Nuclear plant was storing too much spent fuel as tsunami hit

A Japanese radiation expert has claimed that life just one kilometre outside the restricted area surrounding the stricken nuclear plant leaking radiation is "as safe as London".

In the latest proclamation by officials trying to reassure people that they face minimal danger from the nuclear crisis a government adviser said the public had been misled by inaccurate information.

But it came amid more sinister news as it emerged that the plant had contained far more spent fuel rods than it was designed to store, while its technicians failed to carry out the necessary safety checks, according to documents from the reactor's operator.

Despite hopes of progress in the world's most major nuclear crisis in a quarter of a century, plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO) said it needed more time before it could say the reactors were stabilised. The documents also showed that the the company repeatedly missed safety checks over a 10-year period up to two weeks before the 11 March disaster, and allowed uranium fuel rods to pile up inside the 40-year-old facility.

Yesterday smoke and steam were seen rising from two of the most threatening reactors, two and three, whilst several blasts of steam are thought to probably have released a small amount of radioactive particles.

The news is likely to aggrieve the public, especially in the wake of claims earlier in the day from a Japanese radiation expert that life just 1km outside the restricted area surrounding the stricken nuclear plant leaking radiation is "as safe as London".

"The people we should worry about are those working at the site of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. Otherwise we do not have to worry about exposure," said Professor Shunichi Yamashita.

Professor Yamashita, from Nagasaki University, said radiation in Tokyo was minuscule and being hyped needlessly by the media: "We're talking about microsieverts [SI unit of radiation] a year not millisieverts," he said. "The dose is crucial. It's nonsense to worry about microsieverts."

Concerns about radiation in Tokyo have prompted thousands of foreigners and Japanese citizens to leave. Many businesses have relocated to the west of Japan or Hong Kong. The latest radiation reading over 24 hours was 0.34 microsieverts though the figure is increasing slightly. Yesterday the professor said exposure to 11.4 microsieverts per hour was the safety benchmark.

Officials from the International Atomic Energy Agency found radiation 1,600 times higher than normal around the town of Namie, near Fukushima. But Professor Yamashita said at a briefing in Tokyo: "People who evacuated from the 20km zone are completely safe." Japan's Prime Minister last week advised 140,000 people living within between 20km and 30km of the complex to leave. Many have criticised the perimeter as arbitrary. The US government says 80km is the safe limit.

Professor Yamashita said most radiation-linked illnesses in the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, including thyroid cancer, came not from direct exposure but from consuming food, especially contaminated milk. "Compared to Chernobyl the Fukushima radiation release is still very, very low," he said. "I want the media to make this clear."

Chernobyl, the world's worst nuclear disaster, has been linked to thousands of thyroid cancer cases since the plant in Ukraine went into meltdown.

The Japanese government has imposed a ban on food products from Fukushima and surrounding areas. Small quantities of radiation have been detected in spinach and milk. The government has also begun studying contamination of fish food after discovering radioactive materials 128 times higher than the legal limit in the seas around the plant.It was reported yesterday that minuscule amounts of radioactive particles believed to have come from the Fukushima power plant had been detected as far away as Iceland.

For those people who have been evacuated from the danger zone near the nuclear plant, these are days of anxiety. Around 1,400 people are living in the town's gymnasium which has been turned into an evacuation centre, and yesterday there were long queues for bowls of hot noodle soup. As many as 2.4 million people are still without water and nearly 250,000 households have no power.

Profiting from the doom

The huge earthquake and tsunami that ripped through north-eastern Japan 11 days ago has led to lots of stories of stoicism and pulling together. But not in every case.

Police said the disaster crippled a bank's security mechanisms and left a safe wide open. That allowed someone to walk off with ¥40m, about £300,000.

The tsunami washed over the Shinkin Bank, like much else in Kesennuma in Japan's north-east region, and police said that with the combination of the flooding and the ensuing power outages the vault came open.

"The bank was flooded and things were thrown all over. It was a total mess. Somebody stole the money in the midst of the chaos," a police official in the Miyagi region said.

The bank notified police yesterday when the theft was discovered. AP

News
people

Actress sees off speculation about her appearance in an amazing way

Arts and Entertainment
The last great picture - Winner 'Black and White' and overall 'Wildlife Photographer of the Year'
art
Voices
'Irritatingly Disneyfied': fashion vlogger Zoella
voices

News
Carl Bernstein (left) and Bob Woodward (right) with former 'Washington Post' executive editor Ben Bradlee
people

The Washington Post editor helped Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein bring down President Nixon

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
tech

Board creates magnetic field to achieve lift

News
There have been various incidents of social media users inadvertently flouting the law
news

Life and Style
Stack ‘em high?: quantity doesn’t always trump quality, as Friends of the Earth can testify
techThe proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
News
Bourgogne wine maker Laboure-Roi vice president Thibault Garin (L) offers the company's 2013 Beaujolais Nouveau wine to the guest in the wine spa at the Hakone Yunessun spa resort facilities in Hakone town, Kanagawa prefecture, some 100-kilometre west of Tokyo
i100
Sport
CSKA Moscow celebrate after equalising with a late penalty
footballCSKA Moscow 2 Manchester City 2: Premier League champions let two goal lead slip in Russia
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - SThree Group - Leeds

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped Commission: SThree: SThree Group has been...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - SThree Group - Bristol

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped Commission: SThree: SThree Group has been...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - SThree Group - Birmingham

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped Commission: SThree: SThree Group has been...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Birmingham - Computer Futures

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: The SThree group is a world le...

Day In a Page

Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Ranked seventh in world’s best tourist cities - not London, or Edinburgh, but Salisbury

Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2015

UK city beats Vienna, Paris and New York to be ranked seventh in world’s best tourist destinations - but it's not London