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Operator Says Plutonium Found In Soil At Japan Nuclear Plant

A Japanese defense-forces handout from March 27 of the No. 4 reactor at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in Tomioka, Fukushima Prefecture.
The operator of the earthquake- and tsunami-stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in Japan says plutonium has been detected in soil at five places at the plant but that the levels are not believed to pose a threat to human health.

The Tokyo Electric Power Company (TECPO) said the level of plutonium was similar to that detected in Japan after neighboring countries such as North Korea and China conducted nuclear experiments.

A massive earthquake and tsunami on March 11 knocked out the cooling systems for the six reactors of the facility, which has been leaking radiation into the atmosphere.

TECPO said earlier in the day that a large amount of highly radioactive water had escaped from the No. 2 reactor's turbine building into an underground tunnel and might leak into the north Pacific Ocean.

A 6.5-magnitude earthquake struck on March 28 off the coast of northeastern Japan -- the same area that was devastated by the earthquake and tsunami on March 11 -- but without major reports of damage.

The official death toll from the March 11 events is nearing 11,000, with more than 16,000 others still missing.

compiled from agency reports