By Kyung Lah/CNN.com
Tokyo (CNN) — The operator of Japan’s crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant has detected the highest radiation levels at the facility since the initial earthquake and tsunami five months ago, a company spokesman said Tuesday.
The ultra-high levels of radiation were measured Monday afternoon on the grounds of the facility, between reactors No. 1 and 2, Tokyo Electric Power Company spokesman Naoki Tsunoda. The lethal radiation was found at the bottom of a ventilation tower.
The power company immediately cordoned off the area and is currently investigating the cause of the high radiation and how it will affect the recovery work at the plant, Tsunoda said.
The radiation levels — 10,000 millisieverts per hour — are high enough that a single 60-minute dose would be fatal to humans within weeks.
The Fukushima Daiichi disaster occurred when a 15-meter (48-foot) tsunami inundated the coastal plant after northern Japan’s historic March 11 earthquake.
The flooding knocked out the cooling systems for the three operating reactors and their associated spent fuel pools, causing the reactors to overheat and hydrogen gas explosions that blew apart the building housing reactors No. 1 and 3.
Another hydrogen blast is believed to have damaged the inside of the No. 2 reactor, while engineers are struggling to manage an estimated 100,000 tons of highly contaminated water that was used to cool the reactors during the emergency.
Tokyo Electric Power Company projects the situation won’t be fully over until sometime between October and January. The disaster has caused Japan to rethink its commitment to nuclear energy, and Germany has since announced plans to abandon atomic power entirely by 2022.