A Fukushima fisherman’s tale: Radioactive water from the Daiichi plant is flowing into the ocean at a rate of 300 tons a day

Thursday, August 8, 2013
By Paul Martin


Old habits die hard among fishermen. Yoshio Ichida still rises for work every day at 3am and checks the engine of his five-ton boat. Then, as the sun rises over the Pacific and the trawler bobs gently in Soma wharf, he switches off the engine and gazes out at a sea too poisoned to fish.

Just 27 miles up the coast from this small harbour town, radioactivity from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant leaks into the ocean, and into the sardines, mackerel and squid that three generations of Mr Ichida’s family once caught.

Engineers are fighting what appears to be a losing battle to stop the leaks from worsening.

Japan’s Nuclear Regulatory Authority (NRA) warned this week that the build-up of contaminated groundwater at the plant is on the verge of tipping out of control and that its operator, Tokyo Electric Power (Tepco), “lacked a sense of crisis” about the looming damage to the Pacific.

“Right now, we have an emergency,” said Shinji Kinjo, the head of an NRA task force. Mr Kinjo warned that leaking water had already flowed over a barrier built by engineers to block it. “The water could accelerate very quickly,” he said.

A survey released today by Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry said water laced with caesium and other radioactive materials is flowing into the ocean at a rate of 300 tons a day. The ministry, which oversees the nuclear industry, said it could not rule out the possibility that the water has been leaking into the Pacific since the crisis began more than two years ago.

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