva SA will get rid of other radioactive substances.

As a result, the concentration of caesium and iodine is expected to be reduced to one-10,000th of its current concentration.

Radioactive substances eliminated from the water will be stored at the plant for the time being.

(Sapa, April 2011)

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