According to Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco), the radiation level in the containment vessel of reactor 2 at the damaged Fukushima No.1 nuclear power plant nuclear complex has reached a maximum of 530 sieverts per hour which is the highest recorded level since the triple core meltdown in March 2011.
The reading means a person could die from even brief exposure, highlighting the difficulties ahead as the government and Tepco grope their way toward dismantling all three reactors that melted down in the March 2011 nuclear disaster, the Kyodo News reported.
Tepco announced the finding on Thursday, February 2, 2017, and added that based on an image analysis, a 1 m2 (10 ft2) hole has been found on a metal grating beneath the reactor pressure vessel.
The iron scaffolding has a melting point of 1 500 °C ( 2 732 °F), the company said. There is a possibility the fuel debris has fallen onto it and burnt the hole. Such fuel debris have been discovered on equipment at the bottom of the pressure vessel just above the hole.
The presence of dangerously high radiation will complicate efforts to safely dismantle the plant, but the radiation is not leaking outside the reactor, Tepco said.
In today's news conference, Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry said that confirming the conditions inside the reactor is the first step toward decommissioning. “While difficult tasks and unexpected matters may arise, we will mobilize all of Japan’s technological capabilities to steadily implement decommissioning work and rebuild Fukushima."
The searing radiation level, described by some experts as “unimaginable,” far exceeds the previous high of 73 sieverts per hour at the reactor, according to The Japan Times.
National Institute of Radiological Sciences said medical professionals have never considered dealing with this level of radiation in their work.
4 sieverts of radiation exposure would kill 1 in 2 people while 1 Sievert could lead to infertility, loss of hair and cataracts. A dose of about 8 sieverts is considered incurable and fatal.
Tepco said it calculated the figure of 530 sieverts by analyzing the electronic noise in the camera images caused by the radiation. This estimation method has a margin of error of +/- 30%, it said.
Featured image credit: TEPCO via KYODO