The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) have rushed experts to help Japan face the escalating radiation crisis at the quake-and-tsunami-hit Fukushima Daiichi civil nuclear plant.

The IAEA on Saturday announced additional aid soon after Japan's nuclear safety authorities confirmed an alarming new level of radioactive contamination of seawater near the plant. At the same time, Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said in Tokyo that “as of now, there is no report of any adverse impact on marine life, especially beyond 20 km”. However, “we must strengthen monitoring”, he emphasised.

Earlier, disclosing the findings of the latest analysis of radioactivity in seawater samples collected some 300 metres from the outlets of the nuclear power plant, an official of Japan's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency (NISA) said: “Iodine-131 was detected at over 1,250 times the national safety limit.” Seawater contamination with a far less radioactive intensity was first reported by NISA a few days ago.

In addition, Japanese officials have, in recent days, acknowledged the presence of high levels of radioactive substances in some food products and dairy produce in areas around the plant site. Scares over the radioactive contamination of soil as also tap water and rainwater are still rocking Japan. However, the authorities continue to maintain that the relevant readings of radioactivity are high, compared to the low thresholds of unsafe limits which Japan has set for itself, given its horrific experience of being subjected to nuclear bombing during the Second World War.

And, with the Japanese still coming to terms with Thursday's radiation accident at the plant and the related suspicion of radioactive leakage from the core of a nuclear reactor, The IAEA on Saturday disclosed its new aid-Japan measures. The “additional” IAEA teams sent to Japan included experts well versed in protecting workers from radiation. Officials from the IAEA's Safeguards Department had travelled to Japan, while an IAEA-FAO food-safety assessment team was also on its way, it was announced in Vienna.

With over 200,000 quake-and-tsunami-hit Japanese still in evacuation shelters a fortnight after the disaster had struck, an opinion survey showed that slightly less than 50 per cent of the respondents expressed disenchantment with the option of civil nuclear power for energy needs in high-tech Japan.

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