31 Mar 2011

High radiation measured outside exclusion zone

1:08 pm on 31 March 2011

Radiation measured at a village near Japan's crippled nuclear plant exceeds its criteria for evacuation, the United Nations' nuclear watchdog says.

The finding could increase pressure on the government to extend the exclusion zone beyond 20km around the badly damaged Fukushima Daiichi power plant, Reuters reports.

The plant has been leaking radioactive particles since a 9.0 earthquake triggered a fatal tsunami that devastated much of northeast Japan on 11 March.

A deputy director general at the International Atomic Energy Agency named the village with the excessive radiation levels as Itate, a popular mountain resort in the Japanese alps and 40km from the plant.

Denis Flory says the Japanese government has been advised to assess the situation.

Meanwhile, Japan's nuclear safety agency says it has discovered the highest levels of radiation so far in the sea near the Fukushima plant.

The latest measurements found levels of radioactive iodine at least 3000 times higher than the legal limit, the BBC reports.

The plant's operator, Tokyo Electric Power Company, has confirmed four of its six reactors will to be decommissioned.

Chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata says the company will seek the opinions of the government and residents on whether to continue operating the No 5 and No 6 reactors, as well as a companion plant.

The government has ordered a check of all its 50 nuclear reactors to ensure there can be no repeat of the crisis.