The amount of radioactive material being emitted from the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant has fallen to one-fifth that of a month ago and one-10 millionth the levels in mid-March, the Japanese government and Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) said Aug. 17. Maximum radiation levels near the plant measured since the beginning of August were put at 200 million becquerels per hour—but Goshi Hosono, the cabinet minister in charge of the nuclear crisis, cautioned the 200 million becquerel reading is an estimate, and promised to seek ways of making precise measurements. TEPCO and the government said there is no major change in their timetable for bringing the plant under control. Containment efforts include building a wall of steel plates in front of the existing sea walls for units 1 through 4 to keep contaminated groundwater from entering the ocean. (ENS, Aug. 17)
The announcement comes with the news that a survey of more than 1,000 children and infants living near the Fukushima plant has produced an alarming finding: 45% have suffered internal exposure to radiation following the accident. Most children absorbed relatively low levels of radiation in their thyroid glands, according to officials who explained the results to residents in Iwaki, Fukushima prefecture, on Aug. 17. (Asahi, Aug. 19)
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