Hong Kong: Radioactive dust believed to be from a crippled nuclear power plant in Japan has been detected nearly 3,000 kilometres away in Hong Kong, officials said Wednesday.
The amounts detected were so miniscule it would take up to 2,500 years of continued exposure to have any perceptible effect on human health, an official from the Hong Kong Observatory said.
The radioactive dust, believed to have blown in on a westerly wind, was the first detected in Hong Kong since the March 11 earthquake and tsunami, which damaged the plant in Fukushima and matches similar readings on the east coast of China in recent days.
"It would take 800 to 2,500 years of continued exposure to the detected levels in order to receive the radiation dosage equal to one X-ray," a government spokesman said.
Hong Kong`s 600 Japanese restaurants have lost an estimated 20 percent of business since the March 11 disaster because of fears over radiation contamination, the South China Morning Post said Wednesday.
France, US offer help as Japan’s N-crisis deepens
France and the United States will help Japan in its battle to contain radiation from a crippled nuclear complex where plutonium finds have raised public alarm over the world`s worst atomic crisis since Chernobyl in 1986.
The high-stakes operation at the Fukushima plant has added to Japan`s humanitarian disaster, with 27,500 people dead or missing from a March 11 earthquake and tsunami.
New readings showed a spike in radioactive iodine in the sea off the plant to 3,355 times the legal limit, the state nuclear safety agency said on Wednesday, although it played down the impact, saying people had left the area and fishing had stopped.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who chairs the G20 and G8 blocs of nations, plans to visit Tokyo on Thursday. He will be the first foreign leader in Japan since the disaster.
In further support, France flew in two experts from its state-owned nuclear reactor maker Areva and its CEA nuclear research body to assist Japan`s heavily criticized plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co (TEPCO).
A global leader in the industry, France produces about 75 percent of its power from reactors so it has a strong interest in helping Japan get through the Fukushima disaster.
The United States is also weighing in to send some radiation-detecting robots to Japan to help explore the reactor cores and spent fuel pools, the Energy Department said.
Not enough safeguards to protect nuke plant: Japan
Meanwhile, Japan`s government has admitted that its safeguards were insufficient to protect a nuclear plant against the earthquake and tsunami that crippled the facility and caused it to spew radiation, and vowed to overhaul safety standards.
The struggle to contain radiation at the Fukushima Dai-ichi complex has unfolded with near-constant missteps — the latest involving three workers drenched with water feared to be contaminated.
Safety officials said Wednesday that the three were fine and did not register high radiation levels, but the incident fed criticism of the utility that owns the plant as well as scrutiny of Japan`s preparedness for nuclear crises.
The March 11 tsunami that slammed into Japan`s northeast, wiping out towns and killing thousands of people, knocked out power and backup systems at the coastal nuclear power plant.
More than 11,000 bodies have been recovered, but officials say the final death toll is expected to exceed 18,000. Hundreds of thousands of people remain homeless, their homes and livelihoods destroyed. Damage could amount to $310 billion — the most expensive natural disaster on record.
"Our preparedness was not sufficient," Chief Cabinet secretary Yukio Edano told reporters Tuesday. "When the current crisis is over, we must examine the accident closely and thoroughly review" the safety standards.
A recent investigation found that Tokyo Electric Power Co. officials had dismissed scientific evidence and geological history that indicated that a massive earthquake — and subsequent tsunami — was far more likely than they believed.
That left the complex with nowhere near enough protection against the tsunami.
The mission to stabilize the power plant has been fraught with setbacks, as emergency crews have dealt with fires, explosions and radiation scares in the frantic bid to prevent a complete meltdown.
The plant has been leaking radiation that has made its way into vegetables, raw milk and tap water as far away as Tokyo. Residents within 12 miles (20 kilometers) of the plant have been ordered to leave and some nations have banned the imports of food products from the Fukushima region.
With PTI Inputs