Radiation 1,600 times higher than normal levels has been detected in an area about 20 km from the Fukushima nuclear power plant No.1, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) officials have said.

Data collected by an IAEA team show that radiation levels of 161 microsieverts per hour have been detected in the town of Namie , Fukushima prefecture, Kyodo News cited IAEA officials as saying.

The government has set an exclusion zone covering areas within a 20-km radius of the plant and has urged people within 20 to 30 km to stay indoors.

The Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) said on March 22 it was considering construction of gas-fuelled power plants to ensure stable electricity supply for the coming summer.

After the March 11 disaster, TEPCO urged the reopening of closed thermal power plants to provide an additional 5 million kW of electricity in March. However, Japan will still face a shortfall of about 8 million kW of electricity during the summer, even if all thermal power plants are brought into operation.

On the same day, TEPCO said it had resumed electricity supply for reactors 1, 2, 3 and 4 at Fukushima nuclear plant No.1.

TEPCO also began studying the ongoing nuclear crisis' impact on the sea, after abnormally high levels of radioactive materials were detected in seawater near the crisis-hit nuclear power plant on March 21.

According to Tokyo Electric, radioactive iodine-131 was detected on March 21 in the seawater samples at levels 126.7 times higher than the legal concentration limit. Levels of cesium-134 were 24.8 times higher and those of cesium-137 16.5 times higher while a trace amount of cobalt-58 was detected in a sample of seawater taken near the plant.

The TEPCO executive board said the company will coordinate with relevant agencies to assess seawater radiation levels.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said at a press conference that it was too early to evaluate the impact of the contaminated seawater on fishery products, but the government will start analysing it soon, Kyodo News reported.

In a related development, the Bank of Japan (BOJ) on March 22 injected an additional 2 trillion JPY (about 24.7 billion USD) into the monetary market in order to assist financial institutions to overcome the aftermath of the disaster. This was BOJ’s sixth injection since the disaster, taking total capital to 40 trillion JPY.

According to police statistics, the quake-tsunami toll had by March 22 climbed to 9,070 dead and 12,645 missing./.