TOKYO, March 9 (UPI) -- Plutonium levels at Japan's Fukushima nuclear power plant aren't much higher than what is in the environment from Cold War-era nuclear tests, researchers say.
Researchers examining the area within a roughly 20-mile radius of the damaged plant found levels of radioactive plutonium were about double those from residual fallout from U.S. and former Soviet Union above-ground nuclear tests at the dawn of the Cold War, levels still well below representing any threat to humans, the Los Angeles Times reported.
The paper was published Thursday in the journal Scientific Reports, days before the anniversary of the March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsunami that struck northern Japan, causing thousands of deaths and widespread destruction.
Lead author Jian Zheng of the National Institute of Radiological Sciences in Chiba, Japan, said the total amount of plutonium-241 released from the power plant was about 10,000 times less than that from the 1986 Chernobyl accident in Ukraine.
Other experts agreed.
"Fukushima was no Chernobyl," said Dale Klein, a former Nuclear Regulatory Commission chairman and co-author of a report on Fukushima for the American Nuclear Society.