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Japan says high seawater radiation levels are no cause for alarm

Japanese authorities began testing for radiation in seawater near the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant on Tuesday, but officials stressed that the elevated levels are no cause for worry.

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Imported seafood from Japan is screened for radiation by a chef at a Japanese restaurant in Hong Kong Tuesday, March 22, to make sure the food is safe to eat. China, Japan's largest trading partner, has ordered testing of imports of Japanese food. The World Health Organization has urged Japan to adopt stricter measures and reassure the public after the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant began leaking radiation March 11.

Kin Cheung/ AP

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As engineers reported progress on stabilizing overheated reactors at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant Tuesday, elevated levels of radiation have been found in seawater nearby, fueling concern over long-term environmental and health impacts.

Plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) announced today that in samples taken 1,100 feet south of the plant on Monday, radioactive iodine exceeded legal limits for wastewater by 126.7 times, cesium-134 by 24.8 times, and cesium-137 by 16.5 times. Samples taken 16 kilometers (10 miles) south were up to 16 times above legal levels.

Radioactive elements in the ocean will not likely pose a threat to human health because they quickly become diluted, says Masaharu Hoshi, a specialist in environmental impact assessments at Hiroshima University’s Research Institute for Radiation Biology and Medicine. He says contamination of seawater was not a problem following the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

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