Highly toxic plutonium is seeping from the damaged nuclear power plant in Japan's tsunami disaster zone into the soil outside, officials said Tuesday, heightening concerns about the expanding spread of radiation. Plutonium was detected at several spots outside the Fukushima plant—the first confirmed presence of the dangerously radioactive substance, plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. said.
There are strong indications some of the radioactivity is coming from damaged nuclear fuel rods, a worrying development in the race to bring the power plant under control, a government minister said. "The situation is very grave," he told reporters. "We are doing our utmost efforts to contain the damage." Officials said the traces of plutonium posed no immediate threat to public health, although the latest finding appeared to feed government frustration with the plant operator. The government is considering temporarily nationalizing the troubled nuclear plant operator, according to Japanese daily Yomiuri.