Radioactive iodine—131 at a concentration 1,250.8 times the legal limit was found on Friday morning in a seawater sample taken around 330 metres south of Fukushima 1 nuclear power station, which was damaged in the March 11 earthquake and resulting tsunami, the government’s nuclear safety commission said.

High levels of radioactive materials were detected in the sea near a stricken nuclear power station in north-eastern Japan, fuelling concerns over fishery products in the region, the government said.

Radioactive iodine—131 at a concentration 1,250.8 times the legal limit was found on Friday morning in a seawater sample taken around 330 metres south of Fukushima 1 nuclear power station, which was damaged in the March 11 earthquake and resulting tsunami, the government’s nuclear safety commission said.

After the level had stayed around 100 times over the legal limit, it climbed to its highest since the survey that started this week, Kyodo News reported.

But the commission said that would not have a significant impact on fishery products as fishing is not conducted within 20 kilometres of the plant.

Radioactive materials “will significantly dilute” by the time they were consumed by marine species, the commission was quoted by Kyodo as saying.

Still, as fear of radioactive pollution in tap water and vegetables had already spread in the country, many Japanese people were concerned, not just those in the disaster zone, but also further afield, and particularly mothers of young children, a senior EU official told the German Press Agency

“The local population is very worried about the radioactivity,” European Commissioner for International Cooperation Kristalina Georgieva said after visiting some of the stricken areas, adding that better real—time information was needed on radiation levels.

More Geiger counters were required to measure radiation levels, and better communication systems needed to be put in place to disseminate real—time information on levels at different locations, she said.

Japanese authorities have not helped a lot of people to find out about the situation in their specific area, she said after visiting an emergency shelter in Ibaraki Prefecture.

Many people in prefectures near the plant also felt that they and their region’s products had been stigmatised by the rest of the country regardless of whether any high radiation levels have been recorded in their area, Ms. Georgieva said.

Radiation—contaminated water was also found near four of the six reactors at the Fukushima plant, possibly having seeped from damaged reactor cores or spent—fuel pools.

The plant’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO), has vowed to clear the water as quickly as possible to allow workers access to the overheating reactors as they attempt to restore key cooling systems.

On Thursday, three engineers working on the cable system at reactor 3 were exposed to radiation levels in water that were 10,000 times above normal. Two were hospitalized with burns to their legs.

The levels suggested the reactor vessel might have been damaged and leaked radioactive materials, Hidehiko Nishiyama, a spokesman for the nuclear safety commission, told a news conference.

On Saturday, authorities have identified eight radioactive substances in stagnant water in the basement of the plant, an analysis released by the commission showed.

The highest levels found in the water in reactor 1 of the plant were of caesium 137, a radioactive isotope that was released into the environment in the Chernobyl disaster. It appeared at levels of 1.8 million becquerel.

Caesium 137, in contrast to radioactive iodine, has a relatively long half life of 30.2 years. It is created during nuclear fission.

The water also contained caesium isotopes 134 and 136 as well as iodine—131.

Seventeen workers at the plant have been contaminated since it was damaged in a March 11 earthquake and resulting tsunami. That figure includes only those who have been exposed to more than 100 millisieverts of radiation, the maximum allowed exposure for a nuclear plant worker for an entire year.

Despite such fear of radioactive contamination, some progress was made on Saturday. TEPCO injected fresh water into the containers of reactors 1, 2 and 3. The operator also managed to restore light in the control room of reactor 2, raising hopes that its key functions and radiation monitor could be revived.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano told a news conference on Saturday he found it difficult to predict when the ongoing crisis at plant would end.

“We are now preventing the situation from worsening,” he said. “An enormous amount of work is still required” before it settles down.

The death toll from the earthquake and tsunami stood at 10,418 on Saturday, while 17,072 people were listed as missing, the National Police Agency said.

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