Plutonium detected in soil at Japanese nuclear plant

SENDAI, Japan (AFP) – Plutonium has been detected in soil at a stricken nuclear plant in Japan and highly contaminated water has leaked from a reactor building, the operator said Monday, fanning environmental fears.

Radiation worries have disrupted efforts to restart the cooling system of the Fukushima Daiichi plant, which was battered by a huge earthquake and tsunami on March 11 that left more than 28,000 people dead or missing.

With Japan struggling to contain its worst ever atomic crisis, France said its nuclear groups Areva and EDF had been asked to help in a situation which Industry Minister Eric Besson described as “extremely critical”.

Plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. said plutonium was found at five spots within the crippled facility, but stressed the levels were not believed to be a hazard to human health.

“Of the samples from five locations, we believe that there is a high possibility that at least two of them are directly linked with the current reactor accident,” a spokesman for Tokyo Electric Power Co. said.

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