Tokyo/Fukushima: Struggling to restrain the atomic crisis, Japan on Wednesday said it will scrap the four stricken reactors at its Fukushima nuclear plant, as the radiation seeping into seawater has reached its highest level-3,355 times the usual amount.

The President of the quake and tsunami-hit facility’s operator is hospitalized, said the reports.  

We are planning to cover the damaged reactor buildings with special fabric sheets to control radiation, days after plutonium was found in the soil of the crippled nuke plant, said the authorities.

We ordered a check of all nuclear reactors in the country to prevent a recurrence of the atomic crisis triggered by the March 11 catastrophic magnitude-9 quake and tsunami, said Trade and Industry Minister Banri Kaieda.

Radioactive iodine-131 at a concentration of 3,355 times the maximum allowable level under the law was detected yesterday in a seawater sample taken near the crisis-hit
Fukushima plant, the government's nuclear agency said.

The maximum concentration observed so far in seawater from the troubled plant suggests radiation originating from reactor cores, where fuel rods have partially melted, may have
been continuously leaking into the Pacific Ocean, Kyodo said.

The exact cause of the high iodine concentration remains unknown but added that data taken by the plant operator indicated that radiation which has leaked at the site during the ongoing crisis "somehow" flowed into the sea, said Hidehiko Nishiyama, a spokesman for the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency.

Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), the plant's operator, said it will decommission four stricken reactors at the troubled facility.

"We have no choice but to scrap reactors 1 to 4 if we look at their conditions objectively," Tsunehisa Katsumata, the company's Chairman, said.

His remarks came hours after the company said that its President Masataka Shimizu was hospitalised yesterday because of hypertension and dizziness, the latest crisis to hit the
embattled TEPCO which is struggling hard to contain the atomic problem.

His hospitalisation follows reports that 66-year-old Shimizu had fallen sick on March 16 and taken some days off from manning a liaison office set up between the government and the utility to regain control of the plant.

Katsumata has already taken over Shimizu's role temporarily in leading efforts to bring the crisis under control, the company said, adding that the President would return to work as soon as he recovers.

TEPCO said that while the cost of compensation in connection with the nuclear disaster will be daunting and undermine it financially, the company will try hard to remain afloat and avoid nationalisation.

After losing their cooling functions due to the deadly natural disaster on March 11, four of the six reactors at the nuclear power plant have leaked radioactive materials into the air and sea.

As workers continued their efforts to prevent the reactors from overheating and restore their cooling systems, Katsumata apologised for the crisis at the plant.

He said the company would make maximum efforts to restore the cooling systems of the Nos. 1-4 reactors to bring them into a stable condition called "cold shutdown". The Nos.5 and 6 reactors were already in a state of cold shutdown.

Nishiyama, on his part, said the polluted seawater will not pose immediate health risks because fishing is not being conducted in the evacuation-designated area within 20 km of
the plant and radiation-emitting substances would be "significantly diluted" by the time they are consumed by marine species and then by people.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano suggested that all of the reactors at the Fukushima nuclear plant should be scrapped.

Edano said it is expected to take "a considerable amount of time" before the temperatures of fuel rods in the reactor cores at the power station are lowered in a stable manner.

TEPCO has been pouring tonnes of coolant water into the reactors and spent nuclear fuel pools. But radiation-contaminated water has been filling up buildings and trenches at the plant, obstructing work to restore the lost functions.

(Agencies)