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Plutonium Radioactive Poisoning – What you need to Know as Fukushima Leaks Dangerous Plutonium

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TEPCO the beleaguered Japanese utility said that plutonium was found around the damaged nuclear reactor.Plutonium has been detected in soil at five locations at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant, Tokyo Electric Power Co. said in a statement on Monday.The company could not confirm which of the reactors in the plant was leaking plutonium which is a very dangerous radioactive element.

The utility firm also said the levels of plutonium found were small, although a spokesperson for TEPCO said at a press conference that it was “deplorable” that plutonium had escaped, despite the plant’s containment measures.

The No. 3 reactor is the only one at the six-reactor facility to use plutonium in its fuel mix.The United Nations’ International Atomic Energy Agency said the find was expected due to known fuel degradation, however Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency is highly worried about the radioactivity of the plutonium samples detected.

Unlike cesium,iodine which are not that harmful to human health,plutonium poisoning is hazardous and can lead to long term effects on the human body.During the decay of plutonium, three types of radiation are released-alpha, beta, and gamma.  Either acute or longer-term exposure carries a danger of unfavorable health outcomes including radiation sickness, cancer and death. The danger increases with the amount of exposure.Plutonium is more dangerous when inhaled than when ingested. The risk of lung cancer increases once the total dose equivalent of inhaled radiation exceeds 400 mSv.However the current concentration of plutonium is much lower near the plant.

Tokyo Electric Finds Plutonium in Soil Near Fukushima Plant

Tokyo Electric Power Co. found plutonium in soil samples taken near the stricken Fukushima Dai- Ichi nuclear plant a week ago, the company said.

The presence of plutonium outside the plant means there’s been degradation of the fuel in at least one of the six reactors, Denis Flory, deputy director general of safety at the International Atomic Energy Agency, said yesterday at a press briefing in Vienna. Tokyo Electric can’t determine which reactor emitted plutonium, Vice President Sakae Muto said in a briefing shown on a webcast.

The contamination “shouldn’t have any effect on human health,” Muto said.

Soil chemistry may determine whether the plutonium can spread from the site, Edwin Lyman, a radiological specialist for the Union of Concerned Scientists, said on a conference call. Some compounds formed by plutonium are water soluble, and some aren’t, he said.


Abhishek Shah

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