The chief government spokesman said on Monday the Tokyo Electric Power Company had made an "unforgivable mistake" when it announced that radiation levels were 10 million times higher than normal.
Workers continue efforts to cool off the Fukushima reactor units
The Japanese government has slammed the operator of the stricken nuclear plants in Fukushima for providing false information about the levels of radiation escaping from the plant. The chief government spokesman said on Monday the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) had made an "unforgivable mistake" when it announced that radiation levels were 10 million times higher than normal. After this report, work at the reactors was suspended once again.
Tokyo Electric Power Co. employees explains the situation at the Fukushima nuclear complex
At present radiation levels of 100,000 times normal are being recorded. Japan's chief cabinet secretary Yukio Edano attributed the surge in radiation to a partial meltdown of fuel rods inside reactor 2 at the six-reactor plant in Fukushima. He added that airborne radiation had largely been contained within the reactor building. Engineers are now trying to make sure contaminated water does not leak into the sea or ground water.
Long term solution
Meanwhile, international experts are predicting that Japan is facing a long and uncertain operation to prevent the fuel rods from further melting. Murray Jennex, a nuclear power plant expert and associate professor at San Diego State University, said "there's not really a plan B" other than to dry out the plant, get power restored and start cooling it down.
False information about radiation levels at Fukushima prompted anti nuclear rally in Tokyo on Sunday, March 27
Tokyo Electric Vice President Sakae Muto refuses to name a timetable for the cleanup operation, saying that it is impossible to predict how many months or years it will take. He also apologizes for the mistaken radiation reading issued by his company at the weekend.
Japanese officials and international nuclear experts have said the levels away from the plant are not dangerous for humans, who face higher doses of radiation on a daily basis, for example through natural substances, X-rays or airplane travel. Though experts said radiation in the Pacific waters will quickly dissipate, the levels at the site are clearly dangerous, and the 450 or so engineers working at the site have won admiration and sympathy around the world.
The Japan crisis has prompted a reassessment of nuclear power across the world. Repeated aftershocks continue to rattle residents, including a magnitude 6.5 tremor on Monday that triggered a brief tsunami warning. The latest death toll exceeds 10,804 people, according to the country's national police, with 16,244 still missing more than two weeks after the disaster. About a quarter of a million people are living in shelters.
Author: Sherpem Sherpa (Reuters, dpa)
Editor: Sarah Berning