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Fukushima water leaks still affect local fishermen


April 22, 2013 — The effects of the devastating earthquake more than two years ago are still being felt in Japan. The Fukushima nuclear power station has had numerous radioactive water leaks since the disaster and local fishermen don't believe that's going to change anytime soon.


Fishermen are frustrated to hear of further leaks two years after the quake and tsunami
Fishermen are frustrated to hear of further leaks two years after the quake and tsunami

Local fishermen in Japan's Iwaki region say it's like throwing money away. 

Any catch that is made, some worth more than $3000 U.S., has to be sent to the lab for testing and cannot be sold. 

"We can't put them on the market, there's nothing we can do," says fisherman Mitsunori Suzuki. 

It was the nuclear disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi Power Plant, which destroyed several fishermen's livelihoods. 

Contaminated water used to cool highly radioactive nuclear fuel debris was released straight into the ocean by TEPCO, the plant operator, in the weeks after the earthquake and tsunami. 

Now, two years later, the fishermen are frustrated to hear of further leaks. 

"TEPCO say they'll dig a hole right in front of the reactor building and throw that groundwater into the ocean before it gets contaminated, Suzuki says. "But what's happened now is that there's a leak in a reservoir above, so that groundwater won't be clean." 

One of TEPCO's many problems is that groundwater is leaking into the damaged reactor buildings, 400 cubic metres per day, on top of the 300 cubic metres it has to pump through to cool the nuclear fuel debris sunk deep inside the reactor vessels. 

That water gets contaminated too and all of it needs to be stored somewhere.

Leaks in the underground reservoir system mean TEPCO's having to resort to 900 overground tanks, 80 percent of which are full.

It will be a long time before the market regains faith in a Fukushima-branded fish
It will be a long time before the market regains faith in a Fukushima-branded fish

Last week, inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency examined the site to check on the decommissioning process and to see for themselves whether TEPCO's measures to deal with its water issues are effective.

Namely, a better purification technology, still in testing, which TEPCO says would make the contaminated water safe enough to release. A pumping system to try and lower the groundwater level so it won't seep into the reactors is needed as well.

The fishermen however, say they lost their faith in TEPCO a long time ago. 

They say that although the fish they're catching have trace radioactivity below the food safety level, they can't sell them.

It will be a long time before the market regains faith in a Fukushima-branded fish.

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