Saturday, March 12, 2011

Japan may hand out iodine near nuclear plants: IAEA /Reuters

Reuters) - Japanese authorities have told the U.N.'s atomic watchdog they are making preparations to distribute iodine to people living near nuclear power plants affected by Friday's earthquake, the Vienna-based agency said.

Iodine can be used to help protect against thyroid cancer in the case of radioactive exposure in a nuclear accident.

After the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, thousands of cases of thyroid cancer were reported in children and adolescents who were exposed at the time of the accident. More cases are expected.

In Japan Saturday, radiation leaked from a damaged nuclear reactor after an explosion blew the roof off in the wake of the massive earthquake, but the government insisted that radiation levels were low.

Japan's Jiji news agency later said three workers suffered radiation exposure near the Fukushima nuclear plant.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the U.N. nuclear body, said Japanese authorities had informed it of the explosion and that they were "assessing the condition of the reactor core."

Japan expanded the evacuation zone around the plant, Fukushima Daiichi, and also that of the nearby Fukushima Daini nuclear power plant.

"The authorities also say they are making preparations to distribute iodine to residents in the area of both the plants," the IAEA said in a statement.

"The IAEA has reiterated its offer of technical assistance to Japan, should the government request this," it said.

UPDATE: High level of radiation observed at nuclear plant
Fukushima Prefecture says a high level of radiation has been measured near the Fukushima Number One nuclear power station.

The prefecture says the radiation level rose to 1,015 mircrosieverts per hour on Saturday.

One hour of exposure to this amount of radiation is equivalent to the permissible amount of radiation an ordinary person receives in one year. It is about twice the level that requires power companies to notify the government of an emergency situation.

The government's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency says the power station's operator, Tokyo Electric Power Company, observed the radiation level near a gate on the hillside of the plant at 3:29 PM on Saturday, before an explosion was reported at the nuclear plant.
Saturday, March 12, 2011 18:43 +0900 (JST)

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