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Radioactive seawater in Japan raises new fears of reactor crack

Levels of radioactive iodine reached 1,250 times above normal in seawater off the coast of Japan's stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, raising concerns about a containment crack.

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The 50 becquerels of radioactive iodine per cubic centimeter of seawater found in the ocean on Friday is a "relatively high level," Mr. Nishiyama said.

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But officials said the radioactive iodine found in the seawater only has a half-life of eight days, meaning it's not likely to have long-term health repercussions, though environmentalists are warning that dangerously high levels could impact sea life and potentially Japan's fishing fleet.

A more critical question is where the radioactive water is coming from.

Tokyo Electric Power officials said Friday they don't believe water is actually leaking out of the reactors. Officials said the high concentrations found in the seawater could be caused by airborne radiation in the area or water that came close enough to the reactors to absorb radiation.

Radioactive water around the plant, however, is to be expected in light of the pumping and spraying efforts as workers have attempted to cool the cores and prevent a meltdown.

"I am not particularly alarmed," Ian Hutchinson, a nuclear science professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, tells CNN.

Those assessments, however, have not eased concerns of a leaky reactor raised this week. One potential culprit is Unit 3, which was rocked by a high-impact hydrogen explosion on March 14. A breach in Unit 3 could be a crack or a hole in the reactor core's stainless steel chamber or in the spent fuel pool that's contained by a massive concrete container.

If any of the unit's containments walls are cracked, it could hobble efforts to seal up the plant to contain its potentially deadly radiation. Tepco, the power plant's operator, said on Friday that the operation to stabilize Fukushima could take another month or more.

"We are still in the process of assessing the damage at the plant, so we can't put a deadline on when the cooling operations will work again," a spokesman from TEPCO, the plant's operator, told Agence France-Presse.

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