Saturday 14 January 2023

Japan says it will release more than a million tonnes of water into the sea from the destroyed Fukushima nuclear power plant this year. Fukushima’s reactor cores have been in direct contact with groundwater since 2011 when the accident occurred leaving toxic radioactive waters leaking at an alarming rate into the Pacific.

Bags of radioactive waste are seen piled up at a temporary storage site in Tomioka, Fukushima Prefecture| KYODO

Japan says it will release more than a million tonnes of water into the sea from the destroyed Fukushima nuclear power plant this year.

The Tokyo Electric Power Company said the disaster would take around four decades to clean up the site. But after almost 12 years TEPCO, the owners of the stricken plant are still no closer to discovering the technology to finish the job and Ernie Gunderson owner of the Fairwinds website, claimed in 2019, that the Fukushima site will never be safe due to radioactive isotopes spreading across the site and surrounding landscape for the coming 300 to 250,000 years. Fukushima’s reactor cores have been in direct contact with groundwater since 2011 when the accident occurred leaving toxic radioactive waters leaking at an alarming rate into the Pacific. 

After treatment the levels of most radioactive particles meet the national standard, the operator said. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) says the proposal is safe, but neighbouring countries have voiced concern.

The 2011 Fukushima disaster was the worst nuclear accident since Chornobyl. Decommissioning has already started but could take four decades."We expect the timing of the release would be sometime during this spring or summer," said chief cabinet secretary Hirokazu Matsuno on Friday, adding that the government will wait for a "comprehensive report" from IAEA before the release.

Every day, the plant produces 100 cubic metres of contaminated water, which is a mixture of groundwater, seawater and water used to keep the reactors cool. It is then filtered and stored in tanks. With more than 1.3 million cubic metres on site, space is running out. The water is filtered for most radioactive isotopes, but the level of tritium is above the national standard, operator Tepco said. Experts say tritium is very difficult to remove from water and is only harmful to humans in large doses.

However, neighbouring countries and local fishermen oppose the proposal, which was approved by the Japanese government in 2021. The Pacific Islands Forum has criticised Japan for the lack of transparency. Pacific peoples are coastal peoples, and the ocean continues to be an integral part of their subsistence living," Forum Secretary General Henry Puna told the news website Stuff.

"Japan is breaking the commitment that their leaders have arrived at when we held our high-level summit in 2021."It was agreed that we would have access to all independent scientific and verifiable scientific evidence before this discharge takes place. Unfortunately, Japan has not been co-operating."

North-eastern Japan was rocked by a magnitude 9.0 earthquake on 11 March 2011, which then triggered a giant tsunami. The waves hit the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, flooding three reactors and sparking a major disaster. Authorities set up an exclusion zone which grew larger and larger as radiation leaked from the plant, forcing more than 150,000 people to evacuate from the area. The zone remains in place.

Past concerns. . . 

Radioactive caesium five times above permitted levels in Japan had been detected in black rockfish caught in northeastern Fukushima Prefecture, according to a Feb 2021 announcement by a local fishing association. Some 500 becquerels per kilogram of cesium was found in black rockfish caught at a depth of 24 meters about 8.8 kilometres off the town of Shinchi, exceeding the national standard level of 100 becquerels per kilogram. The Fukushima Prefectural Federation of Fisheries Co-operative Associations halted the distribution of the fish until it can confirm their safety.

The voluntary suspension of seafood shipments by the fishing body marked the first time since October 2019, when 53 becquerels per kilogram of radioactive cesium was detected in a white sea perch, exceeding the standard level set by the group at 50 becquerels per kilogram. The fishing association has been conducting test fishing since June 2012 on a limited scale. After shipping restrictions on common skate were lifted in February 2020, the shipment of all fish was permitted. The fishing body resumed full fishing operations in April 2021. (Japanese original by Hideyuki Kakinuma, Fukushima Bureau).

One million ton headache!

A report by Karyn Nishimura for AFP News in October 2019 claimed the grounds of the ravaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant sit a million-tonne headache for the plant's operators and Japan's government: tank after tank of water contaminated with radioactive elements. What to do with the enormous amount of water, which grows by around 150 tonnes a day. The water comes from several different sources: some is used for cooling at the plant, groundwater that seeps into the plant daily, along with rainwater, add to the problem. Each can hold 1,200 tonnes but most of them are already full. At the end of 2020, all the tanks will be full and the toxic water will have to be dumped into the Pacific Ocean. Two years later and the tanks still litter the Fukushima plant.

American and Canadian fish contaminated.

In 2017, A study by the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa revealed almost 50% of fish consumed on the islands of Hawai’i were contaminated with caesium 134 the radioactive finger-print of Fukushima. The report also showed that migrating organisms can transport the Fukushima-signature (caesium 134) over significant distances as they showed detectable 134Cs (6.3±1.5 Bq/kg) in Pacific bluefin tuna caught off the California coast only a year after the incident. Another study found caesium 134 in longfin tuna (Albacore) along the western coast of the US just one year after the Fukushima disaster.

Alaska too

The recent findings as you might expect are being played down and the usual sound-bites are telling us "it's nothing to worry about," something the powers that be have been saying for more than 10 years now, with and still they are no nearer to fixing the problem. The latest study by Alaska Sea Grant agent, Gay Sheffield claimed, a slightly elevated level of radioactive contamination connected to the Fukushima nuclear disaster has been detected in the northern Bering Sea. The level of caesium-137, a radioactive isotope, is extremely low and not considered a health concern, according to state epidemiologists. The sampling, conducted by residents of Saint Lawrence Island, documents the Fukushima plume’s northern edge arriving in the Bering Sea for the first time and shows levels of caesium-137 higher than they were before the 2011 nuclear power plant accident in Japan.

The latest study shows an increase in levels of Fukushima-related contamination off the shores of Alaska, regular readers of The Big Wobble will know Bill Laughing-Bear has been keeping an eye on fish in Alaskan waters and has warned us all of rising radioactive contamination for years now. Recently other warnings have been published as the slow drip-drip-drop of information is slowly increasing.

South Korea has retained a ban on imports of seafood from the Fukushima region that was imposed after the nuclear disaster and summoned a senior Japanese embassy official last year to explain how Tokyo planned to deal with the Fukushima water problem.

In the Wake of Fukushima: Radiocesium Inventories of Selected North Pacific Fish (PDF Download Available). Here

Read, Atomic Balm Part 1: Prime Minister Abe Uses The Tokyo Olympics As Snake Oil Cure For The Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Meltdowns

Read Gay Grant's full findings here

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