Contamination at Fukushima plant to last 'decades and decades': experts

PARIS - Local contamination from Japan's quake-damaged Fukushima nuclear power plant will be a problem that will last "for decades and decades," France's Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN) said on Monday.

Releases of radioactivity from the plant "are now significant and continuing," the head of the agency, Andre-Claude Lacoste, told a press conference.

"We have to assume that Japan will have a long-term issue of managing the impacts," he said. "It's a problem that Japan will have to deal with for decades and decades to come."

The releases stem in part from deliberate venting of steam and gas, which also contain radioactive particles, to ease pressure in overheating reactor vessels, he said.

Another source is "leaks" of as-yet unknown origin, he said.

"Ground deposits of radioactive particles (around the plant) are significant," said Jean-Luc Godet, in charge of ionising radiation management at the ASN.

"The Japanese authorities have not drawn up, or communicated, a map of these deposits, and it is not vain thinking to believe that this (contaminated) zone extends beyond 20 kilometres," he said, referring to the 12-mile zone within which local inhabitants have been evacuated.

"Given the weather, it is likely that contaminations have occurred beyond that, up to 100 kilometres .12560 miles.375 or so."

On Sunday, the Japanese government said it had detected "abnormal levels" of radiation in milk and spinach taken from areas near Fukushima, but this did not pose any threat to health.

Jiji Press later quoted local officials as saying tainted spinach and other green vegetables had been found in Tochigi prefecture, located between Fukushima and Ibaraki, and farmers had been asked to stop shipping any products until further notice.