Record high radiation in seawater off Fukushima plant


Radiation has spiked to all-time highs at five monitoring points in waters adjacent to the crippled Fukushima No. 1 power station, plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. said Friday.

The measurements follow similar highs detected in groundwater at the plant. Officials of Tepco, as the utility is known, said the cause of the seawater spike is unknown.

Three of the monitoring sites are inside the wrecked plant’s adjacent port, which ships once used to supply it.

At one sampling point in the port, between the water intakes for the No. 2 and No. 3 reactors, 1,900 becquerels per liter of tritium was detected Monday, up from a previous high of 1,400 becquerels measured on April 14, Tepco said.

Nearby, also within the port, tritium levels were found to have spiked to 1,400 becquerels, from a previous high of 1,200 becquerels.

And at a point between the water intakes for the No. 1 and No. 2 reactors, seawater sampled Thursday was found to contain 840 becquerels of strontium-90, which causes bone cancer, and other beta ray-emitting isotopes, up from a previous record of 540 becquerels.

At two monitoring sites outside the port, seawater was found Monday to contain 8.7 becquerels and 4.3 becquerels of tritium. The second site was about 3 km away.

Tepco is struggling to reduce contamination at the poorly protected plant, which was damaged by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami. Measures include plans to build a gigantic underground ice wall around the plant to keep the daily flow of groundwater from entering the cracked reactor buildings and mingling with the highly radioactive cooling water in their basements.

The ice wall project is expected to cost ¥31.9 billion and will put a massive burden on the power grid when completed: It will need about 45.5 million kilowatt-hours of electricity to operate, equal to annual power consumption of 13,000 average households.

The project involves freezing the soil into barricades 30 meters deep and 2 meters thick for a distance of 1,500 meters around the buildings housing reactors 1 through 4.

The soil will be frozen by sinking pipes into the ground and running liquids through them at a temperature of minus 30 degrees.

On Friday, the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry and contractor Kajima Corp. demonstrated a miniature ice wall to reporters at the site.

“We can confirm the frozen soil’s effect in blocking water,” a ministry official said afterwards.

The department aims to begin construction next month. But the Nuclear Regulation Authority has not approved the plan, saying its backers have so far provided insufficient reassurances about public safety. International nuclear experts have also expressed concern about the effectiveness of the plan.

  • Conrad Brean

    TE`PCO piled away huge profits throughout the 60s, 70s, 80s , 90s up to the melt down. Throughout this period they were constantly warned by both domestic and international experts to revamp their power plants and move their back up pumps to higher ground. However, TEPCO refused to listen and merely stuffed more profit into their pockets. After 3/11 their catastrophe finally arrived. Now it is the tax payer who has to pay for TEPCO’s criminal negligence. Instead of their top executives being brought to court for these crimes they are given huge bonuses and practice their golf swings in their offices. Meanwhile, the problem grows worse and worse, children and adults are sick with radiation poisoning but they are afraid to talk because they have all signed non-disclosure agreements with TEPCO to ensure they get some compensation.

  • M. Downing Roberts

    Does anybody actually still think nuclear power is economically viable?

  • Kenneth Lundgreen

    Crime against us all to dump that into the open ocean. Only gangsters silent snitches with hush money nondisclosure intimidation. To the Hague with the lot of them. Regulator with the regulated.

  • Starviking

    I have to say, given the definition of “spike” as an “increase in magnitude”, the article is largely using the word completely incorrectly, perhaps for dramatic effect.

  • yellowroz

    This was an industrial accident/catastrophe, so it’s impossible to know exactly what is being released without detailed monitoring. You will recall that in January, TEPCO admitted its Sr-90 data was flawed (meters capped out too low and dilution method wrong). I am concerned the media focus is only on human-health-right-now. Plutonium has a half-life of 24,000 years, give or take a thousand. I have yet to find a marine ecosystem organization I can trust on this. Yay for the folks monitoring the kelp etc. on the CA coastline but, you know, by the time it’s there, it’s too late….It’s about more than Californians’ sushi.

  • Enkidu

    Two comments:

    1. Each of the high measurements that are reported as “in the port” are not just within the port, they are also within the new impermeable steel wall being built at the base of reactors 1 through 4—a wall that is nearly complete (94% as of April 24). This is a critical point that the article leaves out. Indeed, one would expect the contamination in this segregated portion of the port to increase as the wall nears completion, and the fact that these numbers are increasing is actually good news (!) as it shows that the impermeable wall is starting to do its job.

    2. This is more of an editorial comment, but the following sentence is poorly written:

    And at a point between the water intakes for the No. 1 and No. 2 reactors, seawater sampled Thursday was found to contain 840 becquerels of strontium-90, which causes bone cancer, and other beta ray-emitting isotopes, up from a previous record of 540 becquerels.

    Would it have been too hard to rephrase this as “was found to contain 840 becquerels of beta ray-emitting isotopes, including strontium-90, which causes bone cancer…” If you don’t read it carefully, you come away thinking that there were 840 becquerels of strontium-90. The ENEnews headline practically writes itself.

  • Sam Gilman

    Ah. Greenpeace. Hmm. Let me explain something. It might shock you.

    I don’t know if you lived in Japan during the tsunami and the beginning of the Fukushima crisis, but one of the biggest challenges for all of us living here was getting hold of credible information about the threat from radiation. The English-language media lost the plot, with major news organisations falling over themselves to sell fabricated stories of deserted streets of major cities, of lurid tales of what massive radiation doses – rather than the low doses we were facing – would do. It turns out the apocalypse sells.

    Into this void came the anti-nuclear movement, with Greenpeace to the fore. I’m someone deeply concerned by environmental issues, and who no doubt shares your own anger and contempt for the fossil fuel industry’s support for global warming denial. So it pains me to say it, but the anti-nuclear movement were spinning anti-scientific b******* in a disturbingly similar way to the networks of deniers funded by the likes of Exxon and the Kochs.

    They have their own network of neutral-sounding “concerned citizens/doctors/scientists” style front groups, promoting “science” that’s never seen the inside of a peer-reviewed journal, written by “international experts” who are nothing of the sort, with the same few people behind many of these groups. Greenpeace itself sponsored a truly ludicrous book claiming that over a million people had already died from the Chernobyl accident, a book dutifully invoked across the media by anti-nuclear activists who quite clearly saw fear as good for business. Greenpeace’s own “international radiation expert” turns out to be an art restorer who’s never published a thing on radiation in any science journal.

    Greenpeace has promoted the work of several media friendly cranks, such as Arnie Gundersen, Chris Busby and Helen Caldicott, even after the last two were exposed very publicly. (Busby was trying to market useless mineral pills at four times market price to the “children of Fukushima”; Caldicott thinks the World Health Organisation – and thus by extension the entirety of mainstream medical research – is controlled by the nuclear industry). They have promoted the work of anti-nuclear “researchers” Janet Sherman and Joseph Mangano, whose work trying to prove some supposed 15000 deaths in the US from Fukushima was offensively corrupt and ripped to shreds in the scientific press. I could go on. Really, I could.

    So as we’re all here in Japan trying to find out if we and our partners and children are in danger, up turn these people whose sole interest is in scaring the bejesus out of us and everyone else because it suits their political aims. How could I judge they were spinning BS? Because, like many environmentalists who’ve now repudiated the anti-nuclear movement, I’ve had experience of dealing with climate change deniers, and how to pick through the wall of spin and fake science and pseudocredentialism. We’ve all been shocked and upset to find the same behaviour in our own backyard.

    That’s why I picked up on your claim that a lot of people have radiation poisoning. Just as climate change denialism memes often contain ideas that even some simple science learning can tell you are wrong, so do memes from the anti-nuclear crowd. A really dominant one is talking as if any level of exposure can result in acute radiation syndrome (aka radiation poisoning). I’m sure you took the idea in good faith, but whatever source you took it from is suspect.

    You might be surprised by my anger on this. It’s not simply that these people were making it hard for those of us here to understand the threats we faced. It’s that they were blithely ignoring one of the most tragic lessons of Chernobyl: that exaggerated fears killed people, and ultimately caused a greater public health disaster than the radiation itself. Did you know that when researchers investigated birth defects following Chernobyl, they found a rise not in radiation-caused defects (much as it may surprise consumers of Hollywood science), but in defects from foetal alcohol syndrome? Expectant mothers were turning to drink in especially great numbers because they had been mistakenly convinced their babies were doomed. Right across Europe there were spikes in the abortion rate – hundreds of thousands of wanted babies terminated – because of mistaken fears. All this is what you find when you ignore the front groups and fake experts and stick to mainstream science, just as we all should do when it comes to climate change.

    So, sorry, I’m not going to wade through a Greenpeace report. Not until they publicly admit and repudiate their sponsoring of junk science and fearmongering.

    That is also why I’m not going to enter into private correspondence with you. If you have good evidence that should make people afraid and paranoid, put it out in public here, rather than make claims and keep the evidence private. I don’t mean to be aggressive, but I hope you see where I am coming from.

  • turnages

    But there is no longer active fissioning going on, just radioactive decay. You’ve been reading too much Arnie Gunderson-type scare drivel.