Radiation Levels 'Extremely High': US Nuclear Official

Watchdog Chief Says Japan Is Understating Dangers

By John Johnson,  Newser Staff

Posted Mar 16, 2011 2:36 PM CDT | Updated Mar 16, 2011 4:04 PM CDT

(Newser) – The situation at the Dai-ichi nuclear plant is worse than Japanese officials are acknowledging, says the head of the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission. “We believe that radiation levels are extremely high, which could possibly impact the ability to take corrective measures," Gregory Jaczko told Congress, while advising Americans in Japan to get further away from the plant than the current Japanese guidelines. The New York Times sees his statements as a "serious split" between Washington and Tokyo over the crisis.

Jaczko singled out trouble at reactor No. 4, asserting that high radiation levels are a result of exposed fuel rods there. His assessment came as a spokesman for the plant operator offered a glimmer of hope, saying that an emergency power line—one that could theoretically revive the electric cooling pumps—is nearly operational. However, he didn't say when it would be fired up, only that it would be "as soon as possible," notes AP.

A notice board reading: We can't accept evacuees any more due to overcapacity here. Appreciate your cooperation is placed in front of Azuma Sports Park complex in Fukushima.
A notice board reading: "We can't accept evacuees any more due to overcapacity here. Appreciate your cooperation" is placed in front of Azuma Sports Park complex in Fukushima.   (AP Photo/The Yomiuri Shimbun, Koichi Nakamura)
This satellite photo taken Wednesday and provided by DigitalGlobe shows the Dai-ichi nuclear power plant complex.
This satellite photo taken Wednesday and provided by DigitalGlobe shows the Dai-ichi nuclear power plant complex.   (AP Photo/DigitalGlobe)
A woman holds her dog as they are scanned for radiation near the plant.
A woman holds her dog as they are scanned for radiation near the plant.   (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)
Surrounded by top advisers, Fukushima Gov. Yuhei Sato explains the current difficulties in handling the tens of thousands of evacuees from around the plant.
Surrounded by top advisers, Fukushima Gov. Yuhei Sato explains the current difficulties in handling the tens of thousands of evacuees from around the plant.   (AP Photo/Wally Santana)
Japan's Defense Ministry officials plot possibly radioactive areas on a map.
Japan's Defense Ministry officials plot possibly radioactive areas on a map.   (AP Photo/Wally Santana)
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