Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO), operator of the disaster-stricken Fukushima nuclear power facility, has admitted for the first time that radioactive groundwater may be seeping out of the nuclear plant area and out into sea. In tests earlier this month, the embattled utility company said that groundwater samples have shown an increase in levels of cancer-causing cesium-134, but that the contaminated groundwater was contained at the current location by concrete foundations and steel sheets. TEPCO has changed its assessment of the situation on Monday.
“We believe that contaminated water has flown out to the sea,” a TEPCO spokesman said on Monday. The spokesman also insisted the impact of the radioactive water on the ocean would be limited, but the citizens of Fukushima have heard TEPCO make the same claims before, only to take them back when they were pressured to reveal damaging information. “Seawater data have shown no abnormal rise in the levels of radioactivity,” the same spokesman added. At a news conference in Tokyo, another company representative said that TEPCO “sincerely apologizes for worrying many people, especially people in Fukushima.”
To reduce the contamination levels of groundwater, the utility operator said that it would step up efforts to consolidate soil near the harbor in the nuclear facility. Groundwater – in this case contaminated by radioactive elements released by the disastrous meltdowns of the reactors in the plant – usually flows out to sea, and environmental experts say that this kind of leakage may affect marine life, and eventually the people who eat produce from the sea. Tetsu Nozaki, chairman of Fukushima Prefectual Federation of Fisheries Co-operative Associations, said that everyone was deeply concerned at TEPCO’s new revelations. “It was quite shocking,” he in an interview. “TEPCO’s explanation is totally different from the one in the past.” Fishing around Fukushima has been halted and the Japanese and local government has banned beef, milk, mushrooms and vegetables from being produced in the surrounding areas.