Radiation Soars to Lethal Levels at Fukushima 18 times worse than previously thought By Ruth Brown, Newser Staff Posted Sep 1, 2013 1:55 PM CDT 24 comments Comments Japanese Trade Minister Toshimitsu Motegi, right, in protective gear inspects storage tanks at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant. (AP Photo/Kyodo News, Pool) (Newser) – New tests at Fukushima have found radiation levels around its tanks are up to 18 times worse than previously thought—high enough to kill someone within four hours of exposure, reports the BBC. What's caused the alarming spike? More accurate measuring equipment, says plant operator TEPCO. The previous equipment could only read up to 100 millisieverts an hour. Its estimation of the radiation level at the time? 100 millisieverts an hour. The new equipment recorded readings of up to 1,800 millisieverts an hour. TEPCO also says there was a recent leak in one of the tanks—but insists only a single drop of radioactive water escaped. It says the drop fell when someone pressed the insulation around the pipe at the bottom of the tank, CNN reports. The tank is identical to the one that has already leaked 300 tons of water. In related news, a new study estimates that the radioactive plume of water released by the 2011 disaster will hit US waters in early 2014 and peak in 2016, reports NBC News. Fortunately, ocean currents will have diluted the radioactive material down to safe levels by then.