And the hits just keep on coming. Earlier today, TEPCO announced that the radiation in the water pool of reactor #2 had been measured at 1,000 millisieverts/h (1 sievert/h) - the highest reading so far recorded since the Fukushima disaster started. As a reminder, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says a single dose of 1,000 millisieverts is enough to cause haemorrhaging, which a ten hour exposure to this dose is enough to result in death. "The situation is serious. They have to pump away this water on the floor, get rid of it to lower the radiation," said Robert Finck, radiation protection specialist at the Swedish Radiation Safety Authority, speaking before the operator expressed doubt about the high reading. "It's virtually impossible to work, you can only be there for a few minutes. It's impossible to say how long it will take before they can gradually take control." From Kyodo: "Plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. said the concentration of radioactive substances of the puddle was 10 million times higher than that seen usually in water in a reactor core, but later decided to reanalyze the data because it found some errors." And keep in mind this is the idiocy that is resulting after last week the brilliant geniuses at TECPO came up with the plan to water each and every reactor: now it's time to remove the water, but the water just happens to be so radioactive, nobody can remove it. In the meantime the leak into the ocean keeps getting worse: "Radioactive iodine-131 at a concentration 1,850.5 times the legal limit was detected in a seawater sample taken around 330 meters south of the plant, near a drainage outlet of the four troubled reactors, compared with 1,250.8 times the limit found Friday, the agency said." And while Zero Hedge has long believed that the only possible outcome here is the Plan Z concrete entombment, which will guarantee an 80 km non-inhabitable radius around Fukushima in perpetuity, finally the "experts" are warming up to this idea: per Reuters: "Experts say there is still too much heat in the reactor cores and spent fuel at the Fukushima plant for a similar last-ditch solution to be considered yet."
More from Reuters:
LEVELS 10 MILLION TIMES ABOVE NORMAL
The latest scare came as engineers were trying to pump radioactive water out of a turbine unit after it was found in buildings housing three of the reactors.
Officials at first said the water in No. 2 was found to contain 10 million times the amount of radioactive iodine that is normal in the reactor, but noted the substance had a half-life of under an hour, meaning it would disappear within a day.
Later they said the element that gave the reading may have been cobalt 56, which has a half life of 77 days, and if this was the case the level of radioactivity would have been far lower.
Radiation levels in the sea off the plant rose on Sunday to 1,850 times normal, from 1,250 on Saturday, Japan's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency said.
"Ocean currents will disperse radiation particles and so it will be very diluted by the time it gets consumed by fish and seaweed," said Hidehiko Nishiyama, a senior agency official.
TOKYO RADIATION LEVELS NORMAL
The elevated radiation detected on Sunday was confined to the reactor, and radioactivity in the air beyond the evacuation zone around the plant remained in normal ranges.
In downtown Tokyo, a Reuters reading on Sunday afternoon showed ambient radiation of 0.16 microsieverts per hour, below the global average of naturally occurring background radiation of 0.17-0.39 microsieverts per hour.
Several countries have banned produce and milk from Japan's nuclear crisis zone and are monitoring Japanese seafood because of fears of radioactive contamination.
Kyodo news agency said Japan would call on World Trade Organisation members at a meeting this week not to overreact to the radiation scare and abide by rules that ban import restrictions not based on scientific grounds.
The accident has also triggered concern around the globe about the safety of nuclear power generation. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said it was time to reassess the international atomic safety regime.
The crisis looked set to claim its first, and unlikely, political casualty. In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel's party faced defeat in a key state on Sunday, largely because of her U-turn on nuclear power.
OVERSHADOWING RELIEF EFFORT
The drama at the plant has overshadowed a relief and recovery effort from the magnitude 9.0 quake and the huge tsunami it triggered that left more than 27,100 people dead or missing in northeast Japan.
In Otsu, 70 km (42 miles) south of the stricken nuclear facility, the townsfolk are faced with livelihoods derailed by the natural disaster and now the fear of radiation in the air.
Ninety-three-year-old Kou Murata sat cross-legged on the floor of a school classroom, her home for the past fortnight. Surrounded by piles of quilts and blankets, she fretted over what was to become of her in the twilight of her life.
"I am afraid because people are leaving, and we are alone," she said, looking small and frail in a jacket decorated with snowmen.
Murata's daughter, Hisae, said the government had not helped them.
"I want to go back home, but the situation is impossible," she said. "I applied to the government to get a temporary house, but we need a certificate to say the house was destroyed. Now all the temporary houses have been taken. We thought the government would come to us, but we need to go to them."
The first opinion poll to be taken since the disaster showed the approval rating for Prime Minister Naoto Kan had edged higher, to 28.3 percent, but more than half disapproved of how the nuclear crisis had been handled.
Making things much worse is that, apparently for the first time, TEPCO has ordered tests for highly toxic and extremely lethal plutonium on the site:
As the worst atomic accident since Chernobyl entered its third week, the government said soil near the Fukushima plant would be tested for plutonium contamination. The radioactive metal was used in one of the reactors and its presence outside the plant would suggest the fuel rods were damaged.
“I’ve said the situation won’t immediately improve, and high radiation water is one of the unexpected things that I had said might occur,” Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said at a briefing in Tokyo today. “We want to continue cooling, and establish a direction toward ending the situation.”
Soil samples have been taken and will be tested for plutonium, Edano told reporters.
Radiation leaks have contaminated vegetables in regions around the plant and sparked scares over tap water in Tokyo, 227 kilometers (140 miles) southwest of the Tokyo Electric Power Co. Dai-Ichi power station.
Which of course means that up until now nobody had been measuring for plutonium fall out. Brilliant.
And while nobody really knows anything that is happening at the plant, one thing we can be sure of is that the latest surge in radiation by 10E6, will cause Joe LaVorgna to hike his GDP forecast for Japan by a comparable amount.
Update: Now we get this hilariously farcical interlude:
The operator of Japan's stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant said on Monday a very high radiation reading that had sent workers fleeing the No. 2 reactor was erroneous.
Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) vice-president Sakae Muto apologised for Sunday's error, which added to alarm inside and outside Japan over the impact of contamination from the complex which was hit by an earthquake and tsunami on March 11.
In other news, radiation burns suffered by three TEPCO workers while puddling along reactor 2 was just due to unfortunate combination of too much sun and little to no tanning lotion. We are confident repair on Reactor 2 will proceed immediately...by mutant 3 eyed ill-tempered seabass. Or was the seawater radioactivity count faulty too?