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Tokyo Electric Power Co. said that it has observed a neutron beam, a kind of radioactive ray, 13 times on the premises of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant after it was crippled by the massive March 11 quake-tsunami disaster, Kyodo News of Japan reported. TEPCO, the operator of the nuclear plant, said the neutron beam measured about 1.5 kilometers southwest of the plant's No. 1 and 2 reactors over three days from March 13 and is equivalent to 0.01 to 0.02 microsieverts per hour and that this is not a dangerous level.
The utility firm said it will measure uranium and plutonium, which could emit a neutron beam, as well. In the 1999 criticality accident at a nuclear fuel processing plant run by JCO Co. in Tokaimura, Ibaraki Prefecture, uranium broke apart continually in nuclear fission, causing a massive amount of neutron beams. The measured neutron beam may be evidence that uranium and plutonium leaked from the plant's nuclear reactors and spent nuclear fuels have discharged a small amount of neutron beams through nuclear fission. On the other hand, it has been confirmed that Colorado and Oregon have joined several other Western states in reporting trace amounts of radioactive particles that have likely drifted about 5,000 miles from a quake and tsunami-damaged nuclear power plant in Japan, officials say.
But, on a portion of its website dedicated to tracking such radiation, the Environmental Protection Agency noted Wednesday that these and other readings “show typical fluctuation in background radiation levels” and — thus far — “are far below levels of concern.” Sampling from a monitor in Colorado — part of a national network of stations on the lookout for radioactivity — detected miniscule amounts of iodine-131, a radioactive form of iodine, the state’s public health and environmental department said Wednesday in a press release.
China and other neighboring countries increased monitoring of radiation levels, and fears of radioactive contamination have prompted panic-buying across China of iodized salt. Shoppers in Beijing, Shanghai and other parts of China have stripped supermarket shelves empty of table salt in recent days in the false belief that it either wards off radiation injuries or that the nation's supply would be contaminated by radioactive fallout. Experts have said the first rumor is not true and the second is unlikely: any catastrophe at the Japanese nuclear plant would most likely affect the immediate area, and wind patterns usually blow away from China at this time of year. The rumors are part of a swirl of misinformation regarding Japan's nuclear emergency. China Central Television reported Friday that China's salt makers have 2 million tons of salt in reserves and have stepped up production as the government seeks to control rampant sales. "The panic buying at such a large scale tests our coordination and distribution abilities, but we have confidence we can resume the normal supply to the market within 2 weeks", Dong Yongsheng, deputy general manager of China National Salt Industry Company, told CCTV.
Beijing started a seven-day inspection on table salt prices. Those found to have illegally hiked prices will be punished, the city government said. The National Marine Environmental Forecasting Center reported late Thursday that air and seawater levels in China are not under immediate threat. Ocean and wind currents are moving east, so any contaminants would be pushed into the Pacific Ocean, the forecasting center said in a statement. China lies to the west of Japan. China said it was providing 30 million yuan ($4.6 million) worth of humanitarian assistance — along with delivering 10 tons of bottled water Thursday at the request of the Japanese government, the official Xinhua News Agency reported. Earlier this week, the first batch of Chinese relief supplies — blankets, tents and emergency lights — arrived.