The radiation levels they are recording are of radioactive iodine and that has a life of about 8 days, the levels are so low you would have to be subjected to them for a year before any harm was done to you.
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many tons of water have been poured onto the fuel rods to cool them down. The water that comes out of the reactors is badly contaminated, and it has to go somewhere. It has found its way into tunnels under the plant, and is now in the ground - something that has been feared since this crisis first started.
The very real problem facing engineers right now is that the cooling system needs to be restarted. Things would suddenly look a lot better if that was done successfully, but nobody can get near enough to do it, so more water has to be dumped over the reactors. It's a cycle that must be broken, but it's looking increasingly certain that the only way it can be done is if people deliberately expose themselves to high levels of radiation.