An operator at the Fukushima nuclear plant in Japan has said radiation readings are 18 times higher than previously measured.
The staff member said they had found highly radioactive water dripping from a pipe used to connect two coolant tanks and that it had been patched up using tape.
The discovery of the pipe came a day after Tokyo Electric Power Co (Tepco) said it found new radiation hotspots at four sites around coolant tanks, with one reading at 1,800 millisieverts per hour – a dose that would kill a human left exposed to it in four hours.
Last week the plant operator admitted 300 tonnes of toxic water had seeped out of one of the vast containers – one of around 1,000 on the site – before anyone had noticed.
The spill sparked fears the toxic water may have seeped into the nearby ocean and was categorised as a Level 3 event, the most serious category since the meltdown itself.
The plant was severely damaged in March 2011 following an earthquake and tsunami which killed thousands of people and displaced many more.
In response to growing domestic and international criticism over Tepco’s handling of the crisis, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe promised the world his government would play a greater role in stopping leaks of highly radioactive water.
“The accident in Fukushima cannot be left entirely to Tokyo Electric Power. There is a need for the government to play a role with a sense of urgency, including taking measures to deal with the waste water,” he said.
Mr Abe’s pledge came as the world’s nuclear watchdog urged Japan to explain more clearly what is happening at Fukushima and avoid sending “confusing messages” about the disaster.
Sky’s foreign affairs correspondent Lisa Holland visited Fukushima on August 23 and was given access to government efforts to restore confidence in the crippled plant.
She said there was little sign of life in the residential areas around the facility and spoke to people who said they will not go back to their homes until they have been told the truth about the dangers by ministers.