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High radiation readings found at Fukushima water tank

The operator of Japan's crippled Fukushima nuclear plant says radiation readings near one of the site's water tanks have increased 18-fold. The find follows the discovery of a large and serious leak last week.

The operator of the plant, Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) said that radiation of 1,800 millisieverts per hour had been detected near one storage tank on Saturday.

The amount of radiation measured would be enough to kill a human left exposed to it in four hours.

On August 22, radiation at the same tank was measured at 100 millisieverts per hour. But the company said the equipment used could only record up to that amount of radiation.

The new readings were taken with a more sensitive device.

By law, Japanese nuclear workers may be exposed to no more than 50 millisieverts annually during normal hours.

TEPCO said it had found new radiation hotspots around altogether four coolant tanks, though none of the others produced such high readings.

In addition, the company said on Sunday it had found highly radioactive water dripping from a pipe used to connect two coolant tanks. The leak accounted for one of the four sites.

The leak was repaired using adsorption material and plastic tape.

Ocean in danger

The comes after last week's admission that 300 tons of toxic water had spilled out of one of the some 1,000 tanks on the site before the leak was noticed.

The spill was categorized by Japan's nuclear regulator as a Level 3 event, the most serious category since the nuclear plant suffered a meltdown in the wake of an earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011.

The leak sparked fears that the toxic water may have seeped into the nearby ocean.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pledged on Thursday that his government would step in to help TEPCO stop leaks of highly radioactive water.

tj/ccp (Reuters, AFP)