Tokyo: Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan told two prefectures near a troubled nuclear power plant Wednesday to stop selling their vegetables and raw milk after authorities detected radioactive materials in the produce.
Authorities said they had found high levels of radiation in 11 types of produce, including cabbage and broccoli, grown in Fukushima prefecture, where a nuclear power station was damaged by a March 11 earthquake and tsunami.
Health Ministry officials detected radioactive caesium at levels of 82,000 becquerels, 164 times the legal limit, in kukitachina, a leafy vegetable, from the city of Motomiya, 60 km west of the nuclear power plant.
Kan also instructed Fukushima Governor Yuhei Sato to order residents not to eat leafy vegetables grown in the prefecture for the time being.
The Nikkei business daily reported Wednesday that the ministry found radioactive caesium in 25 of the 35 vegetables inspected in Fukushima.
The ministry also detected radioactive iodine in parsley and raw milk in the neighbouring prefecture of Ibaraki. The prefecture supplies one-fifth of the country`s parsley and more than two percent of its milk, the public broadcaster NHK reported.
The shipment of spinach and kakina, another leafy vegetable, from Fukushima and three neighbouring prefectures was banned Monday along with shipment of raw milk from Fukushima.
"We spend so much money on animal feed, but we are dumping our milk every day," one dairy farmer from Fukushima told NHK. "We wake in the morning to find we get further and further in the red.
"We would like the government to compensate us for the milk as soon as possible."
High levels of radioactive iodine were also detected at a water-purification plant in Kanamachi, Tokyo, 220 km southwest of the Fukushima plant, authorities said Wednesday.
The Tokyo metropolitan government said infants should not drink tap water in the 23 wards and five western cities in the prefecture after they found radioactive iodine at twice the recommended maximum limits for children under one.
The news prompted many Tokyo residents to snap up bottled water at supermarkets.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano asked the public to refrain from hoarding bottled water because it was one of the supplies urgently needed in quake- and tsunami-stricken areas.
On Tuesday, the plant`s operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co, said radioactive iodine at levels more than 126 times the legal limit and radioactive caesium nearly 25 times higher were detected in seawater near the plant.
The government said the radiation levels do not pose an immediate risk to human health, but authorities did not deny the possibility of fishery products becoming unacceptably tainted.
At the stricken nuclear plant plant, which is home to six reactors, smoke from the building of overheating reactor 3 forced workers at the reactor 3 and 4 buildings and those manning fire trucks to leave the site. The cause of the smoke was not known, the government`s nuclear safety commission said.
On Monday, smoke from reactors 2 and 3 also prompted an evacuation. That smoke was attributed to burning debris and steam.
Progress was made overnight as power and lighting in the control room of reactor 3 was restored, which would assist workers in repairing the reactor`s cooling system and help prevent a meltdown.
External power was reconnected to the last of the six reactors Tuesday.
The plant`s operator has asked major Japanese banks to lend it as much as two trillion yen ($24.7 billion) to deal with the damaged plant, the Nikkei business daily reported Wednesday. The magnitude-9 earthquake and resulting tsunami nearly two weeks ago was confirmed to have killed 9,452 people with 14,715 still missing as of Wednesday afternoon, the National Police Agency said. The death toll was expected to climb significantly higher.