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The radioactive water that hospitalized Fukushima nuclear plant workers with burns may have been caused by a crack in Reactor No. 3, a more serious concern than a leak from pipes or valves.

The contaminated water that the workers came into contact with had "10,000 times the amount of radiation as would be found in water circulating from a normally operating reactor," Japanese nuclear agency official Hidehiko Nishiyama told Reuters. And it does appear that officials are taking the possibility of a leak very seriously. The New York Times is reporting that the government is urging a "wider" area of evacuation around the plant in lieu of the recent developments

Yesterday, the Los Angeles Times reported that radioactive water had seeped into the boots of the two workers while they were laying power cables in the basement of reactor no. 3, burning their skin and forcing them to be hospitalized. A third worker escaped relatively unscathed after being better "protected by his clothing." All three were equipped with radiation detection devices that sounded an alarm after initial contact.

The instance, the Times notes, was a unique situation at Fukuhsima because "previous exposures to radiation have been through airborne contact or direct exposure to X-rays and gamma rays being emitted from the reactor facilities." The radioactive burns the workers sustained "could be mitigated" by washing the skin to remove radioactive isotopes.

The new information about a possible reactor breach comes at time when Japanese officials contemplate the notion that the sea water they've been using to douse the crippled nuclear reactors may, in fact, be hindering the effort to resolve the crisis by corroding the equipment with residual salt.

Pictured above: One of the first pictures to emerge from inside the Fukushima plant shows the inside of the control room for reactors 1 and 2.

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