“Serious” radioactive water leak at Fukushima reactor in Japan

I wouldn’t touch any fish they catch at Fukushima, Japan.  The famous reactor that nearly melted down two years ago after the huge tsunami, is now leaking highly radioactive water to the point that the Japanese are raising the warning level to a 3, which means “serious.”

People have suspected leaks from Fukushima for a while now, but it was only last month that the power company in charge of the plant, Tepco, admitted, as much.

According to CBS, of the 150 types of fish they used to catch at Fukushima, there are only 16 types now considered safe to eat.  And the fish sold at market even have a sign next to them displaying the radioactive test results so you’ll know they’re safe to eat.

As if.

Things are so bad that one fisherman is now saying he’s not even sure it’s safe to eat his own catch.

Fish via Shutterstock

Fish via Shutterstock

It’s sad how these has decimated the livelihoods of so many people.  But I just can’t imagine eating any of that stuff.  And now there are concerns – though some call them unfounded – about seafood caught on the US west coast.

It’s bad enough how polluted fish has become over the years.  I’d reported a few months ago that 84% of the world’s fish aren’t safe to be eaten more than once a month.  That’s a scary figure.  Here’s more from that post:

A study finds that 84% of the world’s fish tested was not safe to eat more than once per month because of mercury poisoning. And 13% of the fish isn’t safe to eat, period. Though honestly, I’m not sure how happy I am eating something that’s so poisonous you can only eat one serving per month.

In the United States the number is better.  Though in the US the study only looked at one fish, Alaskan Halibut (which I’ve had, it’s yummy).  43% of Alaskan Halibut was only safe to eat once a month because of its mercury levels.

And in Japan and Uruguay, the study found that “Mercury concentrations in fish from sites in Japan and Uruguay were so high that no consumption is recommended.”

Then again, as Chris pointed out a few months back, if you think fish is bad, don’t even think about eating red meat.  Especially the processed stuff.

Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Instagram | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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35 Responses to ““Serious” radioactive water leak at Fukushima reactor in Japan”

  1. Nazism says:

    Fresh leak deepens Fukushima crisis
    PUBLISHED AUGUST 22, 2013 The Business Times
    Japan’s Kyodo news service reported that six more young people from Fukushima prefecture have been diagnosed with thyroid cancer since Japan’s worst nuclear accident occurred there in March 2011, bringing to 18 the number of cancer cases among people under 18 at the time of the incident. 25 other cases are also suspected.

  2. Nazism says:

    Japan: 18 juvenile detected with thyroid cancer in Fukushima
    TeleRadio-Moldova 21 August 2013 | 16:03
    Tokyo Electric Power Company which manages the Fukushima-1 nuclear power plant, said on Saturday that the wall built underground to slow leakage of contaminated water into the ocean could not halt the flow of radioactive water leaks, Europa Press reported on Sunday.
    The number of confirmed cancer cases is currently 18, six more than in the previous report dating from June. The number of suspected cases increased from 15 to 25.

  3. Levi McIntyre says:

    Take this as a hint to stop eating fish, they have suffered enough and we need to think about what we are doing for the sake of our descendants. You will rarely need to see a doctor if you grow your own vegetables and it is great fun also.

  4. neroden says:

    Yeah, but who else is going to be willing to actually invade Japan?

  5. neroden says:

    Remember, solar energy IS nuclear energy — the sun is a giant nuclear fusion reactor! Absolutely the safest form of nuclear energy.

  6. Ford Prefect says:

    Nukes can be made relatively “safe,” or they can be relatively “cost effective,” but they can’t be both… which is why it was always the wrong choice. Fact is, the US adopted nukes to support the nuclear weapons program, in addition to mind boggling profits due to secrecy and corruption.

    They knew about Thorium reactors in the mid-’60s and ruled them out because the spent cores couldn’t be processed into warheads. It was all about weapons infrastructure and had nothing to do with “safety” or “efficiency.”

  7. Ford Prefect says:

    I would like that to be the case. I know that in Japan, it’s been routine at all the major fishmarkets since Fukushima. Fact is, no one there wants to be responsible for feeding Cesium-infused fish, so they use geiger counters on everything now. Here, it would be a sampling of 1/1000 or something similar, but even that would be better than what exists now, which is nothing. Indeed, if anyone starts testing, it’s likely the government will come down on the lab like a ton of Nagasaki bricks.

    In the end, not testing will kill the Pacific seafood industry before overfishing does. I’d pay a bit more just to know that Halibut isn’t going to kill me later. Who wouldn’t?

  8. Monoceros Forth says:

    Let’s be fair. There are ways to exploit nuclear energy that don’t invite the possibility of some kind of catastrophic criticality. There is, for example, the radioisotope thermoelectric battery, which uses ordinary radioactive decay to generate heat which is then turned (rather inefficiently) into usable energy. The difficulty with these devices is that they are not terribly efficient, though they have the advantage of being self-contained and requiring no moving parts, hence their use in space probes.

    I’m of such a terribly mixed mind when it comes to nuclear energy, I admit. Part of me marvels at the elegance of the idea. All that energy, just from letting a naturally occurring substance do its thing! Even the Chernobyl disaster doesn’t entirely dissuade me. Look into the timeline of that disaster and you see what happens when a crew of idiots systematically overrides every single safety precaution put in place to keep the reactor from blowing itself to pieces. Even though the reactor design being a sketchy one it wasn’t really the reactor’s fault per se that night, not with that crew of morons in charge of it…yet, on the other hand, one has to ask, what good is an industrial process that can result, in however low a probability, in rendering a thousand square miles of land off-limits to human habitation?

    Solar energy is really the way to go in the long term. Nuclear energy ought to be no more than a stopgap, if adopted at all.

  9. milli2 says:

    I want to scream every time someone says that nuclear energy is the safest form of energy out there. In what universe is it smart to play with a technology that is impossible to control when disaster occurs and takes hundreds of thousands of years for the negative effects to run its course. Its completely insane.

  10. Hue-Man says:

    It may become permanent if water temperatures hit record high levels every year: “A ban on salmon fishing on the Fraser River announced last week will hit local First Nations hard and take a bite out of local guiding company revenues.

    The closure, which applies to all species of salmon from the Alexandra Bridge in the Fraser Canyon to the mouth of the Fraser, was announced Thursday as a measure to protect vulnerable sockeye salmon stocks.

    Lower-than-expected numbers combined with record-high water temperatures that could kill up to 70 per cent of returning sockeye before they have spawned have prompted the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) to shut down not only sockeye fisheries, but all salmon openings to prevent sockeye from being lost as a bycatch.” http://www.chilliwacktimes.com/news/fraser-fishing-ban-due-to-warm-water-1.594030

    Here’s what DFO forecast in MARCH 2013: “The 2013 forecast indicates a one in ten chance (10% probability) the total Fraser Sockeye return will be at or below 1,554,000 (lowest observed on this cycle) and a nine in ten chance (90% probability) it will be at or below 15,608,000, assuming productivity is
    similar to past observations. The mid-point of this distribution (50% probability) is 4,765,000 (there exists a one in two chance the return will be at or below this value).” http://www.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/csas-sccs/Publications/SAR-AS/2012/2012_074-eng.pdf

  11. karlInSanDiego says:

    Reactors 1, 2, and 3 ALL experienced full meltdown at Daiichi and an ongoing disaster is the suspended reactor 4 spent fuel pool. Agree with the problems of food contamination, but everything you will read in the mainstream media is through the filter of Japan, the IAEA, and Tepco. Things are actually much worse, and since the moment they lost containment and began dumping seawater, they’ve been flushing radioactive waste back into the ground and in to the sea which is adjoining the entire plant.

  12. Monoceros Forth says:

    Mm, possibly so. There’s a reason all the work I’ve done lately is pulling weeds and planting boxwoods…

  13. iamlegion says:

    Yeah, but this is going far beyond the wholly-owned Japanese gov’t – this has the potential to fuck up large parts of the Pacific Rim. Tepco’s only immune inside Japan…

  14. Indigo says:

    Catfish. River caught or farm raised. Catfish. See? Sometimes it pays off to live in the South. :-)

  15. Indigo says:

    A comment like that is unlikely to be casually tossed into a recruiting conversation without forethought. I’d take it as a fair warning.

  16. Monoceros Forth says:

    For what it’s worth, some months ago I applied for an analyst’s position at a seafood-processing plant (didn’t get it, of course–I’m nobody’s idea of a promising candidate) and it was casually mentioned to me that adding a testing protocol for radioisotopes was being considered. Now one offhand remark by one guy at one company doesn’t mean a hell of a lot but I’m thinking that there’s some possibility that radioisotope testing will soon be made standard and the company was preparing for that.

  17. Ford Prefect says:

    Well, overfishing alone is putting the kabosh on seafood altogether. Pollution is doing the rest of the job. There are only a few “farmers” that do it in a way that’s sustainable and healthy. I’m aware of only one fish farm that is used as sushi and they’re in New Zealand growing salmon. Most fish farms are seriously dodgy, especially in China, where they feed toxic waste to fish just to get rid of it.

    A report just came out here in San Diego that local fish stocks are down 78%, which is probably what’s killing off the sea lion population. It’s not just commercially fished species, but all of them. Corporations will always tell us we can have it all and pray we won’t notice our various diseases until it’s too late to sue them. Soon enough, we won’t be able to sue them, much less regulate them in any way. TPP will finally rid corporations of any need to behave decently at all. We about to reap what they’ve sown.

    Thanks yet again, Mr. Obama!

  18. Monoceros Forth says:

    I just miss salmon. Damn, I miss salmon.

  19. Naja pallida says:

    The sad part is, corporations are now telling us that we should be eating farm-raised fish as a way of avoiding mercury contamination. They’re also citing as a way of being more ecologically friendly, because it doesn’t stress wild populations. Without mentioning how disgusting many fish farms are, necessitating huge amounts of antibiotics, antifungals, and other chemical agents to keep the fish alive in crowded, unnatural conditions until they’re large enough to send to market. Feeding them crud and scraps left over from other products.

    The USDA is also way behind on paying attention to the farm-raised fish market, so right now it is possible to farm raise fish in southern China, and then sell them as Alaskan. They don’t even have to be a species that is found natively in Alaska. Doubly confused by the wild-caught market, because if a fish is caught off the coast of Alaska, but sent to China for to be processed, it becomes a product of China. China is one of Alaska’s primary fish exporters, and we re-import most of that fish back to our supermarkets. If we just cut out the middle man, we’d probably have better quality seafood.

  20. Monoceros Forth says:

    That’s true. That was the Minimata problem in a nutshell, as I recall: mercury was discharged as a byproduct from some industrial process–I think it was mercury-catalyzed addition of water to acetylene to produce acetaldehyde, which would have used some inorganic mercury(II) compound like mercuric sulphate or mercuric oxide. But that inorganic mercury (toxic enough but not horribly so) was methylated biochemically as it moved through the food chain, and methylmercury compounds are just the worst.

    But that just highlights the flip side of what I’m talking about: the same processes that render mercury less toxic overall–chemical binding to sulphur and selenium–are also processes that insure that mercury never really leaves the environment. Once bound to proteins by interaction with cysteine &c. it tends to stay there.

  21. Naja pallida says:

    Stable mercury compounds by themselves are generally not considered a significant source of contamination, but in the presence of sulfate-reducing bacteria, which are in pretty much all untreated water sources, methylmercury is created through their natural processes… which is then readily absorbed by algae, and it just moves up the food chain from there. So, really, almost any form of mercury contamination that ends up in water, is going to, at least in part, eventually be broken down into a form which results in bioaccumulation. There has always been measurable amounts of mercury in seawater, but the advent of industrial scale human-made mercury-waste has got us to the point where we are now.

  22. c says:

    The form of mercury that is in fish is methylmercury. Methylmercury and metallic mercury vapors are more harmful than other forms, because more mercury in these forms reaches the brain. Studies show that even low levels of mercury exposure harm the nervous system, especially for children. Visit http://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/toxfaqs/tf.asp?id=113&tid=24. Yeah, red meat isn’t great for you but, as far as we know, it doesn’t destroy our nervous systems (OK, mad cow aside). There are lots of studies out there about mercury levels in fish, in humans, and the resulting health effects. This isn’t “new” or a wild guess.

    We can keep mercury out of our environment (and thus out of fish) with existing technologies to, for example, capture mercury emissions from power plants. An international treaty is being considered that will do so. That will do us all better than sharing inaccurate info about the health effects of mercury in fish.

  23. Ford Prefect says:

    Just make it Atlantic seafood, as the Pacific variety is now infused with Sr-90 and three isotopes of Cesium… in addition to mercury.

  24. Ford Prefect says:

    GMOs, “hot” fish, tainted meat. We’re running out of things we can eat without coughing up blood in a few years.

    Thankfully, the EPA still refuses to test Pacific ocean fish for radioactive contamination, so we can still be blissfully naive at the sushi joint. We’ll just pay later and not know why our organs are failing en masse.

    Thanks for posting this. I keep hoping Americans will start caring about all this. Then again, it’s hard to care about things one doesn’t know about, eh?

  25. Zorba says:

    Yes, seems that way to me, too, Np.

  26. Monoceros Forth says:

    I think your objection has been answered.

  27. Naja pallida says:

    Seems to me that he was commenting on the second part about most of the world’s seafood not being safe to eat on a regular basis, and some being said it is not safe to eat at all because of mercury levels – not the radioactive sushi part.

  28. Max_1 says:

    You do know that mercury is NOT a nuclear reactor by product?

  29. Monoceros Forth says:

    I’m not entirely convinced that a simple quantitative measurement of the concentration of mercury in a foodstuff gives a good enough picture of its actual toxicity. The toxicity of mercury is extremely dependent upon its chemical form, ranging all the way from murderously lethal (e.g. the alkylmercury compounds) to moderately dangerous (e.g. elementary mercury) to toxic only in large quantities (e.g. mercury tightly bound to sulphur or selenium compounds.)

    Analysis of mercury in samples of fish and other such foodstuffs is done very straightforwardly these days: the sample is ashed to destroy the organic matter and then the quantity of mercury determined by atomic absorption spectroscopy using a mercury lamp. Simple, easily automated, and very sensitive. The difficulty is that preparing the sample in this way destroys any information about what state the mercury is actually contained in the sample. Therefore an AAS determination of mercury cannot give a true indication of the toxicity of the sample.

  30. Naja pallida says:

    “Raising the warning level to 3”. Judging from how things have worked with this company in the past, that means it’s actually a 5 and the INES scale is out of 7.

  31. nicho says:

    Well, the upside is “glow in the dark sushi.” That will save energy because they can keep the lighting down.

  32. nicho says:

    What part of “corporate dictatorship” don’t you understand?

  33. BeccaM says:

    According to a report back on August 7th:

    an estimated 300 metric tons (330 tons) of contaminated water was leaking into the ocean every day from the Daiichi plant, which was devastated by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami, Reuters reported.

    The official also said the government believed the leaks had been happening for two years.


    Early on in the post-tsunami emergency, Tepco was permitted to dump tens of thousands of metric tons of radioactive water into the Pacific. (About 3 million gallons.)

  34. cole3244 says:

    corporations around the globe kill more people in one minute than all the individuals do in a month of mondays but they are immune from prosecution because all govts favor them over their populations.

  35. iamlegion says:

    People have suspected leaks from Fukushima for a while now, but it was only last month that the power company in charge of the plant, Tepco, admitted, as much.

    Umm… how is this not a crime? Why is every country affected by the radioactivity not dropping literal bombs on Tepco HQ right now? Why are Tepco officials still breathing air?

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