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Japanese Officials Downplay Concerns About Radioactive Seawater


A man is tested for possible radiation exposure at an evacuation center in Kuriayama
Japan's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency said today that seawater near the crippled Fukushima nuclear complex's No.1 reactor contained radioactive iodine at several thousand times above the legal limit.

However, an official with the agency, Hidehiko Nishiyama, played down the potential effects of radioactive seawater on residents near the power plant, saying they had been evacuated and that there was no fishing activity in the vicinity.

"People don't drink seawater, and with the currents, the radioactive material will dissipate quickly,” he said.

Prime Minister Naoto Kan said his government is on maximum alert over the stricken nuclear power plant that was damaged in the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. He said the situation remains "unpredictable."

Some opposition lawmakers have criticized Naoto Kan for his handling of the disaster and for not widening the evacuation zone around the plant. Kan said he was seeking advice on such a step, which would force 130,000 people to move, in addition to the 70,000 who have already been displaced.

On March 29, Japan's government said it had no choice but to keep pouring water onto radioactive fuel rods in the reactors to try to limit a meltdown.

compiled from agency reports