Extremely High Levels of Radiation Detected at Japan’s Fukushima Plant

February 5, 2017 Updated: February 5, 2017

Officials say they’ve detected the highest levels of radiation at Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant since it was damaged in a massive earthquake six years ago.

The Japan Times, citing the Tokyo Electric Power Co. Holdings Inc. (TEPCO), said that the radiation level in the containment vessel of Reactor 2 at Fukushima hit a maximum of 530 sieverts per hour. The radiation read was taken near the entrance to an area near the pressure vessel, which contains the reactor’s core.

A person could die from a brief exposure to 530 sieverts of radiation, experts say.

Officials believe that escaped melted fuel might be the cause for the spike in radiation.

The high radiation level, which was called “unimaginable” by experts in the Japan Times report, greatly exceeds the previous high of 73 sieverts per hour at the reactor. And that reading was taken six years ago—right after the quake hit on March 11, 2011.

TEPCO attempted to downplay the reading.

The firm said that the “high reading focused on a single point, with levels estimated to be much lower at other spots filmed by the camera,” AFP reported. It added that the radiation isn’t leaking outside the reactor. 

The Fukushima plant experienced several meltdowns and explosions after a Tsunami hit the eastern Japanese coast following the 3/11 earthquake, which registered 9.1 on the Richter scale. As many as 15,894 people died, more than 6,000 people were injured, and 2,500 people went missing. Hundreds of thousands of people were evacuated.

After quake-triggered reactor meltdowns, 20-kilometer no-go zone was set up around the plant. Residents were evacuated, never to return.

Photographers who got inside the evacuation area took pictures of abandoned homes, cars, and wilderness reclaiming the land from civilization.

The Japanese government in December estimated that the total costs of decommissioning and decontaminating the plant will cost 21.5 trillion yen ($190 billion), AFP reported, in a process that will take decades.