via Japan Real Time / Sep 18, 2013 / Recent decisions by two local fishing cooperatives to delay a resumption of fishing near the Fukushima nuclear plant highlight the confusion over ocean contamination. The cooperatives decided not to fish in the area because they have no hope of selling their catch, not because marine life in the area is unsafe to eat.
The decisions suggest it is the perception of a health risk not an actual health risk per se that is limiting fishing in the area. At the same time, a research team whose livelihood does not depend on fishing says there are still hotspots of contamination on the seabed in surrounding areas.
Safety concerns have also strengthened recently following leaks of contaminated water at the plant that its operator said could have reached the seawater enclosed by the plant’s port. The latest leaks prompted South Korea to ban imports of marine products from the area.
Amid this ongoing uncertainty over the safety of produce from the seas around Fukushima, Japan’s nuclear watchdog has decided to integrate existing monitoring efforts and present a clearer picture of the situation.
Since the Fukushima disaster in March 2011, several government organizations have sampled and checked seawater and seafood around the region in operations that have largely run independently of one another.
A new panel set up by the Nuclear Regulation Authority aims to unify these efforts and provide clearer information to the international community.
“We will provide data to the world in a way that is easy to understand,” said Kayoko Nakamura, an NRA commissioner and chair of the new ocean monitoring panel.
While the latest leaks have generated headlines around the world, some Japanese lawmakers, government officials, and fishermen in Fukushima have railed at the way the news was conveyed. They point out that the data shows the contaminated water has remained within the port area of the plant, and that radioactive materials from the leaks have not been detected in the surrounding ocean.
Fukushima Daiichi’s port area is currently separated from the ocean by concrete sea walls, whose narrow mouth is closed by a special curtain installed after the accident.
The news that 300 metric tons of highly contaminated water leaked from a makeshift storage tank into the soil at the plant, helped trigger the decision by Seoul to ban imports of seafood from Fukushima and seven nearby prefectures.
A Japanese government delegation visited Seoul at the weekend but was unable to get the ban lifted, despite emphasizing that all marine products from Fukushima are checked for radiation.
SOURCE: Wall Street Journal
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –