Radiation level has declined around nuclear plant, Japanese officials report

Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

Japanese officials have told a U.N. atomic watchdog group that there was an initial increase in radioactivity around a nuclear plant Saturday following the 8.9-magnitude earthquake, but that levels “have been observed to lessen in recent hours.”

Officials at the International Atomic Energy Agency released a statement in Vienna on Saturday saying they had been informed by Japanese authorities that an explosion at the Fukushima Daiichi plant occurred outside the primary containment vessel.

“The plant operator, Tokyo Electric Power Company ... has confirmed that the integrity of the primary containment vessel remains intact,” the statement said.

Photos: Scenes from the earthquake


“As a countermeasure to limit damage to the reactor core, [the power company] proposed that seawater mixed with boron be injected into the primary containment vessel. This measure was approved by Japan’s Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency and the injection procedure began at [8:20 p.m. Saturday] Japan time,” the statement said.

The statement noted that four workers at Fukushima Daiichi were injured by the explosion and that the safety agency confirmed the presence of cesium and iodine near the plant in the wake of the explosion, but that the levels of radioactivity near the plant “have been observed to lessen in recent hours.”

According to the statement, Japanese officials have confirmed the safety of all of the country’s nuclear research reactors.

Videos of the earthquake

“The IAEA continues to liaise with the Japanese authorities and is monitoring the situation as it evolves,” the statement said.