Robot Detects High Radiation in Japan Reactors

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Japanese nuclear officials said Monday that readings from a U.S.-made robot sent inside Units 1 and 3 of the crippled Fukushima Dai-ichi plant showed radiation levels were still too high to allow workers inside.

"We have expected high radioactivity inside the reactor buildings, which was confirmed by data collected by the robot," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano, dressed in protective gear, said during an inspection in Minamisoma in the Fukushima Prefecture.

"Even I had expected high radioactivity in those areas. I am sure that TEPCO and other experts have factored in those figures when they complied the roadmap," he said.

On Monday, officials plan to dispatch the robot to Unit 2. 

No workers have entered the two reactor buildings since hydrogen explosions blew the roofs off, spewing  radioactive debris inside the buildings.

On Sunday, the plant operator released a "road map" plan to stabilize the Fukushima complex by the end of the year. Officials said the high radiation levels would not prevent operators from achieving a cold shutdown of the plant within six to nine months.

Hidehiko Nishiyama, deputy director-general of Japan's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, said temperature, pressure and radioactivity readings taken by the robot would have to be reduced before humans could safely enter the buildings.

"It's a harsh environment for humans to work inside," Nishiyama said.

"I do believe we must be creative to come up with ways to achieve our goals," Nishiyama said, adding that he believes the plan is "as appropriate as we can get at the moment."

TEPCO official Takeshi Makigami said workers would have to enter the plant at some point because robots are limited in what they can do.

Meanwhile, an additional 2,500 soldiers will join police in the continuing search for the bodies of an estimated 1,000 tsunami victims buried in mud and debris. Workers have recovered 63 of 66 bodies they located.

More than 27,000 people are either dead or missing since the 9.0-magnitude earthquake precipitated the devastating tsunami on March 11.

Tens of thousands of Japanese evacuated from the area surrounding the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant will not be able to return to their homes until the reactors are shut down and radiation reduced to safe levels.


AP contributed to this report.

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