Spring 2019 Nukewatch Quarterly
The Japanese fishing community and watchdog groups have raised alarms over government plans to dump over one million tons of highly contaminated waste water from the three devastated Fukushima nuclear reactors into the Pacific Ocean.
The London Telegraph reported last October that Japan’s “plan to release the approximately 1.09 million tons of water currently stored in 900 tanks… has triggered a fierce backlash from local residents and environmental organizations, as well as groups in South Korea and Taiwan fearful that radioactivity from the second-worst nuclear disaster in history might wash up on their shores.”
Making matters worse, Greenpeace issued a report last January 22 slamming the dumping plan, reminding readers that Tokyo Electric Power Co. or TEPCO—owners of the destroyed reactors—admitted in 2018 that its water decontamination system had never worked. The Telegraph noted, “[T]he Advanced Liquid Processing System (ALPS) has consistently failed to eliminate a cocktail of other radioactive elements, including iodine, ruthenium, rhodium, antimony, tellurium, cobalt and strontium.” Further, “In late September , Tepco was forced to admit that around 80% of the water stored at the Fukushima site still contains radioactive substances above legal levels…” the Telegraph said.
The South China Morning Post reported, “Despite the much-vaunted ALPS plant… TEPCO has confirmed that levels of strontium-90 are more than 100 times above legally permitted levels in 65,000 tons of water that have already been through the ALPS system.” Some of the “treated” waste water still has strontium-90 concentrations 20,000 times the allowable limit.
Japan’s fishing community was outraged about the dumping threat during a series of public hearings last year that were designed to convince skeptical observers that pouring more radiation in the Pacific is a good idea. The magnitude-9 earthquake, and the tsunami it caused on March 11, 2011, left more than 27,500 people dead or missing in northeast Japan and triggered the largest oceanic radioactive contamination in history.
Fukushima’s contaminated water continues to flow into the Pacific at a rate of around 2 billion Becquerels a day, Japan Times reported on March 29, 2018.
Dumping Radioactive Water Poisons Fish
Since Fukushima’s meltdowns began in 2011, there has been regular news of seafood contamination. As recently as Feb. 2, the Japan Times reported that cesium-137 far above Japan’s legal limit was detected in fish caught off Fukushima. According to the local Fishery Cooperative Association, skate that were caught over 180 feet deep were found with 161 Becquerels-per-kilogram of radioactive cesium-137, exceeding the allowable limit of 100 Bq-per-kg.
Cesium-137 from Fukushima has been found in fish in the US and Canadian waters. The Haida Gwaii Observer in Queen Charlotte, British Columbia reported March 16, 2018 on a study by Simon Fraser University. Author Krysztof Starosta discovered that cesium-137 “levels found in both the salmon and soil samples remained below Canada’s safety guidelines, posing minimal health risk to B.C.’s salmon and human populations.” The use of the word “minimal” by Starosta is not a scientific term of art. “Minimal” means there is some risk, especially considering the cumulative effect of eating contaminated fish over many years.
“You can’t say there is absolutely zero risk because any radiation is assumed to carry at least some small risk,” said Delvan Neville of Oregon State University’s Department of Nuclear Engineering & Radiation Health Physics. The Oregon Statesman Journal reported on Neville’s 2014 study which found that cesium-137 from Fukushima in albacore tuna caught off Oregon’s coast had tripled since the three meltdowns. In 2012, albacore and blue fin tuna caught off the west coast, were also found contaminated.
Until 2018, TEPCO repeatedly claimed, and news reporters often noted, that its “advanced [ALPS] processes had reduced the cancer-causing radioactive contaminants” such as strontium-90, iodine-129 and ruthenium-106 in the water “to non-detectible levels.”