Japan Nuclear Crisis: Plutonium Leaks From Fukushima Plant

ByABC News
March 29, 2011, 4:10 AM

March 29, 2011— -- Japanese officials today are grappling with a steady leak of radioactive water, acknowledging that highly dangerous plutonium has been found in soil near the reactors at the troubled Fukushima Daiichi complex.

"As the result of finding plutonium and finding a high density of radiated water, it's clear that the fuel has melted," said government spokesman Yukio Edano said.

The Tokyo Electric Power company, (TEPCO) the company that operates the Fukushima plant, has been trying to control and prevent a nuclear disaster after a 9.0 earthquake and tsunami destroyed the reactor's cooling system on March 11.

Although TEPCO officials admitted that plutonium has been found in the soil near the plant, they stressed that the amount of radioactive material was small and not a threat to the public, the Associated Press reported.

However, radiation has already infiltrated the area's produce and tap water, the AP reported.

All the reactors have so far held the intense pressure, although there are cracks in the concrete and steel components.

Radioactive water has been found in all four of the reactors at the plant, which workers are continuing to pump out in an attempt to restore the plant's cooling system.

Nuclear safety official Hidehiko Nishiyama said that the cooling the reactors is the priority at this point.

"The removal of the contaminated water is the most urgent task now, and hopefully we can adjust the amount of cooling water going in," he told the Associated Press.

TEPCO and Japanese officials have been criticized for their handling of the situation.

Over the weekend, officials apologized for an inaccurate reading of a major increase in radioactivity, causing a panic that led workers to flee the plant.

"The number is not credible," Tokyo Electric Power Co. spokesman Takashi Kurita said. "We are very sorry." The mistake prompted harsh criticism from the government.

"Such a mistake is not something that should be forgiven or acceptable," government spokesman Yukio Edano said.

Despite a lack of certainty about what will come next, the International Atomic Energy Agency believes an explosion is unlikely, adding that the reactors seem to be holding pressure despite the leaks.