Japan Nuclear Crisis: Highest Radiation Levels Detected in Seawater

VIDEO: New stability measures attempted as seawater radiation level reaches new high.PlayABCNEWS.com
WATCH Japan Nuke Crisis: American in Dead Zone

Radiation levels in the seawater outside the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in Japan reached their highest levels yet this morning.

Officials said the seawater contains 3,335 times the normal amount of iodine, the Associated Press reported.

Now government officials are considering draping special tarps over three of the reactors to contain the radiation. It's a plan that's never been tried before and is not without risk because officials don't want more pressure to build up.

To assist in containment efforts, the U.S. government is sending radiation-hardened robots to reach areas too dangerous for workers.

Earlier this week, officials acknowledged highly dangerous plutonium was found in soil near the reactors.

Increased levels of radiation have been detected in tap water and vegetables.

Meanwhile, Masataka Shimizu, president of Tokyo Electric Power Co.(TEPCO), the company that operates the plant, has been hospitalized with hypertension according to TEPCO spokesman Naoki Tsunoda.

It is the latest in a series of setbacks and criticism the company has faced after the 9.0 earthquake and tsunami knocked out the reactor's cooling system on March 11.

On the Fukushima Front Lines

An American expert is among those on the front lines near Fukushima.

Dr. Robert Gale spent years working in Chernobyl and is now in Japan to advise the prime minister's office directly on safety measures.

He spent a full day at what's called the "J-base" - the staging area for nuclear experts and doctors about 12 miles from the reactors.

Gale said it is a place buzzing with activity, filled with helicopters and even tanks. He said people in hazmat suits are being monitored by the minute as they come and go from the reactor.

"They, the workers I know feel that they're not getting enough information. There isn't time to give them a course in radio-biology," Gale said.

He said the health risks have been overblown and that includes those working inside the reactors.

"I don't think they are at extraordinary risk unless something goes wrong," Gale said.

He said it would be extremely unlikely that a percentage of the Fukushima workers would come down with unusual rates of cancer years from now.

He spent a full day inside the exclusion zone with no protective gear or monitoring device of any kind.

Gale said the radiation is not dangerous enough even in the exclusion zone to be harmful over a matter of days - except for children.

However, he said it would tkae prolonged exposure to be a real danger for an adult.

Surprisingly, he also said that some of the exclusion zone that has been evacuated may be inhabitable again in less time than some might imagine.

"I think people will be able to relocate back to the zone. Not every square inch of it, and there will be areas outside the zone that will be discovered to be radioactive and people will have to be relocated," Gale said.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.