DEVELOPING: Radiation Spike At Nuclear Plant - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

DEVELOPING: Radiation Spike At Nuclear Plant

TOKYO - Radioactivity in water at one earthquake-crippled Japanese nuclear reactor soared to 10 million times its usual level Sunday, prompting the plant operator to evacuate workers, local media reported.

The report about Fukushima Dai-ichi reactor Unit 2 came as Tokyo Electric Power Co. workers were grappling with how to remove and store highly radioactive water pooling there and in two other troubled units.

TEPCO spokesman Takashi Kurita told reporters Sunday that leaked water in Unit 2 measured at 1,000 millisieverts per hour. That's 10 million times higher than the radioactivity level when the reactor is operating normally, or roughly the same as 89 CT scans, according to NBC News experts.

The nuclear power plant in northeastern Japan has been leaking radiation making its way into food and water.

The discovery of puddles with radiation levels 10,000 times the norm sparked a temporary evacuation of the plant on Thursday. Two workers who stepped into the water were hospitalized with possible burns.

The development set back feverish efforts to start up a crucial cooling system knocked out in a massive March 11 earthquake and tsunami, but has helped experts get closer to determining the source of the dangerous leak.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano, speaking Sunday on TV talk shows, said the radioactive water is "almost certainly" seeping from a reactor core.

Workers were focusing Sunday on extracting the contaminated water from three of the plant's six reactors and trying to find a safe place to store or dispose of it, TEPCO officials said.

Officials were also aiming to get the lights on in a fourth unit, TEPCO said.

It has been more than two weeks since the magnitude-9 quake erupted off the coast, triggering a tsunami that swallowed up cities and left a swath of devastation along Japan's northeast.

The wave also engulfed and damaged the Fukushima power plant, creating a nuclear crisis that has threatened to overshadow efforts to care for hundreds of thousands of homeless and address the global economic fallout created by the twin disasters.

Radiation levels in the sea off the Fukushima Daiichi plant rose on Sunday to 1,850 times normal just over two weeks after the disaster struck, from 1,250 on Saturday, Japan's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency said.

The radiation particles will be dispersed and diluted, however, posing no threat to marine life or food safety, a senior agency official said.

"There is no need to worry about health risks," Hidehiko Nishiyama said.

The government has voiced criticism of TEPCO's handling of the crisis following a series of missteps in recent days.

Edano urged TEPCO to be more transparent after Japan's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency, or NISA, revealed that the plant operator was aware there was high radiation in the air at one unit several days before the two workers were burned.

"Regardless of whether there was an awareness of high radioactivity in the stagnant water, there were problems in the way work was conducted," Nishiyama said Saturday.

NISA warned TEPCO to improve and ensure workers' safety, and TEPCO has taken measures to that effect, Nishiyama said, without elaborating.

TEPCO spokesman Hajime Motojuku declined to comment late Saturday.

The protracted nuclear crisis has spurred concerns about the safety of food and water in Japan, which is a prime source of seafood for some countries.

Radiation has been found in milk, seawater and a range of vegetables, including broccoli, cauliflower and turnips.

Tap water in several areas of Japan, including Tokyo, showed higher-than-normal levels of radiation, prompting officials to distribute bottled water to families with infants.

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