In what must the most dumbfounding state of denial seen in modern times, both the Japanese government and utility Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) are disputing the recent study that showed radiation from the Fukushima nuclear plant is leaking into the ocean. 18 months after the March 2011 nuclear disaster, the U.S.’s Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, a respected research group, reported that 40% of the fish caught off the coast of Fukushima were still testing positive for radioactive contamination above the government’s safety own limits.
Scientist Ken Buesseler of Woods Hole stated that while it was expected to still find some levels of contamination, 40% was far too high of a measurement after a year and a half had passed. He said there are only two explanations for radiation remaining in the food chain like this: either there is a source of radioactive cesium somewhere on the seafloor, or it is being discharged into the sea by contaminated groundwater from the Fukushima plant.
TEPCO and the Japanese government each deny one of the possibilities. The Fisheries Agency, operated by the government, says the contamination is sinking deeper into the seabed and therefore can’t be still entering the food chain. TEPCO, on the other hand, states there are no leaks of tainted ground water at the Fukushima nuclear site. A spokesman for the utility company says their studies of the seabed show low levels of contamination among the organisms that fish eat, so they cannot clearly identify why fish are turning up with so much radiation. TEPCO further suggests the theory that the radioactive particles that were distributed into the mountains are slowly being washing down into rivers and eventually making their way to the seabed.
Speaking to Radio Australia, Buesseler pointed out that TEPCO is using millions of liters of water to cool the Fukushima reactors, and the fact that so much radiation is turning up in the ocean is proof that the utility is not able to contain it all once it has been contaminated. The Fisheries Agency has pointed out (probably to TEPCO’s disfavor) that even if the cesium particles were washing down from the mountains, it wouldn’t be enough to contaminate such a large number of species. Although their theory is just as absurd: that the cesium is gradually being absorbed into the seabed, and once that occurs, it’s not so easily absorbed/ingested by organisms.
The results of Wood Hole’s study highlights the fact that it will be at least several decades before fish from off of Fukushima’s coast will be safe to catch and eat. The ocean, food chain, and Japan’s fishing industry have all been irreparably damaged by the Fukushima crisis, and that damage is still ongoing. The Japanese government and TEPCO’s excuses are only wasting time that should be put towards finding a solution.