By Chris Loew, Contributing Editor, reporting from Osaka, Japan
Published on Wednesday, April 06, 2011
Japanese fishermen whose catch has been affected by the release of radioactive particles from the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant should receive compensation similar to an upcoming compensation program for agricultural products, Japan’s Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said on Wednesday.
Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) will estimate the amounts to be paid in consultation with the government. The statement came after the head of the National Federation of Fisheries Cooperatives Associations, Ikuhiro Hattori, held talks with the utility’s chairman, Tsunehisa Katsumata.
On Monday, officials detected more than 4,000 bequerels of iodine-131 per kilogram in sand lance caught near the fishing port of Kita-Ibaraki. On Tuesday, Edano said the government had set a new standard of 2,000 bequerels of iodine per kilogram of fish, adopting the standard for vegetables, thus ruling the earlier sample to be unsafe. Excessive exposure to iodine-131 may damage the thyroid gland, but it has a half-life of only eight days and should pose no long-term risk in the environment once the source of radiation is controlled.
On Tuesday, a separate haul of sand lance was measured at 526 bequerels per kilogram of cesium-137, in excess of the existing standard of 500 bequerels per kilogram. Cesium-137 has a half-life of around 30 years and is thus likely to be concentrated over time by fish higher on the food chain. It accumulates in muscle tissue.
Sand lance are small fish often used as bait, as feed at aquaculture facilities, and in highly flavored toppings for rice. Fishing for sand lance has been suspended in Ibaraki Prefecture, but that for other species has resumed, as none were found to surpass the limits. Yet, on Wednesday morning, sellers reported prices at only one-third to half of usual, due to consumer fears.
There have been two sources of radioactive water. TEPCO said a leak of highly radioactive water was coming from a faulty joint where a holding pit meets a duct, allowing radioactive water to seep into a layer of gravel underneath and thence to the sea. The company stopped the outflow early Wednesday morning by injecting sodium silicate into the ground near the plant’s No. 2 reactor. Sodium silicate, also known as “liquid glass,” is normally used to reduce the porosity of cement.
The other source of radioactivity is the ongoing intentional release of 11,500 metric tons of low-level radioactive water, necessary to make room for more highly contaminated water.