Plutonium found in soil at the Fukushima nuclear complex heightened alarm on Tuesday over Japan’s battle to contain the world’s worst atomic crisis in 25 years, while opposition MPs attacked the prime minister for his handling of the disaster.
Some opposition lawmakers lambasted Naoto Kan in parliament for not extending an evacuation zone around the plant. Kan said he was seeking advice on widening the area, which would force 130,000 people to move in addition to 70,000 already displaced.
Plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co said plutonium was found at low-risk levels in five places at the facility, which was crippled by a massive earthquake and tsunami on March 11.
A by-product of atomic reactions and also used in nuclear bombs, plutonium is highly carcinogenic and one of the most dangerous substances on the planet, experts say.
They believe some of the plutonium may have come from spent fuel rods at Fukushima or damage to reactor No. 3, the only one to use plutonium in its fuel mix.
Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency said while the plutonium levels were not harmful to human health, the discovery could mean a breach in the reactor’s containment mechanism.
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