Extreme Radiation Levels Detected At Fukushima Reactor, Highest Since 2011

Fukushima Daichi the world’s worst nuclear disaster since the 1986 Chernobyl catastrophe

FILE PHOTO. © Yoshikazu Tsuno / Global Look Press

FILE PHOTO. © Yoshikazu Tsuno / Global Look Press

A record radiation level has been detected inside the No. 2 reactor at the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear complex, with the estimated reading of up to 530 sieverts per hour, the plant operator said Thursday.

A dose of about 8 Sieverts is considered incurable and fatal.

The reading means a person could die from even brief exposure, highlighting the difficulties ahead as the government and Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings Inc. grope their way toward dismantling all three reactors that melted down in the March 2011 nuclear disaster.

This handout image shows a material below the damaged Fukushima nuclear plant's No. 2 reactor, January 30, 2017. © TEPCO / Handout via Reuters

This handout image shows a material below the damaged Fukushima nuclear plant’s No. 2 reactor, January 30, 2017. © TEPCO / Handout via Reuters

The plant operator also announced that based on an image analysis, a 1-square-meter hole has been found on a metal grating beneath the reactor pressure vessel, likely caused by melted nuclear fuel that fell through the vessel.

The new radiation level, described by some experts as “unimaginable,” far exceeds 73 sieverts per hour, the previously highest radiation reading monitored in the interior of the reactor.

An official of the National Institute of Radiological Sciences said medical professionals have never considered dealing with this level of radiation in their work.

According to TEPCO, the extremely high radiation level was detected inside the containment vessel, in the space around 2.3 meters away from the base of the reactor pressure vessel.

According to the institute, 4 sieverts of radiation exposure would kill one in two people.

Experts say 1,000 millisieverts, which equals 1 sievert, could lead to infertility, loss of hair and cataracts, while exposure to radiation doses above 100 millisieverts increases the risk of cancer.

The latest discovery spells difficulty in removing the fuel debris as part of decommissioning work at the plant. The government and TEPCO hope to locate the fuel and start removing it from a first reactor in 2021.

The debris is believed to have been created as nuclear fuel inside the reactor pressure vessel overheated and melted due to the loss of reactor cooling functions.

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